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Barbra Streisand Says Sexism Robbed Her of Oscar Nods

Barbra Streisand

The Yentl star said Academy chauvinists and female critics undermined her efforts as a female director.


Barbra Streisand made history in 1983, when she became the first woman to direct, cowrite, produce, and star in a major film, the acclaimed musical Yentl.

However, during a speaking event Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival, Streisand said she believed her accomplishments were undermined by sexist members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which honored Yentl with five nominations -- but not Streisand for Best Director. (Previously, during awards season, Streisand had won this honorific at the Golden Globes.)

"There were a lot of older people [in the Academy]," Streisand said at the event moderated by director Robert Rodriguez. "They don't want to see a woman director."

"I don't know how many women wanted to see a woman director," she said, noting how members of her own gender may have been biased against her.

As an example, Streisand pointed to Janet Maslin, a critic at The New York Times, who panned the film. Streisand recounted how Maslin criticized the "designer yarmulke" of Streisand's character, Yentl, an Ashkenazi Jewish woman who masquerades as a man, in order to receive an education in Poland at the eve of the 20th century.

"No audience will ever complain about hearing Miss Streisand sing," Maslin wrote of the musical, which featured classic songs like "Papa, Can You Hear Me?." Maslin added: "But her musical talents -- in fact, all of her talents -- have been far better used elsewhere than they are here."

Recalling Maslin's critique appeared to still frustrate Streisand over three decades later.

"None of them talked about what the movie was trying to say," said Streisand, who defended the yarmulke as being authentic to the time period. "It was not about what the movie was about -- a celebration of women and all they could be."

"I must have been more hurt than I thought, because I didn't want to direct for years," Streisand added. The next film she directed, Prince of Tides, received seven nominations at the Academy Awards. But once again, Best Director was not one of the categories.

Streisand ultimately did witness the glass ceiling shatter -- when she presented Kathryn Bigelow with the Oscar for Best Director in 2010. But she warned Hollywood against becoming complacent.

"Not enough women are directing now," she said. "I love when I see a woman's name on the film, and then I want to see it be good."

Streisand also revealed why she began directing in the first place.

"I directed because I couldn't be heard," she said.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.