Our Favorite Feminist Moments From the 2022 Oscars

Enjoy these feminist wins from the 94th Academy Awards. After all, we can’t let two grown men steal all of the headlines.

Women Oscar Hosts Roast the Pay Gap, Voting Restrictions and ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bills

Amy Schumer, an Oscars cohost alongside Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall, began the awards show by calling out the pay disparity that exists in the entertainment industry. A 2019 study on the Hollywood pay gap found top women actors earn as little as 38 percent as much as top men actors—much larger than the mainstream gender wage gap, which was around around 80 cents in 2019. Today it’s closer to 83 cents, though since that number hides greater disparities by race and ethnicity, some studies put it much lower, in the mid-50’s.

Sykes later jabbed at restrictive voting laws breaking records in the U.S., joking that a consolation prize for losing actors in attendance is a pre-shredded Texas voter registration form. For context, S.B. 1, the controversial Republican voting law, led to a sharp rise in rejected ballots in Texas’s latest primary election. The rejected ballots have been disproportionately made up of Black voters.

Jessica Chastain Uses Her First-Ever Oscars Speech to Stand Up for LGBTQ Rights

In an acceptance speech after her first-ever Oscars win, actor Jessica Chastain spoke out against “discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country with the only goal of further dividing us,” as well as the “violence and hate crimes perpetuated on innocent civilians all over the world.”

“Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. It’s touched many families; it’s touched mine. And especially members of the LGBTQ community, who oftentimes feel out of place with their peers,” said Chastain, who won for her portrayal of Tammy Faye Messner. “We want to be accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, live a life without the fear of violence or terror. And for any of you out there who do, in fact, feel hopeless or alone, I just want you to know that you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you.”

Her message was timely—on Monday, just hours after the Oscars aired, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Act, nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The three women cohosts didn’t shy away from LGBTQ issues either. When Sykes, a lesbian, ended her beginning monologue, she announced, “We’re gonna have a great night tonight. And for you people in Florida, we’re gonna have a gay night.” Hall and Schumer then joined her in saying, “gay” eight times in defiance.

Troy Kotsur Wins With CODA 

When he won an Oscar for his supporting actor role in CODA, Troy Kotsur became the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar. (The word coda is an acronym for “child of deaf adult.”)

He dedicated his acceptance speech to the “deaf community, the CODA community, and the disabled community. This is our moment.” (Kotsur’s costar Marlee Matlin is the first deaf person to win an acting award at the Oscars, which she took home in 1987; Kotsur also shouted her out in his speech.)

Beyonce Kicks Off Oscars Night in Compton

Beyoncé (a Ms. cover star from 2015!) kicked off Oscars night with a performance of “Be Alive” from the Venus and Serena Williams biopic King Richard. Beyonce performed from the Williams sisters’ hometown of Compton, Calif., alongside musicians and performers all dressed in tennis lime green. (Did you notice some rocking the Williams sisters’ signature hair beads?) Bey was eventually joined by her daughter Blue Ivy.

Ariana DeBose Is the First Openly Queer Woman to Win an Acting Oscar

When Afro-Latina actor Ariana DeBose from West Side Story won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, she made history as the first openly queer woman of color to be nominated for to win an Academy Award in an acting category.

Oliver Haug helped with research for this article.

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Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.