This time last week, red carpets were being rolled out, envelopes were being sealed, statuettes were being polished again and again for maximum shininess (probably), Teleprompters were being quadruple-checked to avoid any potentially embarrassing name gaffes (definitely), and reporters were preparing thoughtful and exciting questions for some of film and TV's most incredible talents (idealistically). But while all of Hollywood was abuzz with preparation for this week's awards, the ever-active women over at The Representation Project were working just as hard as crusaders of the Twitter world, campaigning tirelessly to try and change the way journalists treat women on the red carpet. The #AskHerMore campaign sought to call real-time attention to red carpet reporters' devaluing of and apparent disinterest in anything the female attendees had to say, aside from the designer of her dress.
This infinitely important movement not only worked to stir up warranted outrage over the treatment of women, but served to highlight just how common this type of sexism is- which makes the phenomenon all the more outrageous. Despite the true reason for the season- recognizing and celebrating talent- awards season has become a time for Hollywood's finest to get dolled up and traipse the red carpet looking, somehow, even finer. And, of course, the physical appearance of the ladies tends to take precedence over the men. After all, no matter how well you wear it, a tuxedo is a tuxedo; it's understandable that each gal in her distinctive gown would spark interest. However, red carpet "journalism" has devolved to a point where a question about a woman's work actually seems out of place, and can catch even the staunchest of feminists off guard.
This is a problem. It is a problem that a writer expects to be asked about her shoes. It is a problem that a director expects to be asked about her manicure. It is a problem that an actress expects to be asked about her pre-carpet meal. It is a problem that we've come to expect sexism.
On the red carpet today, journalists subscribe to and perpetuate the idea that women's bodies are just to be looked at. Because of this anticipated level of chauvinistic interest in appearance, the women (who are expected to uphold unfair standards of beauty and perfection) deliver, and are subsequently criticized for being "superficial," and often accused of perpetuating the cycle themselves. In other words, when it comes to finding the balance between conforming to an expected societal custom and breaking free from unfair societal constructs, women cannot win, which, unfortunately, is not news.
So if this has been a struggle for women for so long, why have we never tried to change the way we deal with these issues? The ladies behind #AskHerMore seek to do just that, and they're starting at the root of the problem: casual sexism. When it comes down to it, does anyone actually care what these ladies are wearing, or are these questions just for tradition's sake? And if they are, why haven't we stepped back and thought about what it means to reduce a woman's worth, on national television, in 2015, to the dress she's wearing? We need to get journalists to recognize and accept that even though it might be easy or fun or just-what-you-do to ask about shoes and hair dye, it's progressive and necessary to ask about content and work. As the quote goes, "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." If a conscious effort is made to treat women (on red carpets and otherwise) like the smart, talented, interesting creatures they are, we may be able to start to amend the unacceptable way in which women are so often perceived (on red carpets and otherwise). Although we occasionally enjoy getting dolled up, we are more than meets the mani-cam. What's inside the Who-Are-You-Wearing? matters far more than is being accounted for.
Sure, Wonder Woman's accessories are hella cute, she really relies on them, and they can even make her feel somewhat indestructible (literally, and I bet figuratively, too). But think about how absolutely ridiculous and reductive and embarrassing it'd be if we credited her every victory, her total badassery, and her overall worth as a woman to those couple of bracelets she decided to slip on when she got ready in the morning.
Think about that if you ever doubt how absolutely vital it is that we start to #AskHerMore.