Fashion statement

Black on the red carpet: Protest at Golden Globes against sexual harassment divides Hollywood

Actress Rose McGowan and activist April Reign decry the decision to dress in black for the awards ceremony as superficial.

A sartorial stand meant to show solidarity with women who have faced sexual harassment in Hollywood has divided the American film industry.

Actresses Rose Mc Gowan and Heather Matarazzo have objected to reports that Hollywood’s top actresses will be wearing black to the Golden Globes on January 7 to support the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

On December 14, talk show The Morning Breath and People reported that many top actresses, including presenters and nominees, were planning to dress in black during the Globes, which kicks off the 2018 Awards season. While no actress has independently confirmed the news, numerous reports said that most attendees will be joining the protest.

However, McGowan took down the protest strategy on Twitter, saying it would effect “no real change”. She also took a direct swipe at Meryl Streep in her post, who has been nominated in the Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama category for Steven Spielberg’s The Post and is among those expected to join in the protests.

“I despise your hypocrisy,” McGowan said, mentioning that Streep had “happily worked for The Pig”, presumably a reference to film producer Harvey Weinstein, who faces close to 100 allegations of sexual assault and rape. She suggested that the actresses wear Marchesa instead, the womenswear brand started by Weinstein’s estranged wife Georgina Chapman. The designer announced her separation from Weinstein in October in the wake of the sexual harassment revelations.

Streep has not confirmed if she participating in the protests. When asked by entertainment publication Extra, she said, “I don’t know. I’m not talking. You gotta tune in, don’t ya?” Other Golden Globe nominees who are expected to participate in the protest are Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.

Actress Heather Matarazzo (The Princess Diaries, Hostel) and activist April Reign also slammed the move, contending that black was a popular sartorial choice for the red carpet in any case, and that a bigger statement would have been to skip the function altogether.

The debate around sexual harassment in Hollywood began with exposes against Weinstein in the New Yorker and The New York Times in October. Mc Gowan, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino were among the actresses who spoke up against Weinstein.

The Weinstein expose opened the floodgates to similar revelations of sexual misconduct by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and television, including actors Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and Jeffrey Tambor and filmmakers James Toback and Brett Ratner.

The revelations, coupled with the #MeToo movement, in which women across the world share their experiences of sexual harassment, has prompted several symbolic acknowledgements of the growing need for gender equality. The Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 21, 2018, will have only women presenters , which actress Kristin Bell as the host. Time magazine named all the “silence breakers” who spoke out against harassment as their 2017 Person of the Year.

Hollywood has also constituted a Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, chaired by lawyer and academic Anita Hill.

From subtle safety pins (as Kerry Washington wore to the Screen Actors Guild Award in 2017 in solidarity with marginalised communities after Donald Trump’s election) to blue ribbons at the Emmys and Oscars in 2017 to support the civil rights movement, the use of red carpet as a protest platform is not unusual.

The all-black fashion protest was envisioned as one more step in this direction. But apart from McGowan and others, some Twitter users also criticised the gesture as futile and superficial.

The criticism has been decried for going against female solidarity and sisterhood. Deadline pointed out that McGowan’s attack was a “speed bump in the ongoing movement that encourages unity”.

Mc Gowan has attacked Streep in the past, when the award-winning actress first responded to the slew of allegations against Weinstein. Streep, who had once called Weinstein god in her Golden Globes acceptance speech, said that his behaviour amounted to the most gargantuan example of disrespect in a speech at The Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 7.

In an earlier statement on October 10, Streep had called the news about Weinstein disgraceful and appalling, but said that “not everybody knew” about what had been called an open secret. “Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally,” Streep had said. “I didn’t know about these other offences: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts.”

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