You know that thing where we criticize a woman’s style for the way she looks while attending an awards show? Or we call her crazy for trying something a little outrageous? Yeah... can we not? It’s misogynistic, it’s bullying, and it’s not clever. It happens before, during, and after every awards show, including the Oscars, and it happens to some of the most accomplished women in the world who’ve spent several hours getting ready on this particular day and for weeks prior at design meetings, dress fittings, and workouts, plus dermatology, hair, makeup, and manicure appointments...and on and on.
On top of that, we’re talking about one of the most prestigious events in the world. It’s the ultimate reason to dress up and even to try something grandiose. I remember reading a fashion piece where a writer commented that the Oscars red carpet that year reminded her “a little too much” that she “was watching an awards show.” Umm, that’s the point. It’s a special occasion unlike any other. In my opinion, if someone looks “overdressed,” then I think she nailed it. When Cher attended the Academy Awards dressed with a giant, spiky black headpiece, she made the worst dressed list. She would later smugly ask, “Do you remember what anyone else wore?”. Exactly.
I say this not only in defense of actresses, but of every woman at the event. They worked hard to get there and are still fighting hard to be recognized. According to The Center for the Study of Women in TV & Film, “In 2016, women comprised 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of two percentage points from last year and is even with the percentage achieved in 1998.” When women are so underrepresented in the entertainment industry, and the numbers are the same as they were almost 20 years ago, attacking women for how they look at an awards show, especially when they work behind the scenes, is totally regressive and only strengthens the glass ceiling. While Kathryn Bigelow, Ava Duvernay, Julie Taymor, Sophia Coppola, and Gabriela Cowperthwaite have created groundbreaking and critically acclaimed work, they are among the mere 7 percent of female directors, “down two percentage points from nine percent in 2015 and 1998. Last year, 92 percent of films had no female directors.”
On the lighter side of this, I will say that gathering a great team to create a breathtaking and original style moment is an accomplishment, and it’s entertaining to see someone work a beautiful and creative visual moment. In the spirit of an awards show, let’s celebrate the best! If you’re not impressed, however, just remember, “if you haven’t got anything nice to say...”. You know the rest. We learned it in elementary school. Isn’t that something we want to teach our children? Also, in spite of my criticism of...well, criticism...I will say that I still fully support “Best Dressed” lists. Does everyone need to be on them? Definitely not. I’m not advocating for a fashion “participation trophy” for all. Successful women don’t need one. They need our support and they deserve our respect.
So whether we’re professionals in the fashion and beauty industry, or people at home choosing what to click, what to say at work, what to write on Facebook, and what to leave in the comments sections, I invite you to join me in one of the simplest things we can do to diminish the cruelty we’re seeing in the world these days. As we remember tonight’s award show and watch clips over the next few days, let’s take notice of the women in attendance and remind ourselves, “She’s not going to an Oscars viewing party. She’s going to the actual Oscars.” She earned this moment in the spotlight and is worthy of a little to a lot of respect. I know some people will disagree with me, but if an entire evening honoring the most well-crafted stories of love, loss, family, coming of age, accomplishment, death, war, beauty, and the human experience told by the best filmmakers in the world isn’t enough to encourage you to be a little nicer, then you’re missing the whole point.