8 Oscars Moments That Were Undeniably Feminist

Whether celebrating fans' votes or highlighting the year's best music, each award show has its signature strength. None are quite as an extravagant affair as the Academy Awards, though. Highlighting the very best in cinema, the Oscars always make for a memorable, classy evening. There's just nothing like it! Over the years, the Oscars have seen their share of ups and downs. Whether underdogs winning trophies or disappointing snubs, it can be an emotional whirlwind. Amidst all of that, there have been several feminist milestones worth acknowledging.

These moments are all the more significant, considering the awards could really benefit from more diversity in terms of gender and race. There's a history of the Academy snubbing women of color, and to date, Halle Berry remains the only black woman to win Best Actress. The ladies working behind-the-scenes on films don't get nearly enough recognition either. After all, it wasn't until 2010 at the 82nd Academy Awards that a female director won a trophy — can you believe it? Another area that needs improvement is the way women are talked about on the red carpet. Instead of compelling questions, they're usually told they look beautiful and asked who designed their dresses. Luckily, that's why the #AskHerMore movement was born. (More on that later!)

Since discussing how much work needs to be done can be pretty discouraging, let's flip the conversation and focus on the positives instead. Here's a round-up of the Oscars' biggest feminist milestones and how they impacted the award show for years to come.

1. Patricia Arquette Calls Out The Need For Equal Pay

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At the 2015 show, Arquette accepted an award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood. She gave a speech that left Meryl Streep standing up and cheering. Arquette told the crowd,

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights, it's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.

Later that year, Jennifer Lawrence penned an essay about the wage gap that sparked major media attention and led to other actors voicing their support. Sure, it was the source of jokes at the 2016 Golden Globes, but the fact that Hollywood's biggest names are drawing attention to an issue that affects women all across the country is major.

2. Halle Berry Wins Best Actress In 2002

In 2002, Berry became the first black woman to win Best Actress for her role in Monster's Ball. In her memorable speech, the actor said through tears,

This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It's for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance, because this door tonight has been opened.

Disappointingly, no black women have won the Best Actress trophy in the 13 years following. However, it's worth acknowledging there have been some very well-deserving women of color have won Best Supporting Actress over the years — ranging from Octavia Spencer in 2012's The Help to Mo'Nique's award for Precious in 2010. Whoopi Goldberg won in 1991 for Ghost , while Dreamgirls' Jennifer Hudson took the trophy in 2007.

3. Kathryn Bigelow Wins Best Director

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It wasn't until 2010 that a female director won an Oscar for her hard work. Kathryn Bigelow made history when she took home the trophy for The Hurt Locker. Ever since Bigelow's triumphant win, there have not even been any other women nominated in the Best Director category, which is incredibly unfortunate.

Since 2016's Oscar nominees haven't been announced yet, it's unclear whether there will be a change of pace, but 2015's nominations were definitely disappointing. It was expected that Ava DuVernay would become the first black female director to be nominated, yet she was surprisingly snubbed for Selma. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie didn't receive acknowledgment for her work on Unbroken either.

4. Lupita Nyong'o's Inspiring Acceptance Speech

At the 2014 show, Nyong'o won Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years A Slave and gave an inspirational speech that even made Benedict Cumberbatch tear up. It's a milestone moment because she talks about how everyone's dreams are valid — no matter where they're from. The actor was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya, so she knows this firsthand. Nyong'o said,

When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.

Beautifully put! As far as how this set the tone for future award shows, it's safe to say that Nyong'o raised the bar.

5. The #AskHerMore Movement

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Stars like Reese Witherspoon have hopped aboard the #AskHerMore movement, which encourages reporters to ask female celebrities about more than just what they're wearing. Compared to the questions their male colleagues receive, women need more questions of substance and that's exactly the mission behind this campaign. Before the 2015 Oscars, Witherspoon posted this to Instagram:

As for how this has shaped the award show scene, it's extended to the Emmys and Golden Globes as well. There's certainly work to be done still, but it's an admirable effort.

6. Barbra Streisand & Katharine Hepburn Both Win

In 1969, there was actually a tie for Best Actress. Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn shared the honor. This is major, because it's celebrating the work of two talented stars. Streissand said,

I'm very honored to be in such magnificent company as Katharine Hepburn. It's kind of a wild feeling.

In total, there have been six ties in Oscar history, but this is the only time there was a tie between two women. Honestly, I wish something like this happened more often — the more winners, the better, right? Plus, this moment set an awesome example of female actors encouraging and supporting their competition, not conspiring against them. (It's like an early version of Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence's friendship, huh?)

7. Rita Moreno's Victory For West Side Story

Back in 1962, Rita Moreno became the first Latina to win an acting Oscar. She took home the trophy for Best Supporting Actress in West Side Story and gave a short, but sweet speech, saying, "I can't believe it! Good Lord. I leave you with that." Years later, she became the first Hispanic actor to win the ever-impressive EGOT (or Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). The 84-year-old has spent her career fighting stereotypes and her work shouldn't go unnoticed. In a video interview with MAKERS, Moreno said, "I have no objection to playing a Hispanic. I have every objection to playing a stereotype."


So, how did she set the tone for the years to come? According to Latin Post, the history of Hispanic women being nominated for Oscars — and winning — shows there's still plenty of work to be done in this area. There's not nearly enough recognition, but another major moment came in 2009 when Penélope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Christina Barcelona and became the first actress from Spain to do so. In 2002, Salma Hayek made history as the first Mexican Best Actress nominee, although she didn't take home the award.

8. Steve Carell Supporting #HeForShe On The Red Carpet


At the 2015 Oscars, Steve Carell rocked #HeForShe cufflinks on the red carpet to show he supports gender equality. In 2014, Emma Watson helped launch the #HeForShe campaign, so it's awesome that the movement got such a huge spotlight. Of course, Watson couldn't not acknowledge this moment and posted the following Instagram:

Ending with Carell's cufflinks shows that men can be just as involved in feminist milestones. And hopefully he sets the tone for more males to step up and voice support for their female counterparts at future award shows, especially the Oscars.

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