'That’s the way it’s always been done’ isn’t satisfying Asia Kate Dillon
If you asked a moviegoer why acting awards are segregated between male and female actors, you’d likely receive some shrugs and some very interesting logical gymnastics to draw a conclusion. More than likely, the somewhat arbitrary distinction between men and women come awards season was done to double the amount of acting awards given because, well, Hollywood REALLY likes to give itself awards.
But as we find more and more frequently these days, “because that’s how it’s always been done” fails to answer questions surrounding many social issues, and actor Asia Kate Dillon is pressing for a more satisfactory response. In the absence of that response, Dillon’s asking the Emmys to reconsider the way they categorize awards based on gender.
Having come to notoriety as a nonbinary actor playing a nonbinary character on the Showtime financial melodrama Billions, Dillon is looking for consideration by the Emmys for an acting award, but simply isn’t clear as to which category she should submit her work under, since she doesn’t identify as a male “actor” or a female “actress.”
Dillon sent a letter to the awards body asking for both clarification on the classification and for a better understanding of why the categories are distinguished among gender lines.
An excerpt from the letter, via Variety, reads:
The reason I’m hoping to engage you in a conversation about this is because if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are in fact supposed to represent ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a woman’ and ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a man’ then there is no room for my identity within that award system binary. Furthermore, if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?”
The Academy responded somewhat curiously (and hearteningly) saying that “anyone can submit under either category for any reason.”
Dillon found this response to be “100 percent supportive,” but it still requires sticking a label onto someone’s gender that they may not feel is appropriate.
Nonetheless, Dillon, at their own request, was submitted for consideration in the category of Best Supporting Actor, which has long been considered the more gender-agnostic term inclusive of men and women.
Much to the chagrin of sensational reporters everywhere, there doesn’t appear to be any bad blood or controversy here, but as Dillon puts it, “I think this is a really good place to start a larger conversation about the categories themselves and what changes are possible and what may or may not be coming.”