Hashtag campaign highlights Hollywood gender hypocrisy

In 2014, The Representation Project, an organisation that “inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting gender stereotypes”, launched the #AskHerMore social media campaign (McGahan 2016). This campaign aims to address sexism on Hollywood’s red carpet by encouraging reporters to ask actresses more pertinent questions about acting and social causes rather than their fashion (Newsom 2015).

The #AskHerMore campaign has created significant awareness of the dichotomy between the questions male and female celebrities are asked on the red carpet (McGahan 2016). While male celebrities are asked questions about their childhood role models, first job in Hollywood and fellow nominees, female celebrities are asked about who made their dress, who did their hair or how they dieted leading up to the big event (Bahadur 2014). This emphasis on female appearance separates women from men in the industry and devalues them as artists (Newsom 2014).

 

As a result of the #AskHerMore movement, women on the red carpet are increasingly choosing to reject and subvert the media’s objectifying gaze. At the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Cate Blanchett criticised one of E!‘s cameramen who was filming a full body pan shot, asking him “Do you do this to the guys?” (Koziol 2015). At last year’s SAG awards, Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon all refused to put their hands in E!‘s “Mani Cam” (Koziol 2015).

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In response to #AskHerMore, the Golden Globes partnered with actress Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organisation to coordinate #SmartGirlsAsk – a campaign that invited Twitter users to submit intellectually stimulating questions to film and television personalities during the 2016 Golden Globes (ABC News 2016).

Although #AskHerMore is well-intentioned, the campaign is misguided in targeting the red carpet, an event synonymous with glitz and glamour, as an arena to challenge sexist media reporting. Maureen O’Connor (2015) of New York Magazine’s The Cut argues “If ever there were a time and place to obsess about fancy dresses, it is on the red carpet […]”. According to Fashion Police host Melissa Rivers, the red carpet is “not a place for depth”, particularly in front of an audience who tunes in precisely to assess the extraordinary works of craftsmanship adorned by Hollywood A-listers (Bowden 2016). As Derthick (2013, p.23) points out, a fundamental criterion of entertainment news coverage involves putting attributes of a star on display, including their style and fashion sense, the lifestyle they lead and the luxurious or over the-top behaviours that set them apart from normal people, as this is what keeps the public interested.

Beyond appealing to at-home fashion enthusiasts, the ubiquitous “Who are you wearing?” question is crucial for fashion designers who depend on celebrities generating buzz – and business – for the labels they devote their lives to creating (O’Connor 2015). The reason why women are asked this question more than men is simply due to the fact that men are all wearing the same outfits. In his opening monologue at the 2016 Oscars, comedian Chris Rock joked “If George Clooney showed up with a lime green tux on and a swan coming out his ass, somebody would go, ‘What you wearing, George?’” (Feldman 2016).

In this way, while #AskHerMore has initiated the push to change the cultural conversation on the red carpet, the campaign is not a “clear” victory in an industry that is built on the showcasing of fashion credentials. Nonetheless, the campaign has inspired others to call out problematic sexist and misogynist media coverage and suggests ways to extend questions beyond women’s fashion and appearance to celebrating their achievements, character, contributions and creativity.

Check out these parodies of the #AskHerMore campaign:

References

Bahadur, N 2014, ‘#AskHerMore Encourages Reporters To Cover More Than Fashion On The Red Carpet’, Huffington Post Australia, 27 August, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/askhermore-representation-red-carpet_n_5716491>.

Bowden, E 2016, ‘Fashion Police host Melissa Rivers disses #AskHerMore campaign as Oscars loom’, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 February, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/reality/fashion-police-host-melissa-rivers-disses-askhermore-campaign-as-oscars-loom-20160223-gn1yvv.html>.

Derthick, A 2013, ‘Entertainment News Production: A Case Study’, Honours Thesis, Western Michigan University, Michigan.

Feldman, J 2016, ‘It’s Hard To Argue With Chris Rock’s Take On #AskHerMore’, Huffington Post Australia, 29 February, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/chris-rock-ask-her-more_us_56d3a5d8e4b03260bf774295>.

‘Golden Globes joins #SmartGirlsAsk push to #AskHerMore on red carpet’, ABC News, 11 January, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-11/golden-globes-joins-push-to-askhermore-on-the-red-carpet/7079992>.

Koziol, M 2015, ‘Cate Blanchett slams red carpet questions ‘Oh my God, it’s just a dress!’’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/ls-celebrity-news/cate-blanchett-slams-red-carpet-questions-oh-my-god-its-just-a-dress-20150414-1mkmwg.html>.

McGahan, M 2016, ‘Has #AskHerMore Really Changed Celebrity Culture? It Marks A Shift In The Way The Media Covers Women’, Bustle, 11 January, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.bustle.com/articles/134244-has-askhermore-really-changed-celebrity-culture-it-marks-a-shift-in-the-way-the-media-covers>.

Newsom, JS 2014, ‘We Must #AskHerMore on the Red Carpet’, The Daily Beast, 29 August, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2014/08/29/we-must-askhermore-on-the-red-carpet.html>.

Newsom, JS 2015, ‘Op-Ed: Reese Witherspoon’s Push to #AskHerMore at the Oscars Was a Runaway Success’, ET Online, 24 February, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.etonline.com/awards/oscars/160254_op_ed_reese_witherspoon_s_push_to_askhermore_at_the_oscars_was_a_runaway_success/>.

O’Connor, M 2015, ‘It’s Not Sexist to Ask About Clothes on the Red Carpet’, The Cut, 22 February, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/02/red-carpet-sexism.html>.

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