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Ev Says: Acknowledging women in the arts shouldn't be special

It's time we started normalising the success of women in the arts, instead of having to actively campaign for recognition

By Evelyn Heis, Film & Television Co-Deputy Editor

As we welcome the longer days, the warmer weather, and the liveliness of Spring with open arms, the month of March is one that also brings a lot for women and film fanatics across the world to celebrate. March is the month dedicated to commemorating Women’s History, with International Women’s Day on the 8th urging you to celebrate the wonderful, hard working women in your life- something you should already be doing anyways.

March is also the month that hosts the BAFTAs (13th) and this year’s 94th Academy Awards (28th), so what better time to reflect on women’s achievements in the film industry, than now?

The BAFTAs/Courtesy of BBC

Last year’s 93rd Academy Awards made Oscar history, with women representing a record of 76 Oscar nominations and the awarding of 17 trophies to women within the 23 competitive categories. Chloe Zhao won best director for Nomadland (2020), alongside best picture with Frances McDormand and Mollye Asher; Anne Roth won best costume design for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) making history as the oldest woman to win an Oscar, and Mia Neal and Jamaica Wilson won makeup & hairstyle, becoming the first Black women in that category to win an Academy award. All in all, it was an incredible year for women, particularly women of colour, whose talent within the industry is starting to get recognised.

Based on this year’s nominations, however, this record will not be surpassed- it doesn’t even come close. Whereas last year 76 of the 235 individual nominees were women (32.3%), this year only 65 of the 229 Academy Award nominees are women (28.3%). This decrease in nominations is actually the lowest percentage in the last three years.

Award Show Glitz & Glamour/Courtesy of Evelyn Heis/Epigram 

When you think about it, just 30% of women nominees are not enough. While the recognition and presence of women in the industry is something to celebrate, it really is the bare minimum. It makes you question how we can support a system and award show that fails to represent women - is this something we’ve come to accept? Or is this something we’d like to challenge?

Now, I’m not saying we need to boycott the Academy Awards, but I am saying that we need to start holding people accountable so that we can put more effort into supporting the projects of women and minorities in the arts. How many more times can we pay to watch Tarantino inflict unnecessary violence on his female characters? I’d much rather pay to see more projects by Greta Gerwig, Chloe Zhao, Ava DuVernay, and other female directors that are starting to become prominent names in the industry.

Greta Gerwig/Courtesy of ABC

Things are looking up for women in the industry, despite this year’s setback, which is forcing us to reflect on the lack of representation readily available for women. All we can do is continue to encourage and create an inclusive space for female directors, actresses, producers, and members of the industry, in the hopes that things look up for women and people of colour. Perhaps the 94th Academy Awards will just be a blip in Women’s History Month, and not an event that represents the place of women in the industry as a whole.

Featured Image: Evelyn Heis/Epigram

Do you feel it's time to start normalising female success?