The other day, I was on one of my favorite sites Feministing, a site devoted to, you guessed it feminism. On the side, it had a video rant towards the Academy Awards. Curious, I checked it out, and all I can say is that I now see a whole new light. The video talks about gender segregation and the Oscars, something that never really seemed apparent to me. However, the video did address some important issues, especially how male and female actors are split in two. Though I will still watch the Oscars ever so devotedly, I still do feel that splitting the acting up and keeping males and females on the other side of the velvet rope. However, I have decided to issue an official response.
The Best Actor/Actress awards are intended to honor actors of both sexes which is not intended to be degrading to women or keep them away from the big boys. However, since the Oscars were established, this category has been gender segregated. This, to be is both good and bad. While it may honor the males and females that truly stood out from the rest, the actress Oscars not only are given out in the middle of the ceremony, but also, parts when it comes to males have been, shall we say better then women's parts. Feministing makes this point clear, and though it is unfair, it has been true. Men haven't been honored for playing a prostitute and men who get ugly don't get a guaranteed Oscar. Maybe because Hollywood loves to honor women who instead of playing wimpy and glamorous angels decide to look less flattering or have a drug problem, or they are a cheap prostitute. However, while women tend to get more roles where they "dirty" themselves up, women have also gotten recognized for their brave performances that show that they are strong and empowered. Jane Wyman won for her role as a deaf/mute woman who was raped, not for some wishy-washy Lifetime movie of the week material movie. She played such a brave part in 1948, not 2008.
Another thing I find fascinating is also as time goes on, more and more women are being recognized for their performances, roles that are truly roles that some would maybe consider role model material. Take Ellen Page, a spunky 21 year old who was the apple of the critic's eye in her role as a pregnant teenager in Juno. Cate Blanchett has been nominated two times as Queen Elizabeth, a queen who never married and was also a strong believer in what was best for her kingdom.
But would they win while up against male performances? The answer is probably no.
As long as the awards have been around, sexism has seeped through the glamorous and star filled Academy Awards ceremony. In the 20's, the only thing women could get recognized for doing was the Best Actress. Other then that, women would never in a million years receive an award for doing a "man's" job. Case in point, Barbara Streisand directs and acts in and produces The Prince of Tides. She is nominated for Best Picture and the film itself gets 7 important nominations. Notably absent is...Best Director! As Billy Crystal best said, "Did the film just direct itself?" Fast forward today, women are nominated for many awards that are gender neutral. 3 of the five Best Screenplay nominees were women and Diablo Cody won the award. Sofia Coppola was nominated for Best Director for her beautiful and moving Lost in Translation. But still, when it comes to acting. More men are noticed then women. So if men and women were both up to the same plate, men, as always would most like triumph.
Another noteworthy observation, the Best Actress Oscar is given out earlier in the night, right along with the boring and lesser known awards. Why exactly is that? While watching the award getting handed to Cotillard, I only noticed the earliness of it all. My comment, "If Best Actress is awarded before 10:30, the final award of next year's Oscars will most likely be Best Documentary: Short Subject." Getting the important stuff out of the way first seems like a lousy way to award those individuals who were talented.
In conclusion, I think that while it may be gender segregated, the acting awards are put for some kind of semi purpose. Men and Women each year deliver outstanding performances and should be rightfully awarded. And since you can't really award both and leave both sexes happy, then what is there to do? For now, it is just going to stay the way it is.