Quvenzhane Wallis is All of Our Daughters

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by Melissa Silverstein
March 5, 2013 12:33 PM
4 Comments
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I thought I was done with all the Oscar postscripts but there is still have one more thing to write about.  I am going to take a mulligan on not getting to this sooner, but I was off last week, and am only now really digesting all the blog posts and news stories.

Here's my take: It's not OK to ever call a 9-year-old girl a c*nt.  In fact, I don't think it's OK to call anyone a c*nt.  I remember when calling someone a bitch was the worst thing you could say, but now we seem to live in a world where the c-word is used to describe someone satirically or ironically.

I don't really get how someone would look at what Quvenzhane Wallis did when her name was mentioned on worldwide TV and think that there is anything remotely c-wordish in her action.  It was adorable and reminiscent of one of the most powerful scenes in the movie. But hey, I guess that anything where a girl shows power makes her potentially a c-word.

What bothers me is that she is still a girl and we should encourage her to stay a girl as long as possible.  If you've ever read Carol Gilligan you know that at 9 you are on the cusp of starting the see the world in a different way.  Girls start to see how women are treated and they then tend to retreat into their selves just as their male counterparts begin to discover the power being a boy gets you. 

It is important to stand up for this nine-year old-girl because she is all of us and all our daughters.  We want our girls to keep their sense of self and power that was so clearly on display in this girl that evening.  And why shouldn't she feel powerful?  She was nominated for best actress at the Academy Awards.  That's not something that any other nine-year-olds can say. 

Since we will be seeing more of this lovely girl as she develops her career, I think we all need to be prepared for the stuff that will be heaped on her when she plays the lead in a new version of Annie which was announced on the day of the Oscars.  I for one can't wait to take my nieces and nephews to see this movie (I loved the show so much as a kid) and have them see it with an African American girl in the lead. 

I wonder if had the entire show been more respectful of women that maybe the tweet wouldn't have even been thought of, but the tone of the evening allowed this type of thought process to seem OK.  But it wasn't, and it was deleted quickly, yet it has reverberated just like the misogyny of the evening still reverberates.  (Geena Davis spoke publicly about the event saying: "It's a shame that that triumph was enveloped in an awards ceremony containing disrespect for women…But it helps illustrate how tone-deaf we can still be regarding the status of women.")

I have read some terrific blog posts, mostly from African American writers on this topic, but nothing from Hollywood, or from people who cover Hollywood.   Sadly, this is a bigger cultural issue.  While Quvenzhane Wallis got called a name in a very public way there are girls pumping their fists at ball games, in playgrounds and in classrooms all over the place getting called names for displaying their own sense of power.  We need to support all their fist pumping, not shut it down.

The Thing About Being A Little Black Girl In the World: For Quvenzhane Wallis (Black Girl Dangerous)

A Love Letter to Quvenzhane Wallis (Crunk Feminist Collective)

Did White Feminists Ignore Attacks on Quvenzhane Wallis? That’s An Empirical Question (Tressiemc)

Actress Geena Davis critical of Oscar host (AP)





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4 Comments

  • Maureen | March 19, 2013 2:10 AMReply

    Great article, Melissa.

  • Rebecca | March 5, 2013 6:27 PMReply

    I'm a working actor in LA, and assure you there was (and continues to be) LOTS of discussion, if not media coverage, of both the tweet in question and the sexist angle of this year's Oscars. Many of my colleagues and I found both to be unacceptable, and that was only made worse by the vehemence of the 'lighten up' crowd. But when it comes to the question of how to stop it... The entertainment industry is like any other, it makes what audiences buy. The way to change media is to educate the audience.

  • Mildred | March 5, 2013 5:01 PMReply

    Sadly, I'm not surprised at all that the issue hasn't been covered by the Hollywood outlets. Not their issue or concern until it is made to be so. Until then, it makes me doubly thankful for blogs and alternative news outlets.

    Post very much appreciated.

  • Susan Cartsonis | March 5, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    Melissa, I share your fist pump for Quvenszhane and all the little girls out there who are celebrating their fierceness. My father has been ranting about how much he felt she deserved the Academy Award--he's sensitive to age-ism and talent. And was awed by her performance! And he was horrified by how "her Daddy" in the film left her to her own devices as though she wasn't even a fictitious character. I guess that's part of why my sister and I are able to be fierce girl power advocates and feminists. We need more men like my "Daddio" as I called him when I was Quvenzhane's age who speak up for girls and women, mentor them, and see no limitations for them. Rather than tearing them down and undermining their confidence or turning their heads away when others do. Thanks Quvenzhane for your spirit and talent, thanks Melissa for writing this, and thanks Daddio...

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