Monday, March 15, 2010

Sorry, Oscar. Still Grouching...

I've been reflecting on my previous post, about Kathryn Bigelow as the first Academy Award-winning female director. I keep trying to figure out why this particular “first” felt so distressing to me. This is what I landed on:

I've always thought of Academy Awards for women and Academy Awards for men in the same breath. On the acting side, women are always nominated, and women always win because we have our own categories. I take this in stride, but now I’m forced to wonder: does having separate categories imply that you can't compare what women do with what men do? Is there an inherent inequality there?

Women steal the focus on the red carpet, but are asked to discuss what we're wearing. Men fade into the background, brought forth to talk about their actual work. Vera Farmiga gets asked what it was like working with George Clooney on Up in the Air, while George gets asked what drew him to the character he played. If male and female actors were judged together, would women ever be nominated, or would we simply get to be someone's date? Would a woman have won best actor by now, or would we still be waiting? Would the lack of recognition in other categories have been called to wider attention, and rectified, sooner?

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that women are still experiencing major "firsts." I admit that I come and go from the land of feminism. I want equality, and I'm willing to argue over it and I believe I'm willing to fight for it, too, but most of the time I feel like the world is working well enough for me.

In my most cynical moments this week, I wondered if we weren't better off in the days of overt, rampant sexism, a la Mad Men, because at least then we knew what we were up against. At least then sexism didn't sneak up on you like a mosquito--just when you think you imagined the buzzing, there comes the welt. I don't really believe that women were better off before, but I hate that blind-sided feeling when I stumble on problems I should’ve been aware of all along, I just didn't see them.

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