In my previous life, I was an actor. I wasn’t ever Jennifer Lawrence famous, but I worked enough to be self-sufficient and sign the occasional autograph. Perhaps because of my 20-year experience in “the biz,” – or perhaps because I am a woman – I found Seth MacFarlane to be sexist – and perhaps slightly racist – during Sunday’s Oscar telecast.
For the most part, people agree with me. Some are even likening his now infamous “We Saw Your Boobs” opening number to “celebrating rapists” because most of the scenes where we “saw boobs” depicted sexual assault. There are a few people, however, who are defending MacFarlane’s jokes, arguing that they were satirizing age-old stereotypes about women.
To refresh your memory, the following are just some of Mr. MacFarlane’s musings:
- He said “Zero Dark Thirty” – and subsequently Jessica Chastain’s Oscar-nominated performance – was evidence of women being “difficult.”
- He called Jennifer Anniston a stripper.
- He said that it didn’t matter if anyone could understand what Salma Hayek said because she’s hot.
- He sexualized a 9-year-old girl – also an Academy Award nominee.
Here is the thing; as an actress you are regularly reduced to the sum of your parts. I cannot tell you how many times I was – as a teenager – told to lose 10 pounds or that I was “just not hot enough” to play the leading lady. I used to wonder if casting directors were even watching my performance, one I spent hours preparing for. Not one of my male friends ever experienced anything close to that. Additionally, male actors don’t have the same shelf-life women do. You reach a certain age and it’s over for you. Part of the reason plastic surgery is so rampant is because very few women maintain their status after they reach 35 years of age.
Further, the Academy’s, which is overwhelmingly comprised of white males, tacit approval speaks to a larger issue. Women are “less than” in our society. A woman, with the same education and experience as a man makes roughly $.82 to every man’s dollar, the number of female CEOs and board members at Fortune 500 companies is less than 5 percent, a “record” number. Not to mention the Academy’s own history of excluding women from the Best Director category – for the record only four have been nominated in the 85-year history of the awards show.
These disparities are not due to lack of capable, competent women, but rather because women are widely undervalued in every aspect unless, of course, we are talking about our bodies – which, by the way, plenty of state and federal legislators try to control.
For comedy to satirize social norms it must be funny and it should not need to be dissected ad nauseum. Seth MacFarlane’s jokes are neither. Rather than criticize, he reinforced norms of women as inferior, which is why there is still much work to be done in the fight for women’s equality.