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Girls & Women

Four times social justice issues have been promoted by Academy Award winners

Robert Couse-Baker

The Academy Awards are known for the glitz, the glam, and the fanfare. Less talked about, however, is how the stage is often used by celebrities to promote social justice. From the infamous Marlon Brando Oscar decline, to Patricia Arquette’s best supporting actress speech, the Academy Awards has moved its audiences to awareness and action many times.

Here is a quick run down of four social justice moments at the Academy Awards.

Marlon Brando Declines his Oscar:

This is possibly the most famous instance, because it was the first major social justice effort. During the 45th Academy Awards, Marlon Brando used his Oscar win to call out the injustices faced by Native American in the film and television industry.  He,decided not to attend the ceremony, and asked Sacheen LittleFeather, president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, to decline the award instead. Brando’s choice was iconic and changed the academy’s policies. No longer could other people step in to pick up an actor’s win.


Sean Penn stands up for gay rights and marriage equality :  

Remember gay rights before that stellar day last June when marriage equality happened? There is still a long road ahead, but leaders like Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected politician and gay rights activist, pushed the marriage equality and equal rights movement forward. When Sean Penn accepted his best actor award for his portrayal of Milk, he embodied the tenacity and the fearlessness of Milk.


A photo posted by Duval - Aristotle Robinson (@viva_la_duvie) on

“For those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone." – Sean Penn

In 2015 the Academy Awards were all about SOCIAL JUSTICE

Singer John Legend and rapper Common’s acceptance speeches both focused on the racial disparities in the criminal justice system and the continued threats against voting rights. They even called on Congress to reintroduce and pass the Voting Rights Amendments Act.

John Legend you are a stellar global citizen, and, once again, thanks for your beautiful performance at the Global Citizen Festival in 2012.

and then Patricia was inspired us ALL when she took the stage last year

Patricia Arquette and wage equality:

She started her speech as any other winner would--thanking her family, her cast family from Boyhood, her favorite painter--and then she took on the a major issue underpinning the evening: wage inequality.

"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America." – Patricia Arquette


Merryl’s reaction sums it all up:


At the current pace, global gender parity won’t be achieved until 2133!

Ridiculous right?

Sounds like this issue could use some star assistance. As global citizens we can help motivate stars like Lady Gaga, Brie Larson and Mark Ruffalo to make a #PledgeForParity.