The minute I heard about the “let’s all wear black to an award show as a form of protest,” I rolled my eyes and thought “this is going to be riddled with hypocrisy” and, well, I was right. The Golden Globes had one stellar moment – that amazing, inspiring, powerful, Oprah speech. Oprah, a survivor of sexual assault herself, delivered a message about it being the right time for men and women to come together to end the reign of abuse of power that men have carried on for decades – centuries, even – and delivered a perfectly intersectional speech, mentioning Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks. Honestly, her speech was the only shining light the Golden Globes had that evening. But I digress. The evening was filled with so many other hypocritical moments, that it is extremely difficult to look at what happened and think “what a moment for women’s rights.”
Let’s start with the Red Carpet. The host of E! Network’s pre-show, Giuliana Rancic was, like almost every woman in Hollywood last night, wearing black. How fitting given that one of her female colleagues had just quit a mere few weeks ago when she found out that she was being paid half of what her male co-host was getting. Then, when Tarana Burke, as Michelle Williams’s date, was given a platform to speak on the same network, the camera pans out after less than 5 seconds, giving the viewers the far more important picture of what a white actress was wearing. I read someone on Twitter saying that it was the perfect depiction of what being a black woman in America means and they couldn’t be more right. Women’s rights activists got paraded around by white celebrities as a shiny accessory for this night of protest without being given any type of platform to speak on. It seemed disingenuous and forced and so many of the women wearing black were complicit and aware of the same system of oppression that they are now protesting. But the question that afflicts me is: would any of them be wearing black today had it not been for continuous backlash received by the industry in the past few months? Would these white feminists be delivering the same message and energy was this not directly affecting them?
The ceremony was another debacle in itself. Apart from a couple shining moments, like Elizabeth Moss’s win and dedication to Margaret Atwood, the room was seething with hypocrisy coming from every corner. Natalie Portman thought she would have her moment when she simply said “all-male nominees.” White feminists lost their minds online, forgetting her history of Zionism and that one time where she equated being raped with eating meat. And how she signed a petition to free Roman Polanski after he admitted to raping a 13-year-old girl. Let’s talk about the fact that in 2014, the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille was Woody Allen. The same Woody Allen who is married to his adoptive daughter and whose own biological daughter has accused of rape and abuse for many, many years. Let’s also mention how actor Kirk Douglas received a standing ovation from a room dressed in black to protest sexual assault. The same Kirk Douglas who raped actress Natalie Woods while telling her how much he “liked young girls.” He received a standing ovation. Standing. Ovation. Let’s talk about Salma Hayek’s dedication to the movement when just a few months ago she belittled the amazing Jessica Williams when she spoke on the difficulties of being a black woman with the comment of “if you’re not black and you’re not a woman what do you have to give?” The exchange did rounds on social with many jumping to Williams’s defense, once again, demonstrating the hardship that black women go through in comparison to white women. Let’s talk about the fact that James Franco, ironically wearing a “Time’s Up” pin, won an award that night. James Franco, who has been accused of soliciting sex and nude images from 17-year-old girls. The same James Franco who also sent naked pictures of himself to teenage girls through Instagram. But the issue with the men at this ceremony only starts here.
Throughout the entire ceremony, not one of the men in that room used their voices to speak up for women or the culture of misogyny that Hollywood has created. Wearing a pin on your jacket’s lapel does not eradicate the complacency that these men have carried out throughout their entire careers. Justin Timberlake, proudly displaying his pin on Twitter, is a part of the latest Woody Allen film. Jude Law, also wearing a pin, is a part of Allen’s latest film as well. A film about a 40 something-year-old man having sex with a 15-year-old girl. Jude has also been accused of domestic violence in the past by his partner Sadie Frost. Ewan McGregor, also wearing a pin, won an award last evening. The same Ewan who has continuously praised convicted child rapist Roman Polanski ever since they worked together. He has 3 daughters. Gary Oldman, also wearing a pin, also having won an award last night, assaulted his wife in front of his children and choked her while she tried to call the police. He’s also an outspoken anti-domestic violence ally. Would Harvey Weinstein also be dressed in all black, wearing a pin saying “Time’s Up” had his behaviour not been brought out into the public?
My main issue with the entire moment and the entire ceremony is the fact that so many of those clad in black, sporting pins, were willingly complicit in a system that belittled and subjugated women. How many in that room knew about the abuse, the harassment, the assaults and did nothing? Furthermore, what now? Wearing black doesn’t resolve an issue. Speaking up, taking action solves the issue, but I didn’t see that much speaking or acting from any of the women present at the Golden Globes yesterday. Or ever. Parading women’s rights activists or creating hashtags doesn’t solve anything. Sure, it creates awareness. But awareness was there already. To create real change it’s going to require real action. Are any of those in Hollywood willing to put forth the effort and uncomfortableness necessary to create that change? Shouldn’t the Golden Globes have been boycotted instead? I stand with the women who have spoken up – I really, really do – but will all this fall into deaf ears if no one is willing to do more than just dress in all black when award show season rolls around? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful.
Written by Inês Mendonça