Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep have already given the proverbial finger to Hollywood’s sexism this award season. Here are a few ways other stars can follow in their footsteps.
As a fitting end to a year during which one Hollywood star after another proclaimed her devotion to feminism (see here, here, here, and here), awards season is shaping up to be a great platform for women in Hollywood who are tired of the status quo.
At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Cate Blanchett called out a camera man on the difference between how he was shooting female stars and male stars: Men on the red carpet are filmed from the torso up, whereas women are subjected to a full body pan, with the camera beginning at their feet and traveling up to their faces, giving viewers a chance to admire their shoes, dress, figure, jewelry, and hair. Blanchett, tired of being more objectified than her male colleagues, knelt down to camera level just as it was beginning it’s voyeuristic trip up her body and asked, “Do you do that to the guys?”
At the National Board of Review gala, Meryl Streep presented the best actress award to Emma Thompson with a heartfelt, funny, and excoriating speech on Thompson, Disney, and Hollywood. Referring to Thompson as “a rabid, man-eating feminist, like I am,” she went on:
Not only is she not irascible, she’s practically a saint. There’s something so consoling about that old trope, but Emma makes you want to kill yourself, because she’s a beautiful artist, she’s a writer, she’s a thinker, she’s a living, acting conscience. Emma considers, carefully, what the fuck she is putting into the culture. Emma thinks: Is this helpful? Not: Will it build my brand?
Thompson took the stage and continued the not-so-subtle jabs at Hollywood culture:
You mustn’t forget that us old people really love to be surrounded by the young. It’s so exciting. There you are, taking over. Hah hah, good luck! … I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful. And pointless, really. You know, I really would like to urge everyone to stop it. Just stop it. Don’t wear them anymore. You just can’t walk in them, and I’m so comfortable now.
Then there was the Golden Globes, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two women who are not afraid to use the word “feminist.” The evening began with Elisabeth Moss giving the finger to the “mani-cam”—a camera set up on the red carpet to capture stars’ manicures up close. Then, during the awards, Fey joked about Matthew McConaughy: “For his role in Dallas Buyers Club, he lost 45 pounds—or what actresses call being in a movie.” Regarding the lack of roles for older women, she quipped, “Meryl Streep is so brilliant in August: Osage County, proving that there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60.”
The biggest awards show of the year is yet to come, so I thought I’d provide rebellious stars with a list of things they can do to challenge the sexist status quo in Hollywood at the Academy Awards, whether on the red carpet or at the mic.
1. Take a cue from Emma Thompson and don’t wear heels. You can still wear designer shoes and show them off to the cameras, but make them flats, or sparkly tennis shoes, or better yet, combat boots.
2. Dress in drag. Women look hot in well-fitted tuxedos, and this way you won’t have to squeeze yourself into any kind of Spanx/corset, and you won’t have to worry about your boobs falling out.
3. Don’t wear makeup, or wear only light makeup that emphasizes your natural beauty instead of trying to make your face look photoshopped.
4. Only two of the nine nominees for Best Picture are about women; only three even have a woman in a leading role. None of the directors and only one of the writers nominated are women. You can use your acceptance speech to call out the Academy’s critical preference for male directors, male writers, and movies about men by thanking only women. At the end, say something like, “There are many men I could thank, too, but since the Academy is disproportionately honoring them tonight, I thought I’d do my part to balance the scales.”
5. Bring a woman as a date so the camera shows an audience full of ladies. Though women buy half of all movie tickets, Hollywood continues to promote the canard that “movies about women don’t sell,” even to women. Maybe being present as more than half the audience will help us become at least half as visible.
6. If you’re a dude, wear a dress. Show everybody how absurd it is to have to compress your body to fit into an hourglass. If that’s too far for you to go, at least insist that the camera do the full-body pan from your feet up, and be sure to put your hand in front of the mani-cam.
7. For those of you watching at home, play a drinking game. If you want to get wasted, drink every time a man wins a non-acting award. If you’re a lightweight, drink when a woman wins. Don’t worry, you probably won’t even get buzzed, even if you include the gender-specific acting awards.
I doubt that any Hollywood stars will take me up on these radical suggestions, though not wearing heels doesn’t seem like too much to ask. But as long as there are even a few moments at the Oscars along the lines of what Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Elisabeth Moss, and Tina Fey have done, I’ll be pretty pleased. Home, in comfortable clothes, no heels, and no makeup. But pretty pleased.
Holly L. Derr is a director, professor, and feminist media critic who covers theater, film, television, video games, and comics. She holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University and has taught at Smith College, Harvard University, Brown University, The California Institute of the Arts, and the University of California at Riverside. She has been published by Ms. Magazine, Bitch Media, Women and Hollywood, XX Factor/Slate, and The Atlantic.