Didn’t watch the Oscars? Don’t worry, here are some feminist moments that made us say “Thank you to the Academy!” As well as some moments that made us remember why we don’t really like the Academy.
Michelle Yeoh Making History as The First Asian Women to Win Best Actress in a Leading Role
I think everyone in the whole world was rooting for Michelle Yeoh to bring home the win for Best Actress at this year's event, and luckily for us she did! Yeoh was nominated for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once, and her acceptance speech was incredibly moving.
Yeoh acknowledged what her win meant for expanding opportunities for the representation of people of color, specifically Asian people, in cinema, stating, “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities.” It was no coincidence that Halle Berry gave her the award, as Halle was the first woman of color to win Best Actress in 2002.
Older Women Get Their Moment: Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Both Over 60!
Yeoh also spoke to the agism within Hollywood, as she just won her first Oscar at 60 years old, telling all the women in the audience that they shouldn’t let anyone tell them they are ever past their prime. This was a big year for older women nominees, as Jamie Lee Curtis (64) won the award for Best Supporting Actress, a category that Angela Bassett (64) was also nominated in.
This is an important moment of representation, as according to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, “Just 1 in 4 characters who are 50+ are women, a serious inequality in the representation of older adults in film and television. Moreover, 50+ women who are on-screen are commonly cast in supporting and minor roles and are less likely to be developed as characters in interesting ways.”
Sarah Polley Winning Best Adapted Screenplay for Women Talking
Polley delivered an iconic opening line in her acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay for her film Women Talking, “First of all, I just want to thank the Academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking’ put so close together like that. Cheers!”
Polley was the only woman nominated in her category, proving that both women are incredible creatives, and also that the Academy still has a problem acknowledging women in the performing arts.
Sarah Polley Opts for a Tux Over a Gown
Polley also attended the ceremony looking very dapper. After years of people always commenting on women’s gowns, Polley flipped the script by wearing a Tux. We don’t think anyone asked who she was wearing—finally!
The First Ever Oscars Stage Designed by Women
Something about Michelle Yeoh accepting her Academy Award on the first ever Oscars stage designed by women just sits right with us. Production designers Alana Billingsley and Misty Buckley thought long and hard about how they envisioned the 95th Academy Awards would look. The end result? A beautiful stage inspired by classic movies. The two have previously worked together on creating a set for a TV special starring country singer (and feminist icon) Kacey Musgraves. We can’t wait to see what this dynamic duo will design next!
Malala’s Quick and Witty Response To Kimmel
Women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai attended this year's academy awards ceremony. She was nominated for her work as a producer on the documentary short film Stranger at the Gate. Jimmy Kimmel, this years’ host, went out into the audience to ask the stars questions. Kimmel approached Malala with a fan question, being, “Your work on human rights and education for women and children is an inspiration. As the youngest Nobel Prize winner in history, I was wondering, do you think Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine?” Malala’s response was absolutely perfect, stating, “I only talk about peace.”
Ruth E. Carter’s Win for Best Costume Design, Making her the First Black Woman to Win 2 Oscars
Ruth E. Carter took home her second Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. (Carter also won the same award for Black Panther in 2019!) With this second win, Carter also became the first Black woman to win two Oscars. While we’re horrified that it has taken this long for a Black woman to win two Oscars (The lack of Black women who have won Oscars is indicative of an institutional problem within the Academy) we’re also so excited about Carter’s historic (and very much well-deserved) win!
Ruth E. Carter makes history once again! With her second win for Best Costume Design tonight, she is now the first Black woman to win multiple Oscars in any category. @theblackpanther #Oscars #Oscars95 pic.twitter.com/AmcrQKJNyZ— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 13, 2023
Two Women Win for Best Documentary Short, The Elephant Whisperers
Directors Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga took home the prize for Best Documentary Short Film for their film The Elephant Whisperers. The film follows a South Indian couple, Bomman and Bellie, who devote their lives to caring for an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu. On the historic win, Guneet Monga Tweeted, “We just won the first ever Oscar for an Indian Production! Two women did this! I am still shivering.”
We just win the first ever Oscar for an Indian Production!— Guneet Monga (@guneetm) March 13, 2023
Two women did this! I am still shivering ♥️🐘♥️🐘♥️
So. Many. Snubs—Especially of Movies By and For Black People
Many viewers (including ourselves) were disappointed to not see the Black-women led films The Woman King and Till up for any nominations at this years’ ceremony. While we wish we could have seen the two earn nominations for best picture or best lead actress for Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till), we’re glad that host Jimmy Kimmel at least shed some light on the film's egregious (and telling) absence. Specifically stating, “There are a number of excellent films and performances that were not nominated tonight including Till and The Woman King.” Kimmel goes onto say that both of these films are “very worthy of your time” and we couldn’t agree more!
Many people have expressed some valid concern and critique that Angela Bassett didn’t win the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Jamie Lee Curtis did). She did get a knowing shout out from actors Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors after her loss though, as they stated to Bassett, “Hey Auntie, we love you.”
SHE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ACADEMY-AWARD WINNING IN MY EYES IDC! LEGENDARY ANGELA BASSETT, THEY PLAYING IN MY AUNTIE’S FACE TOO MUCH! pic.twitter.com/SNehSQdM8v— khalia. | classic hollywood princess🪞 (@VERONASFILMS) March 13, 2023
#OscarsSoMale: All Director and Original Screenplay Category Nominees Were Men
Not only did The Woman King and Till get snubbed for Best Picture and in the acting categories, but additionally, no female directors were nominated at this year's ceremony. Sarah Polley (Women Talking), Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King), Charlotte Wells (Aftersun) and Maria Schrader (She Said) all could have been potential nominees. Additionally, no female writers were nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
A Fatsuit Wins for Best Makeup and Hairstyling
A24’s The Whale has been receiving some well-earned criticism for its portrayal of fatness. Unfortunately, that criticism didn’t seem to strike a chord with the Academy, as the film won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The Whale’s portrayal of fatness is one that is very much rooted in fatphobia, so for the film to win this award for their use of a fat suit really feels like a validation of that fatphobia.
Writer, executive producer, and overall icon Lindy West said it best “The Whale is not a real fat person telling their own raw story with all the complexities and contradictions of lived experience. Charlie is a fictional character created by a thin person, a fantasy of fat squalor, a confirmation that we ‘do this’” to ourselves: that we gorge buckets of chicken like mindless beasts, that we never see the world, never let the sun warm our bodies, never step into the sea, never make art, never feel human touch, never truly live.”
Overall, the Academy delivered another semi-entertaining ceremony that gave us moments that made us stand up and cheer, and moments that made us roll our eyes. Regardless, we think from here on out March 12th should be designated National Michelle Yeoh Day.
Top Photo: Screengrab from "Michelle Yeoh Accepts the Oscar for Lead Actress" from ABC on YouTube
Emily Lauletta is pursuing her MA in applied gender studies at Claremont Graduate University. She enjoys reading feminist theory and collecting records. Follow her on Instagram @emilylaul