Opinion: The Oscars’ Rocky Past of Racial Inequality & Sexism

The Academy Awards are known for having the most prestigious awards for those who focus their profession in motion picture arts and sciences. The history of the Oscars aside from distributing awards annually continues to support racial inequality and follows sexist practices.

            Nominees of color have won significantly fewer awards and have been given maltreatment for years within the Academy Award shows. Back in 1939, Hattie McDaniel was the first black woman to win an Oscar. She was forced to sit at the back of the show, segregated from the white attendees. During the 2015 and 2016 award season, no people of color were among the selections out of all 20 nominees for either year. In 2015 Activist April Reign began the famous hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite” after someone had asked to touch her hair because they were not used to the texture. Other actors like Rami Malik, the actor from the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody”, was the first actor of Arabic heritage to win the best actor category in the 90 years of awards.

            The Oscars are also notorious for participating in or encouraging sexist values during the award show. In 2022, women were yet again the butt of a questionable joke with a skit that did not go quite as planned. Comedian Wanda Sykes was the first to appear on stage dressed as Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard. The joke ended up being centered around the amount of hair that she had to remove from her legs in reference to the modern standards of body hair on women. Another comedian, Amy Schumer, took the stage for the second part of the bit. Her joke consisted of telling people that she needed to lose her baby weight.

With these jokes in mind, it is clear to see a pattern of making fun of women who do not live up to specific beauty standards according to society’s gaze. Women are also less accredited in the Oscars with less females winning awards. Throughout the entire history of the Academy Awards, only seven women have been nominated for best director with only three nominees winning an Oscar according to an NBC news article. According to a Statista article, only 12.5% of nominations for short subject documentaries consisted of women and only 20% of women were nominated for cinematography.

            In addition to making women the butt of jokes, women also receive less representation in the Academy Awards. This year, only approximately 28.3% of the Oscar wins went towards women, lower than last year’s percentage of 32% according to The Wrap News Inc.

            Though the Academy Awards may have several flaws, all hope is not lost. Many are bringing awareness to the mistreatment towards the minorities in the industry. In 2021, nine out of 20 actors who were nominated were of different ethnicities, creating one of the most diverse Oscars in history. Beyond his rocky beginning in this year’s 2022 Oscars, Will Smith still accomplished a significant feat by winning the award for best actor, something that only five black men have won.            

There is still room for major improvement within the industry. There is a possibility that the Oscars can finally increase its inclusivity and encourage better values given the amount of celebrities and audiences that want to see change. April Reign’s hashtag was only the beginning of the movement to make the Oscars more inclusive for other races. Through bringing awareness of the issues surrounding the Academy Awards including racial inequality



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *