Oscars’ New Diversity Rules Ignore An Elephant In The Room

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences has announced changes to encourage more diversity in film, and those films that fall short of the new diversity criteria will not be eligible for the coveted best picture Oscar category. But questions remain about when the academy will resolve it’s own obvious gender issue. 

According to the new rules, to be eligible for best picture, a film must meet at least two standards across four categories laid on the academy’s website. The criteria are aimed at increasing the numbers of people in underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people and those with cognitive or physical disabilities.

Although the academy says it wants more women and LGBTQ+ people involved in film, the awards show itself has a major gender issue that remains unaddressed. The academy still offers separate awards for best male and female actors, an obvious slight to the gender nonbinary and a throwback to when women didn’t compete with men. Apparently, the academy just wants others to include LGBTQ+ individuals, but the academy will continue to adhere to the gender binary (male and female) in their own awarding system.

Asia Kate Dillon complained about this issue when Dillon was going through the Emmy nomination process for playing the character Taylor Mason in Showtime’s “Billions.”  The Emmys also offer separate awards for best actor and actress. Dillon, who doesn’t identify as male or female, wrote a letter to the Emmys explaining, “There is no room for my identity within that award system binary. Furthermore, if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?”

Not only do separate acting awards for men and women exclude those who don’t identify as either male or female, they are also insulting to women. They suggest that women wouldn’t be able to win if they were to compete directly with the men. They perpetuate stereotypes that women and men are so different they need to be evaluated separately. They are antiquated and biased.

For those who don’t understand why separate award categories are insulting to women, imagine if the academy separated awards by race and did not allow actors of color to compete directly with white actors. Surely the academy would be labeled as racist and public outcry would force them to allow everyone to compete together. For the same reasons that keeping actors of color from competing directly with white actors is racist, separate awards for men and women are sexist.

The academy should be lauded for encouraging others to be inclusive, but they should take a hard look at themselves as well. As more films include LGBTQ+ actors to meet the academy’s new rules, the academy will have no choice but to face their own biases, and eliminate the separate awards categories for men and women. It’s the 21rst century, women, men and gender nonbinary should all compete together for the same award.

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