Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is It Time to Get Rid of Gender-Specific Acting Awards Categories? Not Yet.

Before the Academy Awards aired, the New York Times ran an op/ed where the writer asked whether it's about time for awards ceremonies like the Oscars and the Golden Globes to do away with the actor/actress categories and simply bestow awards for acting excellence. Kim Elsesser from UCLA’s Center for Study of Women wrote:

". . . separate is not equal. While it is certainly acceptable for sports competitions like the Olympics to have separate events for male and female athletes, the biological differences do not affect acting performances. The divided Oscar categories merely insult women, because they suggest that women would not be victorious if the categories were combined. In addition, this segregation helps perpetuate the stereotype that the differences between men and women are so great that the two sexes cannot be evaluated as equals in their professions."

Even though I was thrilled to see Kathryn Bigelow become the first woman to win a best director Oscar (in over 80 years) for her work on the excellent The Hurt Locker, you need to consider the context: Only a paltry 16 percent of the top 250 films from last year were directed, written or produced by women and of the 4,400 “speaking roles in 2009’s top 100 films, only about 30 percent were for women,” Reuters reported. Despite the fact that in the last year U.S. women bought 55 percent of all movie tickets, according to Women & Hollywood's Melissa Silverstein, women still are not yet equal to the men in Hollywood by nearly every measure you can think of.

My Mommy Tracked pop culture column this week asserts that we're a long way away from achieving gender equity when it comes to respecting women's work in the arts. "When women start taking home half the awards in the big gender neutral categories" that's when I'll be all in favor of ditching the actor/actress categories, I concluded.

What say you? Do you think that, if we got rid of gender-specific acting categories, women would best the men or get even half of the nominations?

Image credit: Paul Buck/EPA via The Guardian.

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