In a disappointing opening monologue at the Academy Awards, Chris Rock claimed there was no need for male and female categories and mocked #AskHerMore.
For the first time in possibly 20 years, I’m watching the Oscars at home and not at a party. Last year, I was at a viewing event, Tweeting about #AskHerMore and people around me either didn’t get it or made fun of me. It was such a frustrating and uninspiring experience for me that I decided not to venture out tonight. This year, while lying in pajamas on my couch, I was thrilled to see Ryan Seacrest actually ask women about their roles and give actresses an opportunity to discuss their craft. His questions about clothing were limited and always came at the end of the interview so it was impossible to go on and on about jewelry and shoes. Progress, I thought.
Then Chris Rock came on. He addressed racism in Hollywood, which is hugely important for the whole world to see him do. He opened with a great point: racism has been going on since the Oscars began, so why is everyone upset now? When people asked me about racism at the Oscars this year, I replied I’m happy that, at least, people are finally discussing this bigotry in mainstream media. Racism in Hollywood has become part of a national conversation. The first step in changing something is recognizing that it exists. That’s why I’m pissed about Rock’s monologue. Fury about sexism at the Oscars has not garnered much media attention. #OscarsSoWhite is taken seriously. It is a political act. #AskHerMore, on the other hand, is mocked. Rock referred to the latter in his monologue:
Another big thing tonight is you’re not allowed to ask women what they’re wearing anymore. It’s a whole thing: “Ask her more.” You have to ask her more.” Well, you know, you ask the men more. Hey, everything’s not sexism. Everything’s not racism. They ask the men more because the men are all wearing the same outfits, OK? Every guy in here is wearing the exact same thing. If George Clooney showed up with a lime green tux on and a swan coming out his …, someone would go, “What you wearing George?”
A Reel Girl fan comments:
Chris Rock basically said “She was asking for it because of what she was wearing.” Good job.
Categories for female and male actors create an illusion of equality. Never mind that the roles for women are far more limited as far how old the actresses are allowed to be, how complex the characters they play are, and what kind of heroes are depicted in the narratives. Behind the scenes awards including producing, directing, screenplay writing, adaptations (I could go on, see chart below) the male nominees, and of course winners, far outnumber women. Instead of recognizing this inequality, again Rock acts as if sexism doesn’t exist.
Hey, if you want black nominees every year, you need to just have black categories. That’s what you need. You need to have black categories. You already do it with men and women. Think about it. There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting. There’s no reason. It’s not track and field. You don’t have to separate them. Robert De Niro has never said, I better slow this acting down so Meryl Streep can catch up.
I didn’t expect Rock to deal with sexism, but I was surprised he made fun if it. His reaction put me in a weird space. He calling attention to racism, basically saying it’s not “bring me lemonade” racism; it’s subtle, but its pernicious. For example, he said Leonardo DiCaprio gets a great role every hear. Jamie Foxx is a stellar actor, but great roles for him are rare. Does Rock not get the same situation exists for women?
All right, back to the show. More later.
You would think Rock might be more open minded, especially since he is a person of color. He’s still a guy, and throughout my life I’ve interacted with many men who just don’t get the woman as a whole person thing. Duh! Many of them get stuck in the cultural habit of categorizing women by looks or how “easy” we are. I’m shocked by the attitudes/opinions of many grown men I’ve encountered who appear to be stuck in the 1950s.
Great article, Margot!
Excellent chart, with lots of great information to challenge people who argue that sexism doesn’t exist in Hollywood.
What do you think about the split categories for awards? Is it a good thing that our structure says men and women should be judged separately?
I worry that it implies men and women are in different categories of competence, thus reinforcing sexist beliefs about where our skills naturally lie, while doing very little to practically encourage the creation of more quality female roles. Then again, perhaps it serves as inspiration for young women? And, if so, should we have categories for every marginalized group?
I am a bit fanatic about my desire for de-emphasized gender roles – my ideal would be if all casting was open to members of any race or gender, though I realize (practically speaking) the pre-existing biases of Hollywood would inevitably pick white males for the majority of roles anyway. One day, perhaps, if we can inject some more diversity into the Hollywood selection committees and eliminate some of the cultural biases and double standards.
Thanks for your continued good work in this area. It’s very much appreciated.