Awards That Snub Women Are Meaningless Awards

Photo: p.michele/Retna Ltd./Corbis

One takeaway from today’s nominations is that the Oscar is probably going to go a white guy. Women were shut out of the directing, screenplay, and cinematography categories, and no nonwhite actors or actresses were nominated. The most painful snub is Selma director Ava DuVernay, who would have been the first woman of color to be nominated for Best Director, and whose ambitious, historical, painfully relevant civil rights film is an Oscar voter no-brainer in every way except the race of its subjects and director.

This is a particular but familiar bummer. I experienced it when no female writers were nominated in the reporting, feature writing, profile writing, essays/criticism, or columns/commentary categories for the National Magazine Awards, when only one woman made the nonfiction National Book Award short list, and when not a single woman won a Nobel. It often seems that the people who award the most prestigious prizes are the most stubbornly ignorant of the achievements of women and people of color, even when book and ticket sales confirm their greatness.

I used to be able to convince myself that if snubbed women just kept trying very hard, eventually they would become prize-worthy (a greater greatness, I imagined, than “best-selling”) and receive recognition. Now I think the people in charge of the prizes are, at best, senile people with bad taste. At worst, they’re white guys who are hoarding prestige because it’s the last aspect of the creative industries that they can still control. Television, after all, has been much quicker to celebrate (and bank on) the talents of women and people of color than Hollywood, and that seems to be working out well, artistically and commercially.

Maybe the fastest solution to the problem of snubbed women is to stop treating the prizes like they mean anything at all, stop thinking that that guy’s book must be good because it won one, and watch the Oscars for what they truly are: a celebrity fashion derby. May the best woman win.

Awards That Snub Women Are Meaningless Awards