Are Hollywood awards by gender out of touch?

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Rapper Nicki Minaj, who’s considering launching an acting career, has a pragmatic take on the issue.

“You see all those divas in the audience looking so pretty, and they all want to beat each other out,” she said. “It’s entertainment.”

Hathaway, in the running for SAG and Oscar supporting actress honors for “Les Miserables,” considers the gender split “an awesome question worthy of an awesome debate.”

“Can I conceive of a world where performance becomes a genderless concept? Absolutely. Do I think it’s going to happen anytime soon? No,” she said.

As Field pointed out, the bedrock challenge is that women get fewer substantive roles than men. Ironically, that’s obscured by the artificial parity on stage each year at awards shows. Five women compete, five men compete, two winners are crowned.

So what’s the problem? A quick numbers check makes it clear: Females comprised about a third of the characters in the 100 top-grossing films in 2011, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

This, despite the fact women make up slightly more than half of the U.S. population. And the finding isn’t an anomaly, according to the center’s past research.

In this context, feminist leader Steinem sees legitimate reason to retain separate acting awards. When two unequal groups are combined it’s the less-powerful one that loses, she said, as when 20th-century U.S. school desegregation lead to mass layoffs of black principals and administrators.

Hollywood, often viewed as staunchly progressive, shows no indication of abandoning tradition in the awards arena.

The Oscars Awards, a reflection of their time, launched in the 1920s with his-and-hers acting trophies (for Emil Jannings and Janet Gaynor) and stuck with the formula.

Television showed its modernity by kicking off the Emmy Awards in 1949 with a gender-neutral trophy for best TV personality _ which was won by a woman, Shirley Dinsdale, according to Emmy archives.

Following Oscar’s lead, however, the Emmys quickly added separate actor-actress contests in 1951. A best reality host category, begun in 2008, is open to men and women.

Tom O’Neil, editor of the Gold Derby awards prediction site, said strong forces are arrayed against change.

Awards shows routinely try to add celebrity-driven categories, not drop them, to increase a show’s “glamor and glitz” quotient, he said, as well as mask the industry’s unequal treatment of women.

“It’s criminal,” he said, bluntly.

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