#FeministFriday No. 8

The Academy Awards are this Sunday — drawing Awards Season ’15 to a close — so I think it’s time to pay tribute to perhaps the most important trend to grace the red carpet:

Actresses are beginning to fight back against sexist reporting, and it’s fantastic. 

It’s commonplace, so normalized that a lot of people don’t even give it a second thought: An A-list celebrity power couple strolls towards an award show venue, only to be stopped by reporters to ask the man about the preparations that went into his work and the prestigious awards and nominations he’s achieved…then ask the woman who designed her dress or to show off her manicure. I understand that in Hollywood fashion is important, so while “Who are you wearing?” isn’t necessarily a bad question, it’s often the only question women are being asked on the red carpet.

Reporter: You look beautiful! Emma: Oh, thank you, that's the only thing that matters.

Reporter: You look beautiful!
Emma: Oh, thank you, that’s the only thing that matters.

It even goes beyond award shows and red carpet pre-shows to actual “serious” interviews. At a press conference promoting The Avengers in 2012, Scarlett Johansson famously called out a reporter for asking her male counterparts “really interesting, existential questions” while she was asked to speak about her diet regime and other “rabbit food questions”. Similarly, Anne Hathaway shut down Matt Lauer for praising the emaciated look she achieved for her role in Les Misérables, stating she didn’t want to give out tips to look sickly in a society that values thinness to an unhealthy degree.

Perhaps worst of all is when reporters do manage to ask questions that venture beyond the realm of dieting, they tend to favor inappropriately invasive inquiries. The same interview with Matt Lauer began with him asking Hathaway about a recent wardrobe malfunction by confronting her with a photo of her own vagina. At another press jun-cit for The Avengers, Johansson was questioned about her undergarments and if she was able to wear any with her Black Widow suit. Both actresses didn’t bother with the questions, Hathaway deftly turning the interview back to Les Mis, and Johansson calling out the reporter’s sexism while keeping an almost bored demeanor that would have made Natasha Romanoff proud.

Wendy: Tell us about your implants! Laverne: Off camera, I can talk to you about it. I’ve chosen not to talk about any of the stuff I’ve gotten done, because I think so often when trans people’s experiences are talked about, far too often we focus on surgery and transition. So I don’t talk about that, but I’m very happy with the situation.

Wendy: Tell us about your implants!
Laverne: Off camera, I can talk to you about it. I’ve chosen not to talk about any of the stuff I’ve gotten done, because I think so often when trans people’s experiences are talked about, far too often we focus on surgery and transition. So I don’t talk about that, but I’m very happy with the situation.

It may seem innocent, or even complimentary, but only asking these women about their appearances sends one overlying message: your looks are more important than the talent it took to get you here.

Generally speaking, reporters should avoid asking women anything that they wouldn’t ask a man, like “how long did it take to do you hair today?” or “what do you have in your pockets?”. Perhaps the best example of this, however, is asking about balancing career and family. When asked how she balances work and her personal life at a premiere last fall, Kiera Knightly didn’t hesitate to ask if they were asking all the men that question; Jennifer Garner recently noted that nearly every reporter asks her about spending time with her kids, yet no one asks the same of Ben Affleck — despite the fact that they share the same children.

Camera: *slowly pans up and down Cate's body* Cate: Do you do that to the guys?

Camera: *slowly pans up and down Cate’s body*
Cate: Do you do that to the guys?

Most of the women attending these events have a lot more interesting things to talk about, anyway. It would be great to see Reese Witherspoon show off her production company to reporters instead of seeing the incredibly creepy “glam cam” show off her dress. I want Kerry Washington to talk about financial abuse instead of her post-baby body secrets. I would love to have someone ask Amal Clooney about her human rights work, or literally anything other than the questions the press has asked her thus far.

Reporter: I think you're going to walk home with more than just a trophy tonight. I think lots of men. Taylor: I'm not going to walk home with any men tonight.

Reporter: I think you’re going to walk home with more than just a trophy tonight. I think lots of men.
Taylor: I’m not going to walk home with any men tonight.

Female empowerment groups like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party, encourage critical thinking and supporting female celebrities as more than designer clothing on a photo-shopped body. Alee-o Blanco, a representative from Smart Girls, implores the discussion to continue. “It’s so easy to get wrapped up in it and let it be done once the night is over and the [awards] season is over,” says Blanco. “[But] we see these kinds of questions not just during awards season. For example, when Elena Serova, the first Russian cosmonaut in 20 years went into space, she was asked at a press conference about hair and makeup tips in space and how she would deal with that.”

mayimbialik

Leave any questions or comments below, and I’ll see you next week!

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