Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith at a past Oscar ceremony, the couple is boycotting the 2016 awards

The Academy Awards are coming fast. On February 28th, Hollywood’s biggest names will gather to honor the past year’s cinematic achievements. However, there will be quite a few people who will not be in attendance at the 2016 ceremony. Since announcing nominees, the Academy Awards have come under fire for a lack of minority presence, prompting #OscarsSoWhite to make a viral resurgence. In response, notable Hollywood figures such as Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Spike Lee are boycotting the Oscar ceremony.  Last night, Smith picked up a lifetime achievement award at the first All Def Movie Awards, a new ceremony created by music mogul, Russell Simmons, to honor African American talent. Though the major talk surrounding the Oscars has concerned racial diversity, or the lack of it, another boycott has left many wondering if the The Academy is also guilty of gender discrimination.

In the past cis-gendered actors have won awards for playing transgender people. In fact, Eddie Redmayne may win 2016’s Best Actor award for playing transgender artist, Lili Elbe, in The Danish Girl. However, a trans performer has not been nominated for a Academy Award since the 1970s, until this year. Musician, Anohni (known to many from band, Antony and the Johnsons), received a 2016 Oscar nod for Best Song for “Manta Ray” from the documentary, Racing Extinction.

Anohni album artwork

However the optimism generated by the historic nomination has diminished in light of the Academy’s recent decision to eliminate Anohni’s performance from the ceremony. Oscar producers cited “time constraints” as the reason for the cut although Dave Grohl, not a nominee, was recently added to the live show lineup. In response, Anohni has decided not to attend the ceremony. In a truth-bearing essay she explains her reasoning, stating:

“I want to be clear — I know that I wasn’t excluded from the performance directly because I am transgendered. I was not invited to perform because I am relatively unknown in the U.S., singing a song about ecocide, and that might not sell advertising space. It is not me that is picking the performers for the night, and I know that I don’t have an automatic right to be asked.

But if you trace the trail of breadcrumbs, the deeper truth of it is impossible to ignore. Like global warming, it is not one isolated event, but a series of events that occur over years to create a system that has sought to undermine me, at first as a feminine child, and later as an androgynous transwoman. It is a system of social oppression and diminished opportunities for transpeople that has been employed by capitalism in the U.S. to crush our dreams and our collective spirit.”

It could be true that Oscar producers were in a time crunch or needed to attracted bigger names to a live ceremony waning in popularity but Anohni, Pinkett, and Lee’s boycotts ask the question, “What’s next for the Oscars?” As other American entertainment platforms become more accepting of all races and genders, why is it taking the Academy so long to catch up and what do the awards really stand for?

Read the rest of Anohni’s essay here.

View the nominees for The Academy Awards 2016

Photo of Anohni by Inez and Vinoodh

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