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Our Favorite Feminist Moments from the 2020 Oscars

Yes, the Oscars Snubbed Women

Let’s face it, the 2020 Oscars got off to a rocky start with the Academy’s overt snubbing of female directors and people of color. While there were incredible female directors at the helm of movies like “Little Women” (Greta Gerwig), “Hustlers” (Lorene Scafaria), and “The Farewell” (Lulu Wang); not a one was nominated for the best director category. No, the nominees for the Oscars in the Best Director category were unsurprisingly all mostly white men including included Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”), Todd Phillips (“Joker”), Sam Mendes (“1917”), Quentin Tarantino (“Once upon a Time… in Hollywood”) and Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”).

It’s hard to ignore the fact that while all good movies, all of them—barring “Parasite”—primarily focus on stories we’ve already seen time and time again featuring white, male protagonists. I mean, I made it no more than halfway through “The Irishman” before turning to the person I was watching it with (a white male) and saying, “Haven’t we seen these exact same actors in these exact same roles in a million movies over the course of our lives?” Don’t get me wrong, I love De Nero, but for god’s sake, can we please see something new?

I digress. I’m not writing this to rant about all the things that are problematic about the Oscars (super white, super male). I’m writing because there were some pretty big, awesome feminist moments that took place throughout the show that I’m super excited about and want to share. In my opinion, no matter how few and far between, no feminist act or statement that takes center stage at something as big as the Oscars, should go unnoticed.

The following are:

Natalie Portman, the Oscars, 2020 Oscars

Our favorite feminist moments from the 2020 Oscars

Back to the snubbing of female directors for the category of best director. Let’s just say Natalie Portman made us proud by strutting down the red carpet while sporting a black and gold Dior dress paired with a cape that featured the names of women who were overlooked this year in the directing category. She told the Los Angeles Times, “I wanted to recognize the women who were not recognized for their incredible work this year in my subtle way.”

Thank you Natalie!

Jenelle Monae’s opening Oscars performance was everything.  She led an elaborate number starting with the theme song from children’s show “Mr. Rogers” and then broke into a lyrically modified version of her song “Come Alive”. With backup dancers donning costumes honoring titles that hadn’t been nominated, including ones that featured primarily black casts like “Dolemite Is My Name”, “Us”, and “Queen & Slim”, Monae peppered her performance with a couple of comments that made us cheer. Mid-song she shouted, “We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films.” Then Monae and some of her backup dancers took to the floor in “Midsommar” outfits. And I nearly jumped out of my seat and cheered when at the end she announced, “I’m so proud to stand here as a black queer artist, telling stories. Happy Black History Month.”

Irish composer and conductor Eímear Noone had Sigourney Weaver in tears as she made history as the first woman to conduct an orchestra at the Oscars! It was an incredible moment to witness

Sigourney Weaver, Brie Larson and Gal Gadot presented the awards for original score and original song. In a nod to their onscreen roles, Segourney gave a shout out to all ladies with a heartfelt, “All women are superheroes,” proclamation. Then went on to announce Eímear Noone.

It was a big night for “Harriet” star Cynthia Erivo.  While her nomination for best lead actress was a cause for both celebration and sadness (Yep, only black actor nominated in any of the acting categories—WTF Academy!), her delivery of “Stand Up”, the lead single for “Harriet”, was incredible. Dressed in a gold cape (capes were a thing for ladies that night: sheroes), and backed by gospel singers, Erivo gave a hair-raising performance that brought people to their feet for a standing ovation at the end. A tear or two may have even been shed.

Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, didn’t give anyone cause for tears as the two “Saturday Night Live” veterans turned movie stars showed off their acting skills in a hilarious skit that had them auditioning for movies while presenting the award for best production and costume design.

Billie Eilish’s memoriam performance was beautiful. Her voice was angelic as she sang “Yesterday” while images of the great artists who were lost last year appeared above her head. It was absolutely lovely. We are so impressed with great talent.

Jane Fonda was stunning sporting a grey pixie cut! Yay for older, sexy AF women who aren’t afraid to embrace their age and greys. And we are also loving her choice to re-wear a dress she wore when she attended the premiere of “Grace of Monaco” during the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival. If I owned that dress, I’d be wearing it every day!

Finally, it’s worth noting that the big win of the night was the big winner of the night: “Parasite”. It earned four wins, including best picture, which is no small deal. The film made history as the first non-English-language film to win best picture at the Oscars.

Feature photo Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.
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