Courtesy of Wikipedia
Imagine a highly prestigious ceremony: best director is an award; a woman is announced as the winner; she walks up to make her speech. The ceremony you’re imagining is surely not the Oscars.
Since 1929, the Oscar nominations have recognized a mere five women in the best-director category: Lina Wertmüller (“Seven Beauties,” 1975), Jane Campion (“The Piano,” 1994), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation,” 2003), Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” 2009), and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird,” 2017). Only one woman, Bigelow, has ever won, and no woman of color has ever been nominated.
The fact that so few women are being recognized and nominated for best director is utterly ridiculous. The two stars of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” are nominated for best lead actress (Melissa McCarthy) and supporting actor (Richard E. Grant) and the screenwriters of the film earned nominations. Yet, director Marielle Heller received absolutely no acknowledgment. Similar to Heller, over the years, nine women have directed films that earned best picture nominations, yet no acknowledgment whatsoever for best director. Furthermore, if these films are earning such highly touted awards, the directors must be doing something right and therefore deserve acknowledgment.
The fact that in 91 years, only five women have been nominated for best director says a lot to me. More specifically, it tells me that the nomination process clearly has problems with sexism and is biased in favor of men, especially for the high honor of best director.
However, I do believe there are certain steps we can take to remedy this issue. In reaction to the fact that only 4 percent of the top-earning films in Hollywood were directed by women in the last decade, many big stars are pledging to work with female directors in the upcoming year at least once. They’re calling it the 4 percent challenge; Universal Studios has accepted this challenge as well as the studios that produced “Mamma Mia” and “Pitch Perfect.” Warner Brothers Studio, Paramount Pictures, and Disney are being called on next.
If this challenge is made popular by such powerful entertainment companies, then it will spread like wildfire and the idea of a woman winning the award for best director will become a reality, not a rarity. Furthermore, for the greater good of society with regards to advancement in gender equality, the 4 percent challenge must continue to grow.
Overall, the Oscars has clearly had a sexism issue in the past—specifically with regard to best director. However, we can make advancements with this issue. We must embrace challenges such as the 4 percent challenge to encourage women to direct more films, and we must call for society to recognize them for these films.
If we continue on and popularize challenges such as these, the sexism issue at hand will be massively reduced.