In today's Guardian, writer Sarah Churchwell rails against the "apartheid" categories of Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. "We still segregate entertainment awards along gender lines," she muses. "Imagine the uproar if we had Oscars for best performance by a black man in a supporting role, or best leading performance by a Jew." Churchwell argues that our society thinks women are only good at looking pretty and making others look pretty; hence women tend to win the costume design and makeup awards, but rarely those for best picture or screenwriting. Since Oscars began in 1928, a woman has never won Best Director. But, Churchwell explains, "The problem is that awards which do not segregate on the basis of gender tend to overlook women altogether. There is no Nobel prize for women's literature: women go head to head with men. And they've won 10 times in 107 years."
(If we banished the Best Actress category, and just had "Best Acting Performance," would women ever get Oscars?)
Women do badly in awards in which attractiveness doesn't count, which is why they are so under-represented among producers, directors, and Nobel laureates. By the same token (pun intended), beautiful women on display are used to sell everything in our culture, and the Oscars are no exception.
Are the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories basically affirmative action? In a showcase showdown between Marion Cotillard and Javier Bardem (or between Bardem and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson), who would win? Singer Kate Nash won a Brit award for "best female artist" last week and reportedly declared, "female is not a genre." Except, of course, when it is: At award shows.
And The Best Frock Is... [Guardian]