The Oscars are, and continue to be, problematic as all hell. Year after year, the nominees are overwhelmingly white. Straight, cis, able-bodied actors garner awards (and ally cookies) for playing LGBT & disabled characters. Hosts use their platform to punch down. This year is no different in some of these areas, but the show has had a few valuable moments.
One of those was when Vice President Joe Biden hit the stage to introduce Lady Gaga, who was performing her powerful Oscar-nominated song “Til It Happens to You,” from the documentary, The Hunting Ground, which tackles the topic of campus sexual assault. Biden took his Oscar opportunity to boost awareness around the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign. Launched last September, the campaign aims to highlight the prevalence of sexual assault and our culture of blaming victims. VP Biden put it succinctly:
“We can and will change the culture so no abused woman or man will think they did anything wrong.”
Biden then took a moment to urge viewers to take the following pledge on itsonus.org:
To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.
To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
It was an emotional moment, especially for those of who are sexual assault survivors – but it got more sobering from there. Gaga’s song is a forceful indictment on sexual assault in and of itself, but the performance took it one step further by having real-life sexual assault survivors join her on-stage, clasping hands, with phrases like “Survivor” and “It’s Not Your Fault” written across their arms. While we still have an enormous uphill battle in front of us, it’s amazing to see a powerful pop icon & sitting Vice President address rape culture & sexual assault (at the Oscars nonetheless).
Featured Image by Davidlohr Bueso