In this context, feminist leader Steinem sees legitimate reason to retain separate acting awards. When two unequal groups are combined it's the less-powerful one that loses, she said, as when 20th-century U.S. school desegregation lead to mass layoffs of black principals and administrators.
Tom O'Neil, editor of the Gold Derby awards prediction site, said strong forces are arrayed against any such change in Hollywood.
Awards shows routinely try to add celebrity-driven categories, not drop them, to increase a show's "glamor and glitz" quotient, he said, as well as mask the industry's unequal treatment of women.
"It's criminal," he said, bluntly.
In the behind-the-scenes film and TV categories in which the sexes compete, women rarely make it on stage at awards ceremonies. The Oscars started in 1929, but it wasn't until 2010 that the first woman, Kathryn Bigelow, was honored as best director (for "The Hurt Locker"). Statistics again provide clarity: Women made up a paltry 9 percent of the directors on 2012's top-grossing films, a new San Diego State University study found.
Let's give two-time Oscar winner Field the last word in this debate.
Actresses "should be in their own category because they ARE in their own category," she said. "They face their own specific kind of difficulties surviving in this business that actors, bless their hearts, don't face."
AP Entertainment Writers Sandy Cohen and Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.
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