“Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime,” 60-year-old Malaysian actor Michelle Yeoh said during her acceptance speech after winning the Academy Award for Best Actress on Sunday for her performance in the film Everything Everywhere All At Once.
The moment served to inspire women and Asians across the world. But if you were following the Oscars on South Korean broadcaster SBS News, “ladies” was conspicuously omitted from the coverage. The single word was edited out of a video of Yeoh’s speech, and it wasn’t translated in the subtitles either.
Commenters flooded SBS’s online bulletin board, accusing the broadcaster of censorship and misogyny and demanding an apology from its executives. The furor comes as South Korean women face growing hostility in the country toward feminism and gender equality movements.
According to Korean state news agency Yonhap, SBS deleted the original video on its site following the backlash and re-uploaded a rectified clip. The broadcaster said it did not intend to distort Yeoh’s speech, claiming it removed the reference to “ladies” due to the “connotation” of the word. SBS told the Korean newspaper NoCutNews that the word “ladies” was excised because the broadcaster believed Yeoh’s message “was not necessarily applicable only to women.”
In South Korea, anti-feminism helped pave the way for the election last year of president Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who has said he plans to abolish the country’s gender equality ministry. The World Economic Forum’s annual gender gap index—which measures disparities in economic opportunities, education, health, and political leadership—ranks South Korea 99th of 146 countries analyzed.
Yeoh, who was TIME’s 2022 Icon of the Year, has been vocal about her battles with racism and sexism in Hollywood. Despite being a major Asian star for decades, with top billing in Hong Kong action films, opportunities and recognition in the U.S. entertainment industry were scant.
In an interview last year with TIME’s Lucy Feldman, Yeoh decried this scarcity, saying that she actively turned down roles that perpetuated damaging stereotypes about Asian women for years, before taking on the character of Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once. “When you get an opportunity like this, you have to pour your heart and soul into it, because you don’t know when the next chance is.”
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