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When Acceptance Speeches Turned Political At The Oscars 2015!

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By Shambhavi Saxena:

There seems to be a growing consciousness among persons in the entertainment business, who will no longer take the weight of historical and systemic discrimination sitting down. In fact, they’re standing up to it, in front of the whole capacity of Dolby Theatre, Hollywood, and the viewership of anyone watching the Oscar’s telecast.

Winner for ‘The Imitation Game’ Graham Moore sees the Oscar stage as an important platform and one “might as well use it to say something meaningful.” In his own speech, Moore made a moving comment about the need to recognize suicide and depression as a pressing matter, this coming just six months after Hollywood loses beloved actor and comedian, Robin Williams.

Oscar ceremony

Encouragingly, Moore was one of several others who took the opportunity to tie their acceptance speeches to real-world problems.

Patricia Arquette, who played the role of a mother in Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making film Boyhood, called for equal pay in her speech, receiving visible support from the likes of Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez. Could we see this as a change in Hollywood’s relationship with core feminist concerns? Arquette’s bold speech as well as Streep’s reaction seems indicative of an evolving attitude that doesn’t compromise on individual rights for the sake of standard expectations and behaviours.

Rapper Common, who appeared with singer John Legend, accepted the award for their song “Glory” (for the film Selma), holding his Oscar aloft and declaring “this is for the kid from the South Side of Chicago to those in France standing up for freedom of expression to those in Hong Kong protesting for democracy.” John Legend added to this, “There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.” One cannot ignore the song’s “lyrical references to recent events in Ferguson”. Through their performance, the words “resistance is us” seemed to be the most powerful statement of the night.

In the same vein, and in the form of self-reflexive jokes, Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris quipped that the hall was filled with “Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry, brightest”. The comment was particularly relevant to the debates surrounding poor representation and involvement of non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual individuals that had bubbled up in the weeks preceding the ceremony.

While many raised valid concerns about the way in which Harris delivered his critiques, the fact remains that these criticism – of how discrimination and stigma pervades all spheres of life and interaction, whether it be daily social intercourse, or high profile events like the Oscars – now exist for us to chew on and hopefully evolve effective strategies and resolutions to systemic problems. Simply by virtue of being said, these comments have the power to usher in fresh debate, as well as reopen old ones, towards that end, and perhaps a day will come soon when not just the Oscars, but all institutions, will make conscious efforts to tackle the issues of race, gender, class and other lines on which discrimination is paraded.

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  1. Haifa

    I am not sure whether the writer is aware about the rage going over Patricia Arquette’s speech and the follow-up remark. She leaves out the much needed intersectionality.

    1. Shambhavi Saxena

      I agree with you. The follow up remarks do make one cringe. Even some of Harris’ jokes may not have been in good taste. And that’s a discussion I do hope we can all have, about intersectionality. At the same time, I do want to recognize the impact of her statement about wage equality. It isn’t everyday that people in Hollywood own up to this existing problem, or even admit being affected by it. Thank you for pointing that out though.

  2. Rohan

    I thought even Eddie Redmayne dedicating the award to persons with ALS and pledging to be its custodian was moving. Also, Lady Gaga’s tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music to me was a reminder of the Holocaust and the times that people have lived in – though this was just a personal thought. Moore also took a stand for homosexuality saying that the fact that Alan Turing could not be on that stage was “unfair” and he also spoke about how it is okay to be weird, to be different. Alejandro Inarittu spoke about immigrants after Sean Penn’s tasteless ‘green card’ joke, and he spoke about how he hopes that they are accepted in the U.S. just as Mexicans before them were. That was moving as well. Kerry Washington also wrote about something similar after the ceremony (on Instagram, I think). Thanks for this article – it is an important one.

  3. Ducard

    Equal pay? You get paid according to your qualification, skill, and experience, and with women taking easier courses at university, working less number of hours, taking more time off from work, and working easier jobs, if they want equal pay, then it shows their deranged mentality. Your LIE about unequal pay has been debunked several times.

    http://youtu.be/vyFjPHwF6To

    1. TheSeeker

      I believe ‘easier courses’ is opinionated.

  4. TheSeeker

    Ah I liked this article. And I can see my beloved Jared Leto in the background of that picture lol :). But I agree with Ducard about the gender wage gap. There is considerable evidence both for and against its existance.

  5. Ducard

    Common sense tells us that if employers could get away with paying women less, everyone would go around hiring women, but that is not the case. There is no such thing as a gender wage gap. It does not exist. Almost all primary school teachers are women, and then they whine comparing their pay with men who have toiled for years for a PhD. Women choose easier courses and easier professions, of course they will be paid less. Even on this blog, there are half a dozen articles from girls citing why they chose humanities.

    Top 5 choices of men and women

    WOMEN

    Early Childhood Education: 97% female
    Communication Disorders Sciences and Services: 94% female
    Human Services and Community Organization: 81% female
    Visual and Performing Arts: 77% female
    Counseling Psychology: 74% female

    MEN

    Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97% male
    Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90% male
    Mechanical Engineering: 90% male
    Electrical Engineering: 89% male
    Petroleum Engineering: 87% male

    1. swati srivastava

      Do you even know what Oscar is? or Know what this article is about? I highly doubt that. And about wage gap. What will you do if person not get paid according to his talent and work because he is black, from village, asian, american, chinese indian , european, nepali, from hill station, deaf, dumb, blind, poor, male, female. Everything is discrimination but you won’t understand that because your mind is immature. Reply when you grow up.

    2. Ducard

      Feminists constantly feel the need to insult others, and it just goes on to show how weak their own position is. They can hardly defend their theories (read lies) in a rational and appropriate manner.

    3. Monistaf

      @Swati, good question. The answer is I will try and negotiate a wage that I think is fair for my skill set and experience and if unsuccessful, will try and find another job that will pay me what I am worth. That is what everyone else seem to be doing, except the feminists who choose to instead complain that they are not being paid what they are worth. It is a free country, and indentured labour is outlawed. So, if you think you are not being paid enough, negotiate or find some other place to go. If you take 10 men working at the same level in the corporate world, all of them are most likely being paid at different rates, which means that 9 of them are being paid less for the same work!! Wages are driven by profit motivation, availability of talent, other market dynamics, and your ability to negotiate. It has very little, if any, to do with your gender. The same holds true for these actresses as well. No one is holding a gun to their head and forcing them to work. They too are free to refuse what they think is lower pay for the same work, yet, they take it up, but complain that they are paid less. Female models earn a lot more than their male counterparts but I do not hear any fighting for equality there!!

    4. swati srivastava

      You again misunderstood me. What did i say to you before grow up. when will you grow up. Don’t ever call me stupid. What i have been through you never can imagine in your wildest dream. And as for man working in menial jobs, The question lies here why women can’t work in these field. Why the poor women have to go to prostitution.why nobody employee them.

    5. Ra’s al Ghul

      What i have been through you never can imagine in your wildest dream.

      There goes the victim mentality. Poor little girl went through a horrid time in her life, and the rest of us live in heaven. Men commit suicide twice the rate of women, so don’t come to me with your pity inducing statement.

    6. Ducard

      “The question lies here why women can’t work in these field. Why the poor women have to go to prostitution.why nobody employee them.”

      Most women don’t need employment as they have their husbands to rely on. The ones that do become prostitutes do so because women are not physically as strong as men, so they can’t labour for long hours, and they are those who are either not married or whose husbands are dead. It is husbands who are used by women as ATMs, drivers, porters, and dildos.

    7. swati srivastava

      victim mentality huh so you think death is worse then you should be glad that you doesn’t live my life.i don’t want pity not from you not from anyone actually i don’t want anything thing from anyone what i want is my freedom.
      And mr ducard you’re saying that 50% women who unmarried are prostitutes and 50% women who are married use their husband as atm. so you are saying mother teresa is prostitute beacause she is unmarried and kalpana chawla use her husband as Atm. great logic

    8. swati srivastava

      Mr. ducard i already told you to reply when you grow up.And FYI i am not a feminist and thinking that already shows where you stand.
      and Mr. Monistaf what one do when even after that nobody pays you according to your talent, not a single person because the whole country is biased. So now what we move to other country.And in hollywood many actress got more salary than than their counter part. Every industry is biased so is fashion industry. Nobody have to bear this injustice and their will be equal payment for everyone and rewarded when they do something extraordinary. These people work at low price because its very hard to find job. The demand for job is higher than supply.And management take advantage of this situation.

    9. Ducard

      So in essence you are saying that people have the same skill set, talent, experience, work ethics, qualifications, work the exact same number of hours, take the same number of days off, take the same courses at university, work the exact same job routine, work at exactly the same position, etc.

      You have a right to be stupid, but you have abused the privilege.

    10. Ducard

      It is men who are paid less and work not only the most dangerous jobs but also the most menial jobs. It is men who work as labourers, cleaners, servants, in lock factories, as mechanics, in restaurants, as street-vendors, at tea stalls, as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, woodcutters, rickshaw pullers, etc. Why doesn’t anyone fight for their right for equality and better pay?

  6. Green Lantern

    Men work in uncomfortable, isolated, and undesirable conditions, and the top 25 most dangerous jobs are worked by men. When women work those jobs, we can discuss the gender wage gap.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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