And The Nominees Are: Still Mostly Men

Despite growing calls for gender equality in Hollywood, this year’s Academy Award nominees are a reminder that Oscar is still very male.

Davidlohr Bueso / Creative Commons

According to a report by the Women’s Media Center, women did gain some ground, in some categories, among this year’s Academy Award nominees—but those were balanced by losses in other categories, and women netted little progress overall.

Some historic firsts were made with this year’s nominations: Rachel Morrison became the first female cinematographer to receive a nomination in the Academy’s history for Mudbound, and Greta Gerwig became the fifth woman in the Academy’s history to be nominated for best director for Lady Bird. But overall, men made up 77 percent of all nominations for off-camera roles, such as best cinematographer or director, and there were no female nominees at all in the score, sound editing and visual effects categories. (Costume design was the singular category that saw male and female nominees equally represented.)

The dearth of gender diversity, as well as racial diversity, among nominees at ceremonies like the Academy Awards isn’t necessarily news. It’s been two years since the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, and despite the feminist takeover of last year’s Golden Globes, no women appeared in the nominations for Best Director (and few ever have). But in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the stagnant Hollywood sexism evidenced by this year’s Oscar nominees is glaring.

“The larger society is deprived of women’s voices, perspectives, and creativity,” WMC President Julie Burton said in a statement. “At a time when women are demanding more power and visibility, these low numbers should be a wake-up call for Hollywood executives. The message is: Time’s up for inequality.”

Hollywood sexism won’t be dismantled without better media representation for women and other communities too often erased, caricatured and overlooked by the entertainment industry. An unprecedented consciousness of the exploitation, abuse and sexual misconduct long made acceptable by dozens of powerful men in the film industry only highlights the true value of diversity and inclusion not just at awards ceremonies, but across the sector.

It is more clear now than ever that a balancing of the scales for women on- and off-screen in Hollywood is the only real way to address the loss of opportunity and the mental, physical and emotional harm of abuse and complicity that years of male dominance have normalized. Time’s up on boy’s clubs. Time’s up on Hollywood’s head honchoes looking the other way. Time’s up on the exploitation and sexual abuse of young women trying to find footing and pursue their passions. And it’s time for more women, on- and off-screen, to come to the front—and up to the stage.

“These are times that call for sweeping and sustainable changes—as evidenced by the findings in this report,” Pat Mitchell, WMC co-chair and chair of the Sundance Institute, said in a statement. “The Women’s Media Center will continue to shine a light on the status of women in Hollywood—and on all media platforms. Ultimately, changes must come from those who hold the power, and we know that few, if any, power holders throughout history have given up power without a struggle. But we are in this for the long haul. Change is coming. Time’s up.”


Kylie Cheung writes about reproductive and survivor justice, and is the author of Survivor Injustice: State-Sanctioned Abuse, Domestic Violence, and the Fight for Bodily Autonomy, available Aug. 15.