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This year at the Oscars: why would women expect any better?

This year at the Oscars: why would women expect any better?

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89th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images

This year at the Oscars, much like every year at the Oscars, men were honored for the movies they made.

Outside of the women-only acting categories, almost no women were nominated for anything, and almost no women won. Casey Affleck won. Mel Gibson was not only there, but in the third row and often on camera. No one seemed to care, and the entire four-hour ceremony passed without any indication that the women in attendance, or at home, should have anything to be upset about.

A man won Best Director in a field of all male nominees. A man also won Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Animated Feature, and of course Best Cinematography, which has not been won by a woman even one time in 89 years, because no woman has ever been nominated.

almost no women were nominated and almost no women won

Four televised awards outside of the acting categories were won by women. Producer Joanna Natasegara shared the Oscar for Best Documentary Short (The White Helmets) with director Orlando von Einsiedel; set designer Sandy Reynolds-Wasco shared Best Production Design (La La Land) with art director David Wasco; producer Caroline Waterlow shared Best Documentary Feature with director Ezra Edelman, and did not get to give a speech. Colleen Atwood, who won the Oscar (her fourth) for Best Costume Design for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was the only woman to accept a non-acting award alone.

89th Annual Academy Awards - Show
Caroline Waterlow and Ezra Edelman.
Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Casey Affleck, who settled two sexual harassment lawsuits out of court in 2010, also won his first Oscar for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, a film that asked him to really stretch his range by pretending to be sad and have a Boston accent. Fittingly, the harassment lawsuits were filed by two women who were working on a film with him — I’m Still Here producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka. These women, who could likely never expect to be acknowledged with Oscars for their work in their fields, could also probably have guessed that the Academy would hand a trophy to the man they say tormented them for months.

Affleck’s march to victory was unimpeded by dozens of (mostly women) writers decrying it online in the months leading up to the Oscars. The Cut’s Allie Jones wrote in November:

“Audiences have not had to grapple with Affleck’s alleged faults, because the media has largely ignored the lawsuits since they were settled. Luckiest for Affleck, he is the brother of a major movie star and the childhood friend of another. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have championed and protected Casey throughout his career, sending a message to the media that they are a united front.”

Affleck won the Golden Globe in January, then the BAFTA, then the Independent Spirit Award. He had full-page portraits and / or glowing profiles in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and even the women’s magazine W. (In the photo for the last one, he’s posed as if he’s looking up a woman’s skirt, but you know... in a cool way.)

The day after the Oscar nominations were announced, Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu wrote a rebuttal on Twitter to those who said Affleck’s personal history shouldn’t have any bearing on whether his performance deserved an award: “He’s running for an award that honors a craft whose purpose is examining the dignity of the human experience and young women are deeply human… Art doesn’t exist for the sake of awards, but awards DO exist to honor all that art is trying to accomplish in life. So context matters.” A statement like this, you would think, might have the power to inspire a principled backlash like the one created by the #OscarsSoWhite campaign last year. However, Wu died on that hill pretty much alone.

The outrage of many online writers was also not enough to keep Mel Gibson away from the ceremony, where he was nominated for Best Director, and his film Hacksaw Ridge won two technical awards. He sat in the third row at the Dolby Theatre, and was the subject of many softly lobbed jokes from host Jimmy Kimmel, who quipped that Scientology was doing wonders for Gibson (he’s not a Scientologist) and referenced Gibson’s most famous starring role: “There’s only one Braveheart in the house tonight, and he’s not going to unite the country either.” The camera repeatedly lingered on Gibson laughing and eating Twizzlers.

For a refresher: the same year as Casey Affleck’s settled lawsuits, Gibson told his then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva “you look like a fucking pig in heat” and “if you get raped by a pack of n*****s, it’ll be your fault.” In 2011, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery charges brought by Grigorieva, who alleged that he punched her in the head and face many times while they lived together, and that he knocked out two of her teeth. Grigorieva successfully filed for a restraining order that prevented Gibson from coming near her, or their daughter Lucia.

Anyway, he had a fun time at the Oscars last night. What an incredible evening for men — talented men, untalented men, men who are alleged sex criminals and admitted abusers. It was like every other year at the Oscars.

Why would it be different? We lost before the red carpet was even rolled out. We lost months ago and years ago. At the ACLU’s urging, Hollywood is being investigated by the federal government for sexist hiring practices that make it impossible for women creatives to succeed. Cinema’s most prestigious awards ceremony has told only one woman in nine decades that she was the best director of the year. The same night as Viola Davis’ moving speech about how proud she is to work in “the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life," not one woman was nominated for her vision of what that means.

The Academy has never, ever cared about women’s art. That's the glamorous, polite way to tell women that they don’t care about their dignity.