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According to Variety, Liv Hewson won’t be submitting their work as Van on the television sensation Yellowjackets for the Emmys this year. Hewson, who is queer and nonbinary, spoke with Variety about the decision:
“There’s not a place for me in the acting categories. It would be inaccurate for me to submit myself as an actress. It neither makes sense for me to be lumped in with the boys. It’s quite straightforward and not that loaded. I can’t submit myself for this because there’s no space for me.”
They’re right; it’s not that complicated: Binary gendered categories at awards ceremonies are inherently exclusive. And Hollywood has been slow to change. Some awards institutions have eliminated gendered categories, such as the British Independent Film Awards, the Berlin Film Festival, the Gotham Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards. But the Emmys, Golden Globes, Oscars, and other major awards ceremonies continue to separate categories by “men” and “women.”
This forces nonbinary or genderqueer people to choose to submit in a category that does not reflect their identity or to not submit at all, as Hewson has opted for. Some nonbinary actors, like Emma D’Arcy, have spoken about the pressure to present as cisgender in order to succeed. Billions star Asia Kate Dillon penned an open letter to the SAG Awards committee in 2020 asking for an end to gender-segregated categories.
In today’s Variety story, Hewson crucially pushed back against the argument people tend to make against gender neutral categories: that it would mean cis white men would dominate in all categories across the board. They managed to articulate something I’ve long felt but never knew how to say so succinctly: “There is an implied fatalism there, which suggests that we’ve all agreed that equality is impossible. And that’s sad,” they told Variety.
Indeed, the implication that gender neutral categories would make it impossible for women and nonbinary people to win awards is derivative at best. It misguidedly aligns gender neutrality in awards with regression, when really it’s a step forward for the industry, one that allows for more inclusion and representation — not less.
Hewson tells Variety they’ve been supported by Showtime and the cast of Yellowjackets cast in this decision. They’re straightforward and firm about their choice, and I’m struck by their impressive balance of not wanting to sensationalize this stance while also underscoring they do want to see change. They tell Variety they “very gently and respectfully ask that people get their gears turning a little.”
It shouldn’t take actors missing out on potential opportunities and accolades over and over again to move the needle.