Sunday night saw the beginning of the awards season frenzy leading up to the Oscars, starting off with the Golden Globes. In light of recent sexual assault allegations within Hollywood and the wider entertainment industry, the awards ceremony was set to be more than just a stage for the usual star studded spectacle.
The politicisation of events like these isn’t all that new. If anything in the age of Trump it has become increasingly more commonplace for the red carpet to be used as a stage to amplify social issues and injustice.
On Monday January 1, The New York Times published a letter signed by over 1,000 of the entertainment industries leading ladies as part of the #TimesUp initiative calling on the US government to better support victims of sexual violence through legislation and funding. The minds behind #TimesUp, including Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera and Shonda Rhimes, have managed to raise over $14 million for a Legal Defense Fund to support victims of sexual abuse.
The Golden Globes was their stage to speak out against the negligent attitude held within the entertainment industry toward sexual misconduct, with many attendees choosing to wear black in solidarity in addition to custom made #TimesUp pins.
Although the move has been praised by some, others have added their two cents as to why protesting in this way may not be as effective – no matter how well intentioned the participants. With many coming forward with other, more impactful, ways of highlighting the issue.
April Reign (activist and creator of #OscarsSoWhite) spoke out on Twitter earlier in the week suggesting” ‘You know what would REALLY be a protest? Not going. No women on the red carpet as far as the eye can see. THAT would be a statement.’ Reign went on to say that ‘women and their supporters now stand at a pivotal moment… now is the time to take a stand in a show of force.’
Actress Rose McGowan, one of the first people to speak out about Harvey Weinstein also spoke out against the move. A now deleted tweet from the actress read:
“Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are wearing black @GoldenGlobes in a silent protest,”. “YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly and affect no real change. I despise your hypocrisy. Maybe you should all wear Marchesa.”
A handful of stars, a grand total of eight, did in fact invite prominent activists along with them on the night. Tarana Burke (founder of the #MeToo movement) was one of the activists in attendance with actress Michelle Williams. As brilliant as it may be to see these amazing activists brought to the fore on a global stage such as the Golden Globes, it also made for uneasy viewing. It felt less like these brilliant advocates were guests but more a novelty for these actresses to show off and then receive a pat on the back afterwards.
I can absolutely appreciate the hard work and initiative that has gone behind creating an initiative to highlight these issues. However, I cannot help but fear for when this issue ceases to be en vogue, for when the next ‘big social issue’ raises its head and Hollywood’s best jump onto its bandwagon loaded with designs for the next colourful lapel pin or ribbon.
This is not to say those with a wider reach shouldn’t speak up about issues, often times it’s the only way these topics or causes might even be given the spotlight they so desperately need.
If an industry is working to silence you, the greatest show of force you can make in retaliation is to show a manifestation of that silence. That being said, it’s also highly hypocritical to attend an event held by an organisation that continues to support those openly accused of sexual misconduct including Woody Allen and Casey Affleck – both of whom were invited to the Golden Globes amidst allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. The appropriate action would be to completely boycott the event altogether.
Stars may be ‘contracted’ to attend these events, they may even be blacklisted for speaking out, but oftentimes speaking out comes with a price for those of us who have no choice but to fight for our rights. Surely if they were as passionate about this cause they would be willing to take that step through that show of force, holding these organisations accountable.
That is the privilege that these stars have that many activists, advocates and survivors do not. They can choose to take off their pin off at the end of the night.