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Awards shows must do more to combat sexism

By Hurmut Humayun, February 12 2018 — 

Awards season is well underway. Many celebrities are using ceremonies as platforms to promote causes and social justice issues that are close to their hearts. This year, the representation and treatment of women in the entertainment world has been the most prominent issue.

The past year has been difficult in Hollywood, as countless stories about sexual abuse came to light. In October 2017, the New York Times broke the stories of dozens of women accusing prolific producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse. The story led to more than 80 women in the film industry telling their stories of sexual abuse from Weinstein, triggering a wave of similar allegations against other famous actors, such as James Franco and Kevin Spacey.

The consequences against most of these abusers has taken the form of social shaming. Across social media, thousands of people have shared their stories using #MeToo. The Times Up movement also emerged and is dedicated to eradicating sexual misconduct and abuse from workplaces. The movement established a $13-million legal defence fund to support women seeking justice. Another initiative saw women wear black in solidarity on the red carpet of the Golden Globes, with almost all attending following the dress code and speaking out about sexual harassment and assault.

While women killed it on the red carpet and stage, their male counterparts were notably absent. Not a single male award winner mentioned the movement in their acceptance speeches. Those who actually spoke about the movement to the media did so awkwardly. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s Sam Rockwell thought “bullying” would be a way to stop sexual violence and Stranger Things’ David Harbour didn’t even seem to know what the movement was about. While the work being done by female celebrities in support of Times Up is effective, it’s equally important that men participate.

Women were also let down at the Grammys. Women only received 11 out of 84 awards. Lorde, who was nominated for Album of the Year for Melodrama, was the only nominee in that category that wasn’t offered a solo performance. She was also the only woman nominated in the category. Of all the major categories, only one was awarded to a woman.

The situation becomes even bleaker when one considers the fact that since the Grammys eliminated the distinction between male and female soloists, only nine per cent of nominees have been female. That number becomes even smaller when analyzing how many women win their nominations. In response to questions about the small number of female winners, Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow said that women should “step up,” as if SZA and Lorde didn’t create two of the best albums of the past year.

Award shows, their organizers and attendees need to do more for women. It’s not enough to have token female nominees and performers. It’s everybody’s responsibility to challenge all forms of sexism and the barriers that prevent women from advancing. The Oscars are a month away and more groups need to be vocal in their support of the movements. James Franco notably missed a Best Actor nod after allegations against him emerged, meaning the Academy might already be paying attention. The Oscars would be wise to continue ensuring they honour to the people who deserve the awards most.


Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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