Work Life Balance

There Is No ‘Oscars Curse,’ Just Unsupportive Partners

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oscars curseWith the Oscars happening this weekend, many are reviewing their lists for Best Actress picks and hoping their actress makes it to that golden statue. But considering the relevance of the “Oscar Curse,” some may not exactly want their leading lady making her way up to that stage. Some may fear the Oscar Curse for these celebrity wives and glamorous mommies whose marriages historically suffer following such recognition. But what we all should really be fearing is what this “curse” reveals about how women’s stellar achievements are somehow a threat to marital life.

The end to a woman’s stable romantic life following an Oscar win, dubbed the “Oscars Curse,” does actually exist. Some researchers at the University of Toronto went back through the historical wins since 1936 and discovered that after winning Best Actress, ladies are 1.68 times more likely to divorce than ladies who do not win. However, men are not more likely to divorce at all following the Best Actor Award as researchers noted “no significant” increased risk for male winners or nominees.

If Best Actress winners had multiple children, that decreased the risk of divorce but as we know from winners like Reese Witherspoon and Kate Winslet, they’re certainly not exempt. Still from Joan Crawford to Bette Davis to Hilary Swank to Halle Berry, the Oscars Curse has a particular wifely tendency.

The unfortunate high divorce rate among these ladies alludes to the persistent discomfort with accomplished women — especially in the home. Marriages crumble for all sorts of reasons, but the steady divorces among Oscar women — and distinctly not among the Oscar fellas — suggests that trotting home with this award calls into question a certain dynamic. Specifically the one in which the ladies assume a lower professional status.

Researchers on this study did speculate on that shift, stating that an Oscar win changes any actor’s career prospects, especially financially. And earning such a prestigious award in the entertainment community does violate an fundamental social norm:

Multiple possibilities, as other research before ours has documented. One has to do with the general social norm that kind of requires a man to have higher professional and economic status over the wife. So whenever that social norm is violated, both husband and wife may feel discomfort — could be either one of them. We know from other situations that the strain that marriages feel under that circumstance is not unusual and people try to overcome it in a variety of different ways.

Even now in an era in which we have stay-at-home daddies, power working mothers, and every dynamic in between, the reality exists that achieving high success and notoriety in this particular field as a woman will cost you a marriage. And while anybody’s ego can inflate following such celebrated recognition and pay raise (especially in the entertainment industry), there is still the notion that these wives and mothers have overstepped a certain key boundary to keeping their marriages afloat — specifically because they’re women.

Let it be known however that there is no “curse” where there is blatant sexism. Where there are superstitions over awards ruining your marital life, there is more likely the attitude that women and mothers achieving certain statuses still rocks an “essential” rhythm to domestic life — to which husbands and fathers are still not generally held to.