By Meredith Lepore

Campus Times Staff

We thought we had finally gotten power when we received the right to vote. Or maybe it was when we did that whole burning of the bras thing. Gloria Steinem taught us that we could be strong women while still embracing our sexuality. In the ’80s, women were moving up the corporate ladder while wearing three-inch heels and shoulder pads. In the ’90s, pop culture icon Ally McBeal demanded to be taken seriously as a litigator while wearing skirts that barely covered her crotch.

What I am trying to get at through all this diarrhea of the mouth is that we women have come a long way since the time when we had about the same rights as farm animals. And what is more amazing – though it really shouldn’t be – is that we are now encouraged to embrace our beauty while demanding respect at the same time. This is not to say that I think one should spend an hour in front of the mirror every morning before a workday or classes. Take me for example. I often debate in the morning between brushing my mess of hair or watching five minutes of a “Dawson’s Creek” rerun on TBS before class – usually the blond man-child wins. I do think it is very important to look presentable though. However, I am sad to say that the Academy Awards have not been supporting feminism. For the past six years, the Best Actress Oscar has been given to an actress for a role in which they have, let’s just say, not looked their best. Yes, these were all quite talented and established actresses, but it was almost as if they had to destroy their looks in order to be taken seriously.

It started when Gwyneth Paltrow received the award for her performance as the cross-dressing thespian Viola De Lesseps in “Shakespeare in Love.” Yes, in parts of the movie Paltrow looked absolutely splendid in those beautiful Elizabethan dresses with her cascading blond hair, but I would say for a good 50 minutes of the movie, her breasts were bound and she wore a short brown wig. Nonetheless, she won the award – beating out amazing actresses such as Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep – and to top it off, she accepted the award in a pretty pink Ralph Lauren prom dress.

In 2000, newcomer Hilary Swank won for her absolutely staggering performance in the film “Boys Don’t Cry.” Her role as Brandon Teena/Teena Brandon, a cross dressing youth who preferred her male ego, was incredibly deserving of the Best Actress Oscar. However, for the entire duration of the film, Swank looked like so much like a boy it was scary. No one knew who she was at the Golden Globes later that year, when she wore a see-through black number that accentuated her curves.

The next year Halle Berry fell right into step with her colleagues when she accepted the Oscar for her role in the film “Monster’s Ball.” Okay, this one is pushing it a little, but she had dirty hair in a lot of scenes and, well, it is just really hard to make Halle Berry ugly. The year Berry won was the year the mega-popular Nicole Kidman lost. And why did Nicole Kidman lose?

In “Moulin Rouge,” she plays a dying, beautiful muse who does not wear the hideous prosthetic nose that she wore for the film “The Hours.” I am sure her agents told her when she was considering the role of Virginia Woolf that if she wore that ugly piece of plastic on her face, she would get an Oscar.

Then, last year, another one of the world’s hottest women, Charlize Theron, realized the only way she could be taken seriously was to gain 20 pounds and do anything she could to make her beautiful face look awful to play the role of the serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the appropriately titled film “Monster.”

This transformation of looks would not even count as a make-under. Swank took home her second Best Actress Oscar this past Sunday for her role in “Million Dollar Baby,” where she played, again, a rather unfeminine woman who aspires to be a boxer. For this film, Swank gained 20 pounds of muscle.

What’s next? Scarlett Johannsen playing a troll?

Penelope Cruz playing the Wicked Witch of the West?

Can’t these women be both beautiful and talented in their roles?

As Margaret Cho, a great female comedian said, “Ugly is irrelevant – it is an immeasurable insult to a woman and then supposedly the worst crime you can commit as a woman. But ugly is an illusion.”

Lepore can be reached at

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