The Oscars ceremony certainly has its charm, bringing back a sense of old Hollywood. which is why people tune in year after year. Although now, the lack of diversity has caused many to raise objections. In their monologue, Chris Rock and Steve Martin mentioned the core issue this year: directors category.
‘I don’t know, Chris, I thought there was something missing from the list this year’, says Martin. To which Rock replies, ‘Vaginas [referring to women]’.
In the Academy’s 92-year history, women have been nominated for the best director category a grand total of five times. Earlier last month they came under fire yet again for failing to recognise the mind behind the film Little Women – directed by Greta Gerwig. She now joins the list of other inexplicably overlooked female directors, which makes one wonder just how many times and for how long has such a large sector of the population been written out of history?
Women have been making active contributions to the arts and sciences in recent years, but the advent of the internet has brought the fight for representation to the forefront. Media in any form, be it print or television, sways opinions and spreads information. These outlets have traditionally been male-owned, consequently providing the public with only one side of the larger picture that subconsciously ingrained certain stereotypes which still persist.
A 2010 study by the Global Media Monitoring Project found that just 24 per cent of people referred to in conventional media are females. They have less stories focused on them and they generally get less bylines. Another piece of research has found through the analysis of over 2.3 million articles that women are seen in images more than they are cited in text. This evidence supports the view that women continue to be objectified, something that encourages people to perceive them more as objects for viewing pleasure rather than examples of intelligence.
These subconscious biases often spill over from an individual thought to a much larger scenario, such as the ‘Battlefield V’ controversy. Here the developers included women as generals on the war front which gamers were quick to notice. Soon, they took to twitter criticising the game for its lack of ‘historical accuracy’. The issue here lies in the fact that there are documented cases of female military personnel. Lyudmila Pavlichenko is one such example, being hailed as one of the most successful snipers in history. The Night Witches, who were a highly feared all-women air force unit is another. But what should concern us here is the lack of awareness when it comes to history and women’s role throughout it. Historical ‘accuracy’ has all too often, and regrettably so, collapsed into a euphemism for validating certain biased opinions rather than challenging them.
The culprits are not just media and history, though. Science has a notorious problem with sexism too. It has traditionally been viewed as a male-driven subject, in part due to the hierarchical structure of scientific research. Women such as Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars in 1967, are disgracefully ignored when it comes to the Nobel Prize while their male supervisors receive all the recognition. Combine this with a very implicit reinforcement by the media that there is a difference in ability when it comes to the male and female brain (a notion, analysed and disproven in Angela Saini’s book Inferior: How science got women wrong), and it becomes almost effortless to downplay women’s achievement in science.
The crux of the matter is that whether people like it or not, women have been an integral part of society since the very beginning. Yet there remains a longstanding issue of acknowledging their contribution because it means acknowledging the prejudices held. Learning is difficult and unlearning even more so, but confronting these stereotypes is the only way to move forward.
Yet another outrage over the Oscar nominations is a good sign. It indicates that rather than being complacent when it comes to inequality, society is starting to recognise its flaws. And maybe, just maybe in a few years’ time, people will be celebrated solely on the basis of their work rather than social privilege or biology.