In the past year, many have begun to wonder where diversity fits into the Academy Awards. Last year’s Oscars were critiqued for their lack of diversity, and in the week leading up to this year’s Oscars, the Los Angeles Times released statistics confirming that the Academy is overwhelmingly old, white and male—to be precise, of the 5,765 voting members, 94% are caucasian, 77% are male, and 86% are 50 or older. Despite efforts to be more inclusive, many are still skeptical about the diversity, on the whole, of this year’s show. And unfortunately, I’d have to agree: From what I could tell, women’s job in the Academy—and film—is still mostly to be young, thin, white and showing off designer dresses on the red carpet.
There were some exceptions, to that rule, of course. Viola Davis wore a natural Afro, and Octavia Spencer recieved a standing ovation when she accepted her award for best supporting Actress in ‘The Help.’ Meryl Streep took the stage for best actress at the age of 62, and Melissa McCarthy was one of a few presenters whose dress size is likely over a size four. But by and large, in looking through the galleries of best and worst dressed, are we really looking at a wonderfully diverse group of women who promote a) positive body image through their example, or b) an empowered, high-achieving set of role models? I think we’re making progress, but we still need more.
A Facebook friend opined earlier this afternoon, encouraging women to be more supportive of each other instead of tearing each other apart. She encouraged us all to celebrate the wide array of bodies she saw on stage, instead:
If you’ve ever doubted that women are the harshest critics of other women, simply log into Twitter during an awards show. Haters gonna hate… and in the process they emphasize body scrutiny, reinforce body negativity for ALL women, simultaneously trigger & minimize the seriousness of eating disorders, and add to the pressure we ALL feel to look a certain way. Those moments of self-satisfaction that come from putting another woman down are fleeting: but the message it sends to girls & women everywhere stays LONG after the tweet’s been posted.
Last night, I saw a boost in women rocking great biceps, shoulders and muscle on the red carpet. I saw women of all shapes & sizes come together to celebrate their work. It was one of the most DIVERSE showings of body types we’ve seen in a LONG time. I’m CHOOSING to celebrate the good stuff I liked; there was PLENTY of it.
She’s spot on: Instead of tweeting snarky instructions for Angelina Jolie to eat more, or ripping apart other women for their choices in attire, why not focus on the positive?
She’s also right to point out that last night brought a far wider range of female body types to the red carpet than Oscars in the past. But still: I think we should ask for more.
The vast majority of women in movies are still younger than average, thinner than average, and whiter than average. Their diversity simply doesn’t reflect the diversity of their viewers. Women in the U.S. still struggle with an extremely high rate of eating disorders, at least some of which is caused by Hollywood’s narrow depictions of women.
And that’s just skimming the surface, literally and figuratively: Women were a tiny part of the voting process, and from what I could tell, they were also a disproportionate fraction of the filmaking process when it comes to any job outside of acting. Aside from learning that to be beautiful, we have to look like an extremely narrow range of women, we’re also taught that our role is to look pretty and talk about dresses on the red carpet.
Changing this starts with my friend’s original sentiment: Instead of cutting each other down for looking too thin, too fat, or not stylish enough, we’d do better to support each other, celebrate the diversity that we do see, and continue to ask for more.