Column: It’s genre, not gender


Photo credit: Illustration by Azel Al-Kadiri

When it comes to the same achievements, the same Oscar is given twice, one for a man and the other for a woman. In a world of progress, change and steps towards gender equality, the annual Oscars event feels stuck in time. When men and women are handed different awards for the same job, it’s sending the message that their work is somehow unequal. The separation of men and women needs to be shifted to the separation of genres, so everyone is given a chance in the spotlight.

By Azel Al-Kadiri, Columnist

The award season this year didn’t fall short in entertainment. For weeks, we had debates over who should or shouldn’t have won, our favorite and least favorite outfits and the world-famous question: What did you think about the infamous slap?  Despite the obnoxious celebrity world and the exorbitant amount of wealth paraded before our eyes, to me, there’s nothing quite like a good award season. I will say though, there is one aspect of the Oscars that always gets on my nerves.

During the program, a variety of talented individuals are given awards like Best Actor or Best Supporting Actress. The trophies are handed out back and forth between men and women like a game of tennis. First, a woman wins in her category, and then a man wins in his category.

It never sat right with me, the way we divide male and female acting performances and successes. In a society that has worked vehemently on integration and equality, it’s a dated concept to use the constricting box of gender to compare the talent of human beings. 

Our 21st-century world poses a completely new set of circumstances as more people come to understand that gender is a fluid concept. The evolving realities of identity and expression are a conversation that the academy needs to have. 

Yes, there is man and woman, but there is also an emerging population of nonbinary people who sing, act, perform and deserve a voice in the social politics of award seasons. What I find frustrating is that these talented people shouldn’t have to shrink themselves in order to fit into an outdated box. When these people don’t conform to the black-and-white system of gender that excludes their identity, they cannot be in the conversation. It isn’t fair. 

The division of these categories is also patronizing. Instead of analyzing acting as a whole, we choose to simply compare men to other men and women against other women. It’s almost as if a female actor is so inferior to her male counterpart that the very thought of them being considered alongside each other is unheard of.

It’s like, “Congratulations you have won Best Actress! You were amazing, you know, for a girl.”  

I have a different take. A Best Supporting Actress or Best Actor category often holds little diversity among the actual genres. Among the many films that are selected, from what I observe, it’s usually a drama that produces the Oscar buzz for these actors. Dramatic performances are held on a higher pedestal than action films, comedies and horror movies.

Comedy, horror and action films are held on a lower pedestal than a powerful and dramatic performances.

Despite there being such a large pool of movie genres with a variety of skills displayed, the Oscar award isn’t “Best Actress in a Comedy,” but instead just, “Best Actress.” Thus, completely eliminating a whole other universe of talent that isn’t drama. Men and women are being divided, but I believe the division should be between the genres.

Until recently, I never questioned the separation in award shows. When watching the Oscars, it seemed so normal to me that men and women were not the same, and, therefore, it was radical and strange for them to be in the same categories. But, as I sit here today, I can see that’s completely ridiculous. There is no difference between the talent of men, women and nonbinary people.

It’s like having an art competition, and there are two paintings that you love, but you don’t put them head-to-head because one was painted by a woman and the other one was created by a man. Where is the logic in that? 

I truly don’t get it. 

Suddenly, the slap, the nominations and the outfits feel a lot less important. Behind the world of gold statues and glitter, there is a marginalized group of people who can’t participate and a sexist structure that divides the talent of men and women. An actress can be just as good, if not better, than an actor. There must be a change.  

Next year, I dream of seeing a man, woman and anyone else nominated for Best Performance. I know they can do it.