Melissa Leo and Female Self-Promotion

Posted on February 7, 2011 by


Today on Jezebel, Irin Carmon has a good post on “the female self-promoter.”  She points to several examples where a woman’s success has been attributed to her talent for deliberate self-promotion and ladder-climbing. Carmon then suggests that what we consider “self-promotion” for a woman would merely be considered “business-savvy” in a man.

What makes this post particularly interesting–and amusing–is the fact that it was published on the same day as two dueling Gawker Media posts on Oscar contender Melissa Leo’s new self-promotional campaign.

Melissa Leo is an actress of extraordinary talent who, after a long  career of supporting film roles and memorable television stints, is now finally being recognized for her work–despite being of an age at which Hollywood considers women disposable. In 2009, Leo scored nominations for her starring role in Frozen River, and this year she’s been nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in The Fighter.

So these days, Leo is basking in her well-deserved spotlight. She’s even using her own money to pay for a “For your Consideration” Oscar PR campaign—a move of questionable taste.

At (Gawker-Media-owned) Jezebel, Irin Carmon defended Leo’s campaign in a post titled, “Melissa Leo Won’t Wait for Ladymags to Say She’s Awesome.” Meanwhile, on the main Gawker site, Richard Lawson slammed Leo in his post, “Awards Season: When Good Actors Go Bad.” Read side-by-side, the two posts make Irin Carmon’s argument about female self-promotion especially interesting. Even if Leo’s PR campaign is self-aggrandizing, there’s something strange about the way Lawson reacts to it: as if he’s offended that Leo isn’t quieter about her success, more modest, more gracious—simply put, more feminine.