Were The 2018 Oscars The Most Feminist We’ve Seen?

March 6, 2018

The Oscars and feminism have historically had a rocky relationship. But this year, something shifted…

Every year, after the celebrities have all packed up and gone home to their lavish mansions, and the dust settles on the stage floor, comes the barrage of opinion pieces and discussion panels dissecting the diversity of the event – how many women and people of color were nominated? How many of those people actually won? And, how can we achieve better representation next year?

This year in particular, people were keen to see how the 90th rendition of the Acadamy Awards would tackle these equality issues in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which was ignited by the allegations against Hollywood Elite, Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in the film industry.

The #TimesUp campaign dominated at January’s Golden Globes, where stars donned black gowns and suits to show solidarity with victims of sexual assault and harassment, pinning small, black pins emblazoned with the “Time’s Up” logo to their lapels and dresses. That night, as she took to the stage to accept her Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Oprah Winfrey delivered a powerful and inspirational speech, where she discussed race, gender, and the ongoing fight for equality in the film industry.

“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up,” she announced to the room, prompting the audience to give a standing ovation bolstered by thunderous applause.

And so the world waited with bated breath to see what the next groundbreaking chapter in the modern women’s movement would hold, at the Globes’ big brother event, the Oscars. What would the stars wear this time around on the red carpet to make their point, what truth bombs would be dropped in acceptance speeches, and, would any of it make a difference?

There were, satisfyingly, a number of female-driven empowering moments this year at the Oscars, albeit somewhat blunted by a couple of noticeable problematic ones.

Comedian Tiffany Haddish broke the unspoken golden rule of award show red carpet etiquette and its historically sexist fixation on female fashion; appearing in a $4000 Alexander McQueen gown she’d worn twice (I know, *Gasp!* right?) before, openly joking about last year on SNL.

And so people noticed when she stood on the Oscars stage with actress Maya Rudolph, wearing the white dress for the third time. And, on top of ‘controversially’ recycling a gown, which, sadly, even in 2018 still makes headlines for some reason, her footwear choice was also quite the statement.

Both Haddish and Rudolph walked up to the podium wearing Ugg slippers, ditching their painful stilettos for comfort in a feminist-minded move. “We are so happy to be here, but our feet hurt,” Haddish remarked, as Rudolph “Uh-huh”‘d beside her.

They also made fun of the traditional whiteness of the event, jokingly reassuring audience members concerned the Oscars were “too black now” because two women of color walked onstage together.

However, while Haddish and Rudolph enchanted and empowered viewers with their sophisticated combination of humor and politics, actor Emma Stone proved less tactful.

Stone presented the award for Best Director and attempted to call out sexism in the industry; in particular, the massive disparity between the number of males and females nominated for distinguished awards like Best Director and Best Screenwriter.

“It is the director whose indelible touch is reflected on every frame,” Stone began.

“It is the director who, shot by shot, scene by scene, day by day, works with every member of the crew to further the story.”

And then, she gave the zinger. “These four men, and Greta Gerwig, created their own masterpieces this year.”

Obviously attempting to mirror Natalie Portman’s statement from the Golden Globes, when she pointed out all nominees for Best Director were male, viewers took offense to Stone’s political statement, saying it ignored the fact that two of the Oscar-nominated male directors were people of color and was typical of ‘White Feminism.’

But where Stone missed the mark, Frances McDormand triumphed, in her acceptance speech for Best Actress. The 60 year-old invited nominated women, across all categories in the audience, to stand. She then invited the rest of those in the theatre to take note.

“Look around everybody – look around, ladies and gentlemen because we all have stories to tell and projects we need to be financed,” she implored the crowd.

“Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them.”

In the mic-drop moment of the night, McDormand punctuated her rousing speech by saying “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”

An inclusion rider is a clause Hollywood stars can have written into their contracts which demand ‘diverse representation in background actors, crew, and extras’. It’s a way actors can ensure there is equal representation of genders and races on screen, as failure to adhere to an inclusion rider is a breach of contract.

McDormand’s request for all female nominees to stand was an amazing gesture, but it also made it abundantly clear how small the number of nominated women was – a move that inclusion riders would work to improve.

There were several other small feminist moments throughout the night; Emma Watson sported a “Time’s Up” temporary tattoo on her forearm; major actors snubbed Idol host Ryan Seacrest on the Red Carpet in response to recent allegations of sexual harassment; and Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra – three of Weinstein’s most outspoken accusers – introduced a video montage of stars acknowledging the bravery of those championing equality in Hollywood.

But, even though it seems like this year’s Oscars was all about female empowerment, in terms of who actually took home awards at the end of the night, it wasn’t a very women-dominated evening. Just six Oscar winners were women, compared to 33 men, making this year the fewest female winners awarded since 2012.

In fact, while four of the nominated best films had central female characters, The Shape of Water was the first woman-led movie to win Best Picture in 13 years.

So, it seems, even though 2018 is turning out to be a tipping point for female empowerment and greater equality, it’s clear The Academy have a ways to go before bridging the gap on gender disparity – and truly achieving inclusive representation across the board.

Media via youtube.com.

Comment: How do you rate this year’s Oscars in terms of its representation of women and minority groups?

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