Both/And: Reiterating Intersectionality’s Importance in Light of the Golden Globes
Words by Gillian Coyne
There are both/and situations, and there are either/or situations. Harry Potter fans are usually either book diehards or laidback moviegoers. Brunch can be both a hangover helper and a round-two hangover inducer: a both/and. Intersectionality is a both/and concept not only in its definition, but also in its application.
Coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 essay for the University of Chicago Legal Forum, the term has since become a staple in contemporary discussions of equality, equity, and justice, especially during the 2020 boom of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. But what is intersectionality exactly? Simply put, intersectionality is a term used to describe the way overlapping identities like race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status (to name just a few) create different lived experiences and thus require different – multifaceted and multilayered – responses to discrimination.
Still confused? You can check out this short video of Crenshaw explaining intersectionality as it relates to education. To talk about intersectionality through the lens of feminism, it isn’t a complete picture to talk only about the struggles that White women face. With an intersectional approach, feminism also accounts for inequalities that affect women of other minorities and recognizes the varied solutions. For example, the statistic that is usually tossed around is that women in the U.S. make 82 cents to every $1 men make (it’s about the same in the U.K. with women earning 83p for every £1). Digging a little deeper, an intersectional approach to statistics shows that Black women make 63 cents, and Latina women earn only 55 cents to every $1 a White man in America makes, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families factsheet. While women are widely paid less than their male counterparts, intersectionality shows that race and ethnicity (as well as additional barriers for trans women) are also key factors to understanding the wage gap.
What does all this have to do with the 78th Golden Globe Awards? Everything.
When the 2021 Golden Globe nominations hit media outlets two weeks ago, it was a both/and situation across the board. Three women were nominated for best director – a huge increase from the five that have been previously nominated in the 77-year history of the Golden Globes. That is an abysmal statistic, but Chloe Zhao, Regina King, and Emerald Fennell are changing that with their directorial nominations – a positive!
Here’s where the both/and comes in. The nominations were both an improvement for female representation in the directorial nominations, and also a major swing and miss for giving women of color the nominations they deserve. You know it’s bad when one of the nominated writers says in a Tweet that another show should have been selected – definitely a negative.
Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You is one of the most powerful, poignant, and intensely personal, yet relatable, TV series to air not only in 2020, but I would argue, ever. As soon as the nominations were released, the backlash on major news and social media outlets raged like a wildfire. How could Emily in Paris be nominated for two awards, and I May Destroy You get overlooked (ignored? rejected?) entirely? While fans took to Twitter and Instagram to express their outrage, outlets like New York Times, LA Times, The Vulture, BBC, and The Guardian published articles on the appalling decisions of the committee. James Poniewozik for the NY Times aptly wrote of the lack of nominations, “Well, this is a crime.” In a sense, it is. The Golden Globes robbed the show of its more-than-deserved nominations, but it also robbed the opportunity for representation and acknowledgement.
With the trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite calling out the White hegemony of the Academy Awards, it was only time before the Golden Globes threw themselves on the chopping block. Filmmakers and actors of color have been overlooked for their cinematic accomplishments over and over by the institutions who dictate what is noteworthy, of quality, worth praising in the industry. By refusing to nominate and award POC-made productions, the hegemony upholds itself as the cycle as White-dominated media representations continue to be the award winners.
That isn’t to say that Emerald Fennell doesn’t deserve a Golden Globe nomination for Promising Young Woman (2020), because she’s White (or conversely that she got the nomination to earn "girl points" for the Golden Globes). On the contrary, she absolutely earned that nomination, as did Chloe Zhao and Regina King. The both/and situation here is that there can be both more women represented on the nominee lists and universally more POC filmmakers included, especially woman-identifying leaders and LGBTQ+ community members. Diversity isn’t a checklist of items that are fulfilled in exchange of one another. Just because there are more women directors nominated than ever before, that doesn’t absolve the Golden Globes of their glaring lack of POC and LGBTQ+ nominations. There needs to be both more diverse filmmakers included, and more representative decisions being made that recognize merit where it’s due, not where history deems the trajectory of the future.
There is no doubt that the awards ceremonies in the film industry influence the public’s opinion of both the films and their creators who win the esteemed accolades. In a year that saw a massive swell in support for the BLM movement, isn’t it time to start translating that support into practice by recognizing the accomplishments of the POC filmmaking community in the awards we hold so dearly? In a year that has been incredibly turbulent, there is both major work to be done in the industry and hope for the future, as the public outrage on behalf of Coel hints towards a revelatory wave in the awards ceremonies. It’s time to lean into that both/and to recognize that while the Golden Globes have nominated more female directors than ever before, the lack of intersectionality in other nominated categories leaves a gaping hole in recognition and representation of POC-made content.
I May Destroy You is available for streaming on HBO, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime. Full episodes are also available for purchase on Google Play, and YouTube. Watch the Season 1 trailer now!
The author of this post is Miss En Scene Guest Blog Writer Gillian Coyne. She is a master's student in Film Studies in London. Gillian focuses her writing and research on film festivals and issues of representation in film programming. A New Yorker born and raised, she is almost always on the go, but remains an avid supporter of local café culture and a recreational film photographer, no matter where she is.