I’m calling it early; 2018 is the year of the woman.
Only days in and we’ve already seen a tremendous display of solidarity, bravery, strength and inspiration from leading feminist figures. In case you missed it, this year’s Golden Globes Awards ceremony was a lot more politically charged than usual. Oprah delivered a powerful speech on the gender and racial discrimination rampant in the industry. Natalie Portman called out the lack of female representation in the nominees for best director. And a majority of the women attending the event wore black in solidarity to raise awareness of gendered violence and harassment. This may seem like a simple act, but it’s significance should not be underestimated. Nor should the power of these women.
This was much more than a fashion statement; the unofficial dress code was part of the Time’s Up movement, following on from the #MeToo campaign. Launched on January 1st, the Time’s Up movement took to Instagram with the motto: “Time’s up on silence. Time’s up on waiting. Time’s up on tolerating discrimination, harassment, and abuse.” The movement was immediately backed by more than 300 award-winning actors and producers, and raised nearly $16 million for its legal defense fund. The fund will provide subsidised legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace and while in pursuit of their careers. The organisation is working with legislators to create penalties for companies that condone or ignore systematic harassment, and pushing for gender parity in wages by 2020.
The entertainment industry has been under particular scrutiny in the last few months, especially following the 80+ women who came forward with allegations of sexual assault by film producer Harvey Weinstein. But of course this is not the sole industry in which discrimination, harassment and abuse are rampant. There are women across all sectors who have had experiences like these, which was highlighted by the #MeToo movement. All women’s voices should be elevated, which is precisely the aim of the Time’s Up Movement. The leading figures of this campaign are using their powerful platform as wealthy, well-known celebrities to bring this issue to the forefront.
Many of the actresses involved in the campaign brought leading activists as their plus ones to the awards. Meryl Streep was accompanied by Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in the US – the leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the US, most of whom are women. Emma Watson was with Marai Larasi, executive director of Imkaan, a UK women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against black and minority ethnic women and girls. Susan Sarandon brought Rosa Clemente, a community organiser and independent journalist who campaigns on issues including voter engagement and media justice. Amy Poehler came with Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a non-for-profit improving wages and working conditions for the nation’s low wage restaurant workforce. Shailene Woodley’s guest was Calina Lawrence who campaigns against social injustices impacting tribal reservations and urban Native American communities. Laura Dern brought Monica Ramirez, the co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, an organisation which advocates for female farmworkers across the US, which published a letter in solidarity with Hollywood actors against sexual assault and requested support with similar issues in their own industry. Michelle Williams invited Tarana Burke, creator of the #MeToo movement and senior director at Girls for Gender Equality. Millions of people around the world watched this ceremony, and learned of the valuable work being done by these women behind the scenes.
Actress and one of the founders of #TimesUp, Reese Witherspoon said the movement provided the opportunity for women in the industry to join forces. Speaking to the New York Times she said “We’re finally hearing each other, and seeing each other, and now locking arms in solidarity with each other, and in solidarity for every woman who doesn’t feel seen, to be finally heard”. Many women took their opportunity to speak out, either on the red carpet or during speeches on stage, about why they were wearing black.
The glaring contrast between the collective roar of united women and the deafening silence of men in the room was infuriating. Men in attendance had so very little to say on the topic, despite some wearing black and #TimesUp pins. The lack of genuine support for the movement from the male stars was shameful – allyship is much more than donning a token pin. Stranger Things actor David Harbour was lost for words when asked why he was wearing the pin. (Word of advice David: if you’re going to make a statement with your outfit make sure you can back it up with an actual statement of your own too.) This is not a “women’s issue”, it is an epidemic. Time’s up on women doing all the work, while men wait for change from the sidelines, or worse ignore the issue altogether.
Though the continuous fight against the patriarchy has been both frustrating and exhausting, there is a real buzz of excitement this year as women around the world are starting to stand up and stand together. On the night of the awards viewers tweeted about #TimesUp roughly 473,900 times. Another 178,500 tweets mentioned #WhyIWearBlack, while 174,300 mentioned the #MeToo movement. This is more than just a conversation now, this is a revolution. Women are fed up and are demanding real change.
There’s a lot to be said for the power of symbolic moments, and the Golden Globes was full of them. Whether it was the sea of black dresses dominating the red carpet, powerful women posing for photos with other powerful women, Natalie Portman proving herself #SassQueen with her “here are the all-male nominees” zinger, or Oprah Winfrey becoming the first black woman to win the Cecil B. DeMille Award and delivering a tear-jerking speech. These are not empty moments, they are powerful reminders of women’s strength and solidarity. Our voices are louder together. And in 2018, the world will finally be listening.
Maddy has been working at the Victorian Women’s Trust, primarily on Rosie.org.au since July 2015. She regularly writes for the Rosie blog, edits Write Like a Girl submissions, manages Rosie social media and is involved in the overall strategic planning of the project. Maddy is passionate about music, history, art, writing, and advocating for women and girls.