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February 24, 2015

Oscars2015: Why were Meryl and J.Lo the only ones who cared?

oscars-2015
This year's Academy Awards ceremony was more controversial than usual. While the event stood out because of several moments that were a win for feminism, it also stood out as another place for Hollywood to 'jokingly' assert its whiteness and maleness.

For the former, the most notable wins for feminism consisted of:
  1. Outright support for Reese Witherspoon's #AskHerMore campaign, which urged interviewers on the red carpet to stop asking women bland and stereotypical questions about outfit and makeup, and really engage with them. Although there were some incredible misses - a lot of them from Ryan Seacrest's list of bizarre questions - there were many hits, including BuzzFeed asking actresses what their best advice for young women today would be, while actresses like Julianne Moore were given the opportunity to add depth to their craft.

  2. Steve Carrell and Jake McDorman's support of the United Nations' #HeForShe programme, spearheaded by Emma Watson.

  3. Patricia Arquette's impassioned plea for the continuation in the fight for women's rights. Although her speech has not met with pleasure from all sectors, it was an unusual acceptance speech after winning her Best Supporting Actress award - usually filled with the gushings of gratitude rather than poignant calls to action.
Some people have listed the abolishing of the mani-cam as a victory as well, but I really cannot see the use of this if we don't also ban the parading of actual women along the red carpet, too.

But wins for feminism are not wins for equality. The 'whiteness' of the awards was emphasised by the Twitter trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, and also by host Neil Patrick Harris, who frankly said of the event it celebrated Hollywood's 'best and whitest'. And even though the Hispanic-made film 'Birdman' walked away with several awards, the perniciousness of white supremacy in Hollywood snuck in with Sean Penn's 'joke' that only managed to emphasise how he - with the implication being America - believed people like Alejandro González Iñárritu did not actually belong in America.

But the most annoying thing for me today in the Oscars afterglow is how everyone is lauding Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez' reaction to Patricia Arquette's speech. 



What was that about!? I don't doubt that every woman working in Hollywood has felt discrimination because of her sex, and I bet these two have just about as much right to join Arquette as other women in the industry, but my question is why there weren't more people showing their support. More women, in particular? The fact is that pay inequality is something that probably every woman has experienced. Surely - taking these two Hollywood bigwigs as an example - there should have been a standing ovation?

As a result, it feels to me like their reaction, and sadly, perhaps even the speech was just for show. Doesn't this make you wonder if Hollywood is simply trying to stay relevant by introducing subjects into its most prestigious events - such as the Oscars and the Golden Globes - that are an echo of popular culture and concerns, but not really being concerned about them itself? Come on - it's the most powerful industry in the world; you can't tell me it wouldn't make changes if it weren't really concerned?

{Image credit: Twitter\947Highveld}