In just under a month, friends and families alike will gather around a flickering alter to pray to the cinematic gods our culture so fervently worships. Yes, the 85th Academy Awards are quickly approaching, and with them, the powerful regressive and archaic ideology they propagate.
In almost every area of our society, gender segregation in frowned upon and avidly opposed. Not at the Oscars—it’s mandated. The distinction between ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Actress’ is one of the most superfluous and absurd gender binaries ever created. In athletics, men and women are separated for biological reasons. With additional fast-twitch muscle fibers and body-mass, it makes sense that male athletes tend to achieve different results than women in sports. While even this gender distinction remains problematic, at least there is some justification. Let it be known that there is no such thing as a fast-twitch acting fibre.
Women, men and individuals who do not identify as either gender should be eligible to win an Oscar for best acting ability, regardless of their genitalia or social assignation. By creating this binary, especially in a field where there is no quantifiable measure of talent, the Academy is enforcing negative, regressive ideology and televising it to an audience numbering in the millions.
This leads me to wonder, why is there only gender separation for acting and not the myriad of other fields? Why isn’t there an award for ‘Best Female Director’ or ‘Best Male Sound-Mixer?’ The reason for this appears to be a systematic exclusion of women from recognition in film.
Though the Oscars have been awarded since 1929, no woman was even nominated for Best Director until 1976, and no woman won until 2009. In fact, in the 85 years the Academy Awards have existed, only four women have even been nominated for this award. Thus, it appears to me that the gender distinction exists in the acting Oscars because this was the only part in film women have traditionally been afforded recognition, whereas the other categories had a presupposition that the awardee would so certainly be male that making a separate category for females was unnecessary.
One might argue this is because there are more men than women in the film industry, and this is reflected at the Awards. However, it is because of cultural impositions and expectations that fewer women pursue cinematic careers, and receive less recognition. To change this, cultural juggernauts like the Oscars need to instigate the revolution.
It’s high time for this archaic and negative bullshit to stop. Acting is a human talent—not one distinguished by gender. The Academy Awards possess enormous social impact and should be at the vanguard of progress, not clinging to antiquated habits. It is paramount that the Academy overhauls its system and stops the propagation of gender binaries and the negative ideologies that accompany them. Removing the separate categories for best actors is one important step. Yet, many more will need to be taken before the Academy Awards can truly be taken seriously as a progressive institution.