Mariah Carey, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Billie Jean King attend the 75th Golden Globe Awards.
In ten years of covering them, we’ve never seen a red carpet receive as much feverish pre-press as this one.
In the wake of a watershed year in which a hard light was shone on the abuses and crimes of men against women across a range of industries, women in Hollywood banded together in preparation for the Golden Globe Awards, which are typically seen as the moment awards season kicks into high gear. Their plan, in this post-Weinstein world? To wear black on the red carpet in support of the #TimesUp Initiative, started by women in the industry to support women across all industries in their fight against sexual abuse, harassment, and unequal pay.
This news was initially treated with quite a bit of skepticism among red carpet-watchers. Granted, the red carpet has a long history of symbol-based political activism, going all the way back 25 years to the AIDS and Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons, both of which got major pushes, if not their outright geneses, on the red carpet initially. And just last year, in the wake of the new presidential administration, quite a few stars opted to wear ribbons in support of the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. But a ribbon is an easily parsed symbol; a visual object you can substitute for political speech in an arena (the red carpet) that doesn’t tend to lend itself to weightier topics. But a color? Or rather, the lack of one? Won’t that just look like an especially dull red carpet, since roughly a third of the average RC is populated by black dresses and suits to begin with? Does a sea of black dresses really say anything? Doesn’t this dress code connote shame, sadness or modesty (three things associated with the enforced wearing of black)? Is it right to frame a response to sexual abuse around how women dress?
Well, shut your mouths, nay-sayers. The women pulled it off. No, the initiative didn’t result in one powerful image, but we’d argue that, in retrospect, it wasn’t really supposed to. The #TimesUp Golden Globes dress blackout worked not because of how it looked, but because so many of the participants were jubilantly at the ready, armed with talking points and facts, with political activists at their side. Many of the women on that red carpet came across passionately aware of the issues, devoted to change, and, most surprising of all, utterly thrilled to take this opportunity to speak on something of substance and importance in an arena that never allows for such things. Women in Hollywood took control of the one area of the industry in which they reign supreme: the red carpet. And in turn, for at least one night, they took control of the entire conversation happening in Hollywood right now. By any measure, the initiative was a huge success. Not just because women in Hollywood successfully changed the conversation (for one night at least), but because this may have been, to our chagrin, the best-dressed, most stylish Golden Globes red carpet of all time. We’re two fashion queens who tend to think defaulting to black all the time is a dull way to navigate high-fashion options. But when you strip away some of the choices for stars, and remove any chance for each of them to stand out on the red carpet, what results is a series of impeccably fitted ensembles, paired with high-impact, colorful jewelry. From a style perspective, this one was a huge win.
People criticized women for not boycotting the Globes, but for each of them to do so would mean taking some sort of career hit, since it’s largely considered one of the most important events in the entertainment industry each year, and the opportunity to walk the red carpet as a nominee is a major professional moment for any actress. There were other people who criticized the women who brought along political activists as their red carpet “plus one,” claiming that it was a case of white women using women of color as props and accessories – although we’d argue such claims tend to rob the activist women of their agency. Every one of them was interviewed, every one of them got to speak about their work, their organizations, and the things they’re doing to combat the issues and problems most important to them. If those women felt like props, they sure didn’t act like it.
If there’s anyone to be criticized in the wake of this initiative, it’s the men. While they all showed up in black – which is not exactly hard for a black-tie event – and a few of them paid lip service to the reasons why, for the most part, they weren’t asked what they were doing to combat sexism and sexual abuse in their industry and almost none of them offered suggestions. Even worse, not one of the male winners in the acting categories took the opportunity of their winning speech to address the issue. It’s wonderful that women in entertainment have banded together and are speaking with one voice, but it’s shameful that the men in the industry are barely speaking about it at all.
[Photo Credit: INSTARImages]
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