Academy Awards display Hollywood patriarchy

Hillary Smith

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When this year’s Oscar nominations arrived, I –– like many others –– was disgusted by the complete shut-out of actors of color and female writers and directors. Excluding the designated female actress categories, the nominees are literally all white men.

Haven’t we had enough of this white patriarchy thing by now?

While there is much to discuss on the race side of things, I will focus on gender here. Arguably the worst snub of a female in the Oscars race was Ava DuVernay; her film “Selma” was nominated for Best Picture, but she was not nominated for Best Director. Now, I’ve read many comments online about how she’s just not a great director, we should stop making this a race or gender thing, this is just about talent.

Well, I hate to burst this nice post-racial, post-gender-inequity fantasy bubble, but it really isn’t just about talent. Why? Because when an industry like film remains incredibly white and male-dominated and when there have always been fewer women and minorities nominated for the Oscars, Ava DuVernay’s snub becomes not simply an unfortunate case in an equal, year-to-year competition, but part of a larger, systemic inequality trend. A Washington Post article reports that the Academy is 76 percent male and its voters 77 percent. Only one woman (Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”) has ever won Best Director. So you tell me: Are women really that terrible at acting and directing? Or are all these men subconsciously favoring other men? The latter scenario seems much closer to the truth.

As for the film industry in general, a report on Indiewire details research findings by the New York Film Academy: Out of the top 500 films from 2007 to 2012, 30.8 percent of speaking characters were female and only 10.7 percent of movies included a completely half-and-half cast of women and men. Is it really 2015?

A recent piece on Huffington Post includes comments by Joss Whedon, director of Marvel’s “The Avengers,” concerning the near-complete lack of female leads in superhero movies. According to him, people in film claim that since certain female-led movies in the past weren’t successful, female-led superhero films just “don’t work.”

Whedon hopes that movies like “The Hunger Games” will help shift this culture, but unless they start churning out the female superhero leads, I’m sure this shift will take a while.

Another Huffington Post article discusses the pay gap aspect of film industry patriarchy. Actress Charlize Theron only discovered through the recent Sony hack that her paycheck was less than co-star Chris Hemsworth’s for “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The article points out that Theron’s agent must have had an idea of Hemsworth’s paycheck amount because that’s part of an agent’s job –– they have the “inside scoop.” Because the Sony Hack also revealed lower paychecks for other actresses, there seems to be a trend in actresses’ agents not doing enough to negotiate equal pay for them.

So women who hire people to ensure pay equity for them can’t even get it? That’s depressing.

This article advises women to become their own agents, researching their jobs’ monetary worth and expecting to negotiate pay raises to meet men’s salaries. I agree, but it shouldn’t have to be this way. Women shouldn’t still be struggling in an industry where so many of them have so firmly proven themselves (although you could really say that about any industry). Just as women in the stadium can instill self-confidence in girls and inspire them to pursue any dream, women on screen have this same power. We must keep calling out the white men in the Academy and pressuring those in the industry to change so that, hopefully soon, they will start to realize this themselves.

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