By Molly Bolton
If you didn’t get the memo, the Oscars this year was a shimmering display of good ol’ fashioned sexism. But hey! At least it was done in tuxedoed song and dance—that makes it funny, right?
Host Seth MacFarlane opened the night with a highly innovative number called, “We Saw Your Boobs.” Dudes and boob jokes! Breaking some new ground there, fellas. I mean, those women who had bare breasts for part of their roles were just asking to be called out, right—just like those women who wear short skirts are asking for catcalls and those girls who get drunk at parties are asking for sexual assault. Hilarious!
Maybe I just can’t take a joke. After all, I am only a woman. People don’t really care what I have to say; they only care if they can see nipple.
I’m pissed about the choice of Seth MacFarlane and Co. to perpetuate objectification of women in Hollywood, for sure. But sadly, I’m not surprised. What does one expect when of the over 5,000 members of the Academy, 94 percent are white and 77 percent are male? Hopes for meaningful social commentary can only be so high when a group of people is comprised of so few women and people of color.
I heard someone argue that MacFarlane was making a broader social commentary on Hollywood’s obsession with sex.
- I hesitate to give him that much credit.
- I think if he really gave a damn about generating meaningful conversation about culture and sex he could have done it in a way that doesn’t add fuel to the sexist fire—a group of men singing about a group of women’s bodies without their permission is not helpful (cough, cough politicians talking about sexual assault and birth control, cough).
- He is no Colbert. Stephen Colbert and his audience have an understanding that Colbert is hosting a satirical news show in order to shed light on ridiculousness of media and government. MacFarlane does not have this contract with his viewing audience. The Oscars are an actual awards show, not a spoof of an awards show.
- Not everyone who watches the Oscars is looking to run an analysis on deeply embedded cultural issues. They are looking for entertainment. At the end of the day, this is what most men will take away from his performance: men talking about women’s bodies is and always will be allowed, common, and funny. And his message to women: men have valued and always will value you for your body.
Why did Amy Poehler and Tina Fey receive a standing ovation for their Grammy hosting performance? Why is the TV show Girls so refreshing? Could it me that maybe, just maybe, androcentrism and sexism are getting a little old in pop culture?
My friend introduced me to something called the Bechdel test, which is a test used to identify gender bias in works of fiction. A work passes the test if it features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. How embarrassing is it that most movies do not pass this extraordinarily low bar? So, MacFarlane, thanks for keeping the message alive and well: women are meaningful only when they further the plots of men.
Oh, and by the way, I can take a joke. Hell, I even think that satire is a wildly useful way to speak some real truths (see this example). But I can only appreciate satire about “isms” when it creates a counter-commentary. And MacFarlane, you missed the mark. We saw your ignorance.
Links to articles about sexism at the Oscars: