What Gender is Oscar? Revisited
On Oscar Monday 2010, I chanced to see a Los Angeles Times oped debunking the idea that the Academy Award category of Best Actress is sexist. So it seems the right time to repost an LA Times oped I wrote in 2004, that posed the question this oped attempts to answer: why do the separate categories for Best Actor and Best Actress still exist--categories based on gender that exist nowhere else in the Academy Awards?
The question was prompted partly by the women being nominated in gender-neutral categories like Best Director, as well as the analogy of no race-based categories, when black actors and actresses were being nominated and winning. So there's another reason to revisit the oped-- the day after the Best Director award went to a woman for the first time in Academy history.
There is of course a very short answer to the question of why the Best Actress category exists: it's the dresses. That's even clearer now that the Red Carpet gauntlet has become so prominent. But you don't get paid for a three word oped. And actually, there are some other things to say about the subject. Still, I meant the oped to be at least slightly tongue-in-cheek.
What follows is a longer version than appeared in the LA Times. It restores some of the Times' edits (which tended to make the piece sound more solemn than I meant it), and some relevant if not especially funny material I'd cut from the version I sent to them, principally the comparisons to the Grammys.
It turns out this subject has been raised before, and since--as chronicled here by Daniel Radosh. Sorry, D.R., I wasn't aware of your prior piece when I wrote mine! Although it's such an obvious idea that he might not have been the first either.
You might still be able to find the version the Times printed here. [continued after photo]