Movies Pop Culture

The #OscarsSoWhite controversy goes beyond pity handouts

On a larger scale, it’s absurd to expect any sort of satisfaction in matters of representation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but that doesn’t make the #OscarsSoWhite outrage any less valid. The Academy is well-known for being predictable and a bit obtuse (which is why terms such as “Oscar-bait” have made a place in our vocabulary).

It’s a bit ridiculous that in the year 2016 we’re still having conversations surrounding racial equality and representation in one of the world’s biggest industries. Yet, the same issue has come up again for the second year in a row— the Academy Awards are so, so white. There are no people of color nominated for acting Oscars. Not one nonwhite person has been nominated for directing, composition, cinematography, or writing. There’s a large (and vocal) handful of people who believe these nominations are solely based on merit, and nominating PoC for the sake of having PoC is a “handout” and a consequence of “the race card.”

[bctt tweet=”What truly needs to change is the way that films are made.”]

This flawed perception on racial dynamics in Hollywood could be shut down with one word: Creed. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan’s second collaboration deserved to be recognized beyond its Best Supporting Actor nod (and to Sylvester Stallone, the prominent white man in the film), but it was criminally underlooked. There are other big-hitter PoC-led films and artists (Straight Outta Compton, Tangerine) that were a huge part of the Oscars conversation that missed out. Yet, the superficiality and ultimate emptiness of the Academy Awards makes the focus on their ballot fruitless.

Winning an Academy Award is largely symbolic, a win for the artist’s ego more than anything else. Studios love touting their wins, and it might increase a filmmaker’s chance of getting future work, but in itself, an Oscar is just a trophy. Halle Berry’s 2002 win for Monster’s Ball— which made her the only woman of color to have won for Best Actress to date— was supposed to be symbolic for the advancement of Black actresses in Hollywood. However, the Academy has yet to award another Black actress the trophy, and the past two years have failed to even nominate one.

[bctt tweet=”Winning an Academy Award is largely symbolic.”]

The problem with symbols like this, though, is that they are exactly that. Halle Berry’s win didn’t change anything about the presence of WoC actresses in mainstream films. The overwhelming whiteness doesn’t begin and end at the Oscars— they are the most high-profile film awards we have in the United States, but their whiteness is indicative of Hollywood’s race problem.

Most people angry about the issue understand this, and the outrage over the homogeneity of the nominations is understandable. For the casual moviegoer (and it’s important to remember that this is most people), the Academy Awards define the best of the bunch, and the fact that zero filmmakers of PoC were nominated reinforces negative notions about PoC filmmakers. To those who take the Academy Awards seriously, films by PoC are either niche (the way indie or genre films are, and thus ignored by the Oscars), or they aren’t worth major recognition. This is harmful in itself.

[bctt tweet=”Here’s the truth: the Academy Awards are so, so white.”]

People are circulating the widely reported statistic that Oscar voters are 94% white, 76% male, and average 63 years of age, then it’s clear that something needs to change within the institution of the AMPAS. However, that shift would be only the first step; what truly needs to change is the way that films are made.

That means hiring more PoC, more women, more LGBTQ artists, and greenlighting the stories that they champion. That means understanding that it’s not #OscarsSoWhite once a year, but rather that #HollywoodSoWhite every single day. And it’s going to take a lot more than a yearly self-congratulatory awards ceremony to rectify that.

Gender Inequality

White Feminism™ is where equality and human rights go to die

Feminism has, slowly but surely, become a prominent part of our society. 

Feminist people have come together to form a bond to push for progress. The problem is that too many of these feminists don’t focus on all the issues. 

They don’t focus on everyone.

And I think it’s important that they start to – with a little help from intersectionalism.

Popular feminism in America began by focusing on middle- and upper-class white women. Women of color were, and are still, rarely discussed or worried about. Society has always put white women on a pedestal, which has led to the concept of “White Feminism.™”

White Feminism™  is a so-called feminism that only concerns a group of women, particularly white, who are so focused on themselves that they neither see nor care about the needs of others. Whether they realize it or not, white feminists’ top priorities are fixing the wage gap, growing out their body hair, and freeing the nipple.

Which is fine, except that true feminism is much more involved than that. And white feminists push down feminists of color in their climb to the top.

White feminism ignores the issues of racism because white feminists rarely don’t think or worry about race. They exclude trans women because many white feminists don’t consider them to be “real women.” And they completely often disregard the pressing issues women and young girls face in countries outside America.

White feminists also ignore that they are the beauty standard, and are often seen using other people’s cultures for their personal gain. For example, white women styling their hair in cornrows, dreads, and afros, or wearing Native American headdresses, hijabs, bindis and henna tattoos. 

When people of color say, “Hey, stop using my culture for fashion! You’re making a mockery of it,” white feminists are like, “WHY CAN’T WE JUST SHARE?”

Ummm. So let me get this straight, you don’t want to include us in your feminist movement but you want to use our culture? The same culture you don’t really care about? I don’t think so. 

And what about transgender and agender people, and even men? 

I know a lot of you may not want to hear it, they’re vital to effective discussions on feminism. How can you be a feminist and want equality for everyone if you continuously leave out a large portion of people? The answer is, you can’t. Feminism is and should be for all types of people, not just for one type. The only way you can do that is with intersectional feminism.

Intersectional feminism is the concept of describing how privileged, discriminated, and oppressed people are connected regardless of race or gender. Intersectional feminism focuses on those that society has a habit of leaving behind. Black women, women of color, LGBTQ+ people, and many men all mostly want the same things that white feminists want. But it seems like white feminists don’t want to come together to discuss these issues. That’s why intersectional feminism is so important – it gives everyone a voice, and doesn’t allow white women to talk on a loudspeaker above the rest of the room’s discussions.

When talking about feminism, we should be talking about everyone’s rights, regardless of their age, race, size, sexuality, and what they were born as. Because that’s the only way feminism can work and it’s the only way we can be equal. 

Being a white feminist doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means that you should be more open-minded.

The best thing for white feminists do is to shut up, listen, and help shed light on other problems that others face that are constantly being neglected. 

When you really think about it, it’s not that hard to do.

Books Pop Culture

8 times I’ve tried to relate to the dead, white, male authors in my English classes

I majored in English in college, because I thought I wanted to write or whatever. Boy, did I learn a lot from all the white, dead dudes whose works stay with me until this day (well, except for post-modernist works. I still don’t know what that crap is). Here’s how I tried to relate to them to get me through 4 years of WASP-iness:

1. William Wordsworth, “Sonnet on Seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams Weep at a Tale of Distress”

“SHE wept.–Life’s purple tide began to flow
In languid streams through every thrilling vein;
Dim were my swimming eyes–my pulse beat slow,
And my full heart was swell’d to dear delicious pain.”

I suppose this was that time in history when it was socially acceptable for women to faint from emotional exhaustion on the nearest possible chaise lounge while a white man does NOTHING but exploit her own pain to write a poem about it. I can dig that.

2. Robert Burns, “For a’ That and ‘That”

“The rank is but the guinea’s stamp”…
The honest man, though ever so poor/is king o’ men for a’ that”

Totally agree with your “dismantle the classist” system, Burns. I can just imagine myself in Restoration Scotland with my blue collar worker chums swinging sideways arm in arm, whiskey or scotch (am I talking about alcohol correctly?) spilling out of our cups while we sing this poem at the top of our lungs. A man is so much more than his money and an honest man is the true king of his land, his woman, his family.

“Hold on guys,” I say disrupting the swinging motion. “Can we say ‘a person’s a person for ‘ that and ‘that’? Just because the whole “man” thing isn’t really inclusive and I don’t know, I feel pretty equal to you guys. I’ve been working just as hard, putting in 12 hour days, tending to the kids, cleaning the house, cooking, and I’ve been pregnant like six times and that really takes a toll, and I’m just trying to do an honest day’s work. Now that we’re in the Restoration period of equality and all, can we include women in  maybe one of these verses? Guys?”

3. Samuel Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

“The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.”

Oh man the lengths Coleridge will go to not attend a wedding. A word of advice Samuel, just don’t go! It’s 1798. You will literally probably never hear from or see these people again. What are they gonna do, call you to ask why you weren’t there? What, you’ll get texts from the best man asking, “Bro, where the hell are you? The bride and groom are about to exchange rings!” Someone’s going to tag 8 of your mutual friends and people will be like, “Huh, weird that Samuel’s not in this picture. Was he even there?”? Just ditch!

4. Percey Shelley, “Ozymandias”

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command.”

I think that traveller from the antique land is one of my people! Sure there’s nothing descript about him except that maybe he comes from an abandoned desert wasteland but it’s a start! REP-RE-SEN-TA-TION.

5. Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est”

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”

Yes, yes I agree, Wilfred Owen. It definitely is not sweet and right to die for your country. Or for the supposed liberation of another country. Even if that country does hate us for our freedom.

6. Robert Browning, “Porphyria’s Lover”

“That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.”

Out of all the poems I’ve had to read by white male authors, this is probably the one I relate to most. Sometimes you just want to kiss and strangle the person that you love so much, then write a poem about it because life is complicated for a white male and by no means should we judge your actions as misogynistic because you said you loved dear Porphyria and you’re like, 98% sure she didn’t feel a thing. A man’s a man for ‘at that and ‘a that!

7. Shakespeare’s The Tempest

“For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up; urchins”

“I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me.”

*silently cheers for Caliban through the entire play and writes all her essays analyzing Caliban’s methods for achieving liberation against the colonizer*

But yes, yes, power plays between Italian monarchs…very important to understanding sovereignty, yes, yes.

8. Anything written by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not even going to bother with a quote.

Having grown up in California where it seems everyone is an immigrant, I was so ignorant about old money culture: visiting the Cape in the summer and grandfather clocks and trust funds. I owe all my old money education to Fitzgerald. It is because of him that when I visited the Harvard campus I went around pointing at clock towers and statues and courtyards and yelled “old money” at them.