For those of us that struggled for the last few months with the realities of Donald Sylvester’s 2020 Sound Editing Oscar speech, “I want to thank my wonderful wife of 34 years who gave up her editing career for me to pursue my career … ,” I’d like to take this opportunity to make sure that we all thank our child-care team and lifestyle support team for supporting our careers. There is no reason to wait for the Oscar stage, so please feel free to Copy & Paste this into your social media, retirement speeches, gala introductions, and even just a few birthday toasts over the years. Please adjust the details to fit your life, because womxn with lifestyle obligations will hopefully be giving this speech over and over on stages for years to come.
Thank you to my spouse, my partner, my biggest supporter in front of and behind closed doors.
Thank you for equitably sharing our household maintenance and picking up where I left off.
Thank you for raising our children with the values, intentions, and pure joy that they deserve no matter who was there for each of their important milestones in person or digitally or in spirit.
My partner goes above and beyond to share the load of life’s struggles and disappointments, absorbing the pain so I can set it aside and go back to creating.
My partner makes time and space to be a sounding board and shares wildly intriguing ideas for me to explore in my work so I am free to take full credit for their best ideas.
My partner adds value to my creative work and I am awarded richly because of their commitment to my creations.
My partner sacrifices and never truly lets me know the depth of those sacrifices.
My biggest supporter encourages me to find creative fulfillment, even pushing me to take risks.
My biggest supporter sends me photos of my kids, my family, and my life to help me see what we have because I value those memories.
My biggest supporter prioritizes what I need to feel ready to be creative, knowing that creativity is my identity.
My biggest supporter encourages me to accept work that I want over work that we feel that we need.
Ryan Schwartzman is my spouse, my partner, and my biggest supporter. We built this life together and I am humbled to accept this honor for the both of us.
I am privileged to live this life alongside a partner like Ryan. I hope to let him know how much I enjoy our partnership through years of thanking him in front of and behind closed doors. And as forgiving, equitable, over-achieving, over-qualified, and underfunded womxn, we must remember this: That the tables don’t need to be turned or flipped, we get to create the new paradigm. We get to accept awards and say speeches that are equitable, but also equal. We get to determine how spouses or partners, or lifestyle support teams get treated in this new world. And I’m proud of the team that I have, let the world know how proud you are of YOUR team.
And we still have a looooooong way to go as far as parent-friendly practices, gender parity behind the camera, and the unequal load of primary child-care placed on womxn in every single sense of our society. But #BudgetTheBaby and union supported affordable child-care would help ease this transition. Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of the gender-equality advocacy site Women and Hollywood, noted after Sylvester’s speech, “If that is not a message for better childcare policies for women in this industry I don’t know what is.”
For context of Donald Sylvester’s speech and relationship and Oscar-winning career, know this: That none of us know what happens in a marriage, in a life, or anything behind closed doors. It is not our business and our outrage is wasted on a happy couple with two grown and well-adjusted children. What we DO know is that Donald Sylvester’s wife, Penny Shaw Sylvester, has spoken out that she was honored by Donald’s speech, and then angered by the backlash, expressing that their life choices are private. Penny introduced Donald to editing and set him on the path to an Oscar-winning career and later she chose to step out of the film industry and raise their child with special needs. Penny is happy with her life and professed to be happier in the work that she does now.
Some resources about the backlash and response:
“How should we feel about the Oscar winner who thanked his wife for giving up her career?”
By Sarah Todd, February 10, 2020
“The real support comes from home,” Donald Sylvester, who won an Oscar for sound editing in the film Ford v Ferrari, said in his acceptance speech. “So I want to thank my wonderful wife of 34 years, who gave up her editing career for me to pursue my career. But she raised our kids, and she did a great job, because neither one of them are politicians.”
Shaw also apparently helped her husband get his start in sound editing. In a 2018 interview with film festival CEO and blogger Matthew Toffolo, Sylvester explained that he was working in the music business when “my wife, who was a film editor, suggested that motion pictures and I would be a good fit. My skills and instincts fit right in. She was right.”
“Social Media Slams Oscar-Winner For Thanking Wife For Giving Up Her Career To Raise Their Kids. Wife Fires Back.”
By Hank Berrien, February 12, 2020
“Sylvester’s thank-you to his wife elicited a barrage of criticism on social media in addition to the silence from the audience, including these: “Brava women heroes, sacrificing careers so white men can do what they want & not raise the kids,” “If Donald Sylvester’s wife hadn’t given up her editing career for him, would she be on the Oscar stage tonight?” and “In the future we want lots of women onstage thanking their husbands for doing the same thing.”
But Sylvester’s wife, Penny Shaw Sylvester, the daughter of the late great actor and writer Robert Shaw, was caught on camera beaming when her husband thanked her, saying,“Hi Peter” and “Hi Louise” to her children. She told the Deseret News that the criticisms of her husband were “ridiculous,” adding, “For anybody to criticize makes me extremely angry, because they know nothing about my life or my family and the choices we’ve had to make.”
The Deseret News noted, “The couple, who live near Los Angeles, have two children, now ages 30 and 25, and Penny Shaw Sylvester decided to quit working full time when it became clear that one of the children had special needs and would require extra care.”
Penny Sylvester continued, “I was paying someone to take care of my special-needs child and I realized they couldn’t do it as well as I could. Nobody knows a child as well as the parents do.” The Deseret News reported that she not only raised the children but also worked with special education in her local school district and ran a summer-school program.”