Since the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, separate acting Oscars have been presented to men and women. Women at that time had only recently won the right to vote and were still several decades away from equal rights outside the voting booth, so perhaps it was reasonable to offer them their own acting awards. But in the 21st century women contend with men for titles ranging from the American president to the American Idol. Clearly, there is no reason to still segregate acting Oscars by sex....And from an interview with Oscar winner Matt Damon:
[S]eparate is not equal. While it is certainly acceptable for sports competitions like the Olympics to have separate events for male and female athletes, the biological differences do not affect acting performances. The divided Oscar categories merely insult women, because they suggest that women would not be victorious if the categories were combined. In addition, this segregation helps perpetuate the stereotype that the differences between men and women are so great that the two sexes cannot be evaluated as equals in their professions....
Collapsing two major categories into one would have the added value of reducing the length of the awards show, a move that many viewers would laud. But if the academy wanted to preserve the number of acting awards, it could easily follow the lead of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has, since 1951, offered genre-based Golden Globe honors, for best performances in dramatic, and comedic and musical roles.
For next year’s Oscars, the academy should modify its ballots so that men and women are finally treated as full equals, able to compete together in every category, for every nomination. And if the academy insists on continuing to segregate awards, then it should at least remain consistent and create an Oscar for best directress.
“I actually think the way they should do the awards, I really think this, is they should give them out 10 years later,” Mr. Damon said. “Like the way they do the Hall of Fame in Baseball. They do it in five years, but if you did 10 years later, if this year, we were voting on what was the best picture of 2000, I think it would be much more honest. It’s like, when you pick up great old movies and you go, why the hell didn’t Brando win the Oscar for this one? Who won that year? Whatever the sizzle was about that year. 50 years later you’re looking at a movie and going, this is a historic cinematic performance.”A decade later, does Traffic or Wonder Boys [insert: or Almost Famous**] best Gladiator?
Of course, Mr. Damon added, “nobody would ever host that award show.”
** Seriously, I meant to say that the first time. It's not a perfect movie -- I don't think Fugit was a good enough actor to pull off the angry-at-Penny-in-the-field scene ("There is no Morocco!"), but there are few films about which I have warmer feelings.