Monday morning this week found me getting a bit teary at my desk. (And no, not because it’s January and it’s cold and I wanted to be back in bed.) The news was full of inspiring women speaking up for themselves, amplifying the voices of others – and perhaps, finally, being heard.
At the 2018 Golden Globes, the #TimesUp movement was the talk of Hollywood. The black dresses on the red carpet were, as actress Amber Tamblyn explained, not a fashion statement. ‘It is a statement of action. It is a direct message of resistance. Black because we are powerful when we stand together with all women across industry lines. Black because we’re starting over, resetting the standard. Black because we’re done being silenced and we’re done with the silencers. Tonight is not a mourning. Tonight is an awakening.’
Images from the red carpet showed actresses arm-in-arm with each other, or with their ‘dates’, activists fighting for women in diverse sectors of society. A fashion parade was subverted into a spectacle of solidarity.
Not everybody was caught up in the moment. Notably, Asia Argento and Rose McGowan – some of the first and loudest voices to speak out against Harvey Weinstein – were critical of the proceedings, with Argento noting that she had not been invited, and McGowan tweeting that she has ‘no time for Hollywood fakery’. It’s certainly troubling that the women brave enough to start the movement seem to have been excluded from it going forward. Perhaps their rawness and uncensored anger have simply been found too unpalatable.
McGowan is certainly right to be wary of fakery in an industry notorious for it. It’s somewhat uncomfortable that women proudly wearing black, including Emma Stone and Greta Gerwig, have formerly chosen to work with abusive men. On the red carpet, while the women were fierce and articulate, the men were not expected to step up in the same way. Despite the sea of black tuxes and ‘#TimesUp’ pins, not one male Globe winner saw fit to speak out on his female colleagues’ behalf during his moment in the spotlight.
Despite all this, though, there’s reason to hope that real change is in the air. There is a substance to the #TimesUp movement which goes beyond soundbites: the women behind the initiative – a coalition of prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives – mean business. Their aims include not only working towards gender parity and more effective legislation in the entertainment industry, but also putting together a legal defense fund to support less privileged women. The conversation so far may have centred disproportionately on wealthy, famous women, but those women are actively using their fame and influence to make a difference.
It’s impossible to look at those images of artists and activists standing together, and not be inspired. It’s impossible to watch Oprah’s impassioned speech and not be uplifted. A spirit of boldness seemed to dominate the night, as women who might formerly have feared for their career or reputation spoke aloud about truths they’d swallowed for years.
Hollywood might be in some ways a frivolous place far removed from the reality of most people’s lives – but it’s also the place where our culture’s most influential stories are formed. What happens there, for better or worse, has global reach. If the people who make movies can start telling better stories, maybe women across the world can start living them.