Sunday night’s Academy Awards were a hit, but they weren’t without their controversies. From Gary Oldman and Kobe Bryant’s Oscar wins to Ryan Seacrest’s presence on the red carpet, there was awkwardness for viewers and for stars.
One interesting moment came when Emma Stone made a political statement that didn’t go over very well.
She’s now being accused of “white feminism.”
Emma Stone won an Academy Award for La La Land, and this year she presented the category of Best Director.
To start things off, she spoke:
“It is the director whose indelible touch is reflected on every frame. It is the director who, shot by shot, scene by scene, day by day, works with every member of the crew to further the story.”
She continues to praise the job that a director does.
“And it is the vision of the director that takes an ordinary movie and turns it into a work of art.”
Then it came time to introduce the nominees.
“These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces this year.”
Clearly, Emma Stone was trying to emphasize the fact that, with many skilled directors, the Academy somehow decided that 80% of the ones good enough to be nominees were men.
And perhaps she was trying to recreate Natalie Portman’s “all-male nominees” jab from the Golden Globes.
However, on a night when Jordan Peele was nominated for Get Out and Guillermo Del Toro was nominated for The Shape of Water, Emma Stone’s focus exclusively on gender did not go over well with some viewers.
And people shared their gripes on Twitter:
“Peak white feminism from Emma Stone. Pointing out that 4 of the nominees are men while ignoring that 2 of those men are minorities.”
“She minimized the incredible achievements of a Black man and a Mexican immigrant in the name of white feminism.”
“Ok emma stone being like ‘four male directors and greta gerwig’ or whatever tf she said is exactly what we mean by white feminism. Jordan Peele and Guillermo Del Toro are not white men that had everything easily handed to them and they don’t deserve to be classified as such.”
To be clear, what “white feminism” means is practicing a sort of feminism that focuses only on one’s own experiences, which means that activism is less helpful or even harmful to other individuals.
For example, someone whose push for feminism forgets about people of color, or the LGBT community, or the disabled, because that’s not part of their experience.
Not all white people who are feminists are white feminists and not all white feminists are white, though the term arose from white activists who ignored the experiences of black and brown women.
(This phenomenon exists in any human rights movement — men might push for racial equality from an exclusively male perspective; some advocates for LGBT rights might forget that there are LGBT people of color who experience the world differently)
Emma Stone seems like an especially likely target for this kind of critique, because she starred in La La Land which famously whitewashed the story of jazz.
She, a white woman, also played a Hawaiian woman in Aloha for reasons that the world still does not quite understand.
Emma Stone was thinking along lines of gender but forgetting that Jordan Peele and Guillermo Del Toro are men of color who also face numerous obstacles.
Considering that some Oscar voters outright refused to watch Get Out because they didn’t consider it to be a worthy film speaks volumes about how far Hollywood needs to go.
(Though Oscars voters are famously awful — whenever the notes made on their votes comes out anonymously, the world is reminded that there are a lot of terrible people making these decisions)
Whether or not Emma Stone is a white feminist or was just using her very limited time to address one of many problems is … unclear.
But it’s not a cruel accusation. Emma Watson has recently spoken about how being called that years ago helped to open her eyes to becoming a better intersectional feminist.
Fortunately, Best Director went to Guillermo Del Toro, a Mexican director, whose film about about a woman who bangs a fish man is sometimes affectionately referred to as “Grinding Nemo.”
He also won Best Picture.
And Jordan Peele then won Best Original Screenplay for Get Out.
It would be nice to see more women win, but it’s also nice to see men of color make historic wins. There are too few of each, and not for lack of talent or merit.