As George Clooney noted during his comments back stage in the press room after he received the Cecil B. DeMille award, women have it hard. The week before and even the day before the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, his wife was wondering what to wear. He was watching football and slipped into his wedding tux. His accomplished and lovely new wife was the one who was criticized for everything from the fit of her gloves to her facial expressions.
The saying is that “clothes make the man” but during awards season, it seems more like “clothes unmake the woman” and clearly women are more harshly judged for their clothing choices and fashion sense. The Washington Post noted that the so-called Fashion Police program’s new lead comedian critic, Kathy Griffin, was more interested in those clothes she didn’t like than in the “boring” women she judged as well dressed.
Of course, the fashion police everywhere aren’t just unmuzzled during awards season. They are everywhere and always ready to criticize women. There was that co-anchor in Australia who read harsh comments about his co-anchor and her style choices and yet received no comments despite wearing the very same suit for almost a year.
So is there a more friendly and less sexist way of covering women at the awards ceremonies? One thing I’d like to leave behind is the cattiness. If you like what a woman is wearing, give a simple compliment and move on. Taking perverse pleasure in the fashion faux pas of accomplished actors, directors, producers, and, in Amal Clooney’s case, barrister seems so 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Richard Blackwell debuted his “Ten Worst Dressed Women” list in 1960. I used to see Mr. Blackwell at various stage premieres surveying the crowd. He might have once been a relevant designer, but he is dead and has been for a while (since 2008). Long before that, his list lost his relevance (because he didn’t understand grunge and its fashion in the 1980s).
Sure I love fashion and the glamorous gowns, and I don’t want to be called boring, but if the women spent less time fretting about what to wear because the fashion police were going to attack like a school of piranhas then perhaps they could put more thoughts into their comments. Then journalists instead of asking about the couture and attempting to get a photo that showed the actress and her dress to best effect, could ask about the content. Yes, it was lovely to learn that Joanne Froggratt received letters from rape survivors and it was wonderful that journalists asked about it. Froggatt seemed genuinely moved and too emotional to talk at length both during her acceptance speech and back stage.
Froggatt had not, it seems, expected to win. Yet, women in general are expected to dress well and talk about what they are wearing. Men are not. If, like men, women were not so pressed to think about dresses and such superficial things, perhaps they would be better prepared to make statements about non-fashion issues.
Then, too, perhaps we could turn to more content-worthy vehicles for women. The 2015 Golden Globe movies that were nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama were all focused on men. The winner “Boyhood” says it all in the title although it gave Patricia Arquette a wonderful supporting role as a mother. “Foxcatcher” was about the tragic collaboration between two brothers and a very rich but very disturbed man. “The Imitation Game” was about a gay scientist who helped create computers and the computer age. “Selma” is about Martin Luther King Jr. and his friends and foes during the events around the three marches to Selma in 1965. “The Theory of Everything” is based on a famous scientist’s ex-wife’s autobiography.
For Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Julianne Moore won for her role of a professor with Alzheimer’s, “Still Alice.” Jennifer Aniston was in “Cake,” a tale about a person in a chronic-pain group who investigates the suicide of another support group member. Felicity Jones played the wife of a famous scientist in “The Theory of Everything.” Rosamund Pike also played a scheming wife in “Gone Girl.” Reese Witherspoon was a real woman who decided to straighten out her life by taking a risky journey in “Wild.”
What we don’t see is women as inventors, women as scientists, women as Nobel Prize winners, women as Olympic medalists and women who changed the world.
Compared to the suffering and barriers of prejudice, Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir tale about her journey “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” seems lightweight in comparison to Alan Turing’s accomplishments at Bletchley Park and his subsequent trial for homosexuality. Taking the journey when in 1994 when she was 26, the accomplishment was personal but had little bearing on global issues such as the Northridge earthquake or the Winter Olympics.
In the Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, Amy Adams won for her portrayal of a famous artist who reclaimed her artistic legacy. Surely there are many more stories about women, that give us the point of view of the woman.
Even last year’s “12 Years a Slave,” an account of a free man sold into slavery, is less dramatic than the real life stories of female slaves who succeeded in running away and continued through their lives to be activists. We needs to see more stories about women of all colors who despite tremendous odds succeeded intellectually or had great adventures.
And, more importantly, journalists need to consider how to cover movies, film festivals and awards ceremonies in a less sexist manner. Silence the savagery of the fashion police and replace denigration with celebration. If we appreciate the women of the movies as intelligent human beings, as artists and professionals, perhaps they will respond by having more time intelligent talk. Journalists don’t have to wear the same suit for a year to protest sexism; they can simply say no to the cattiness and begin real conversations with women.