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Opinion: Despite advances in equality, red carpet still a hotbed for dumb gender roles

This is part of a weekly series called in which The Lantern’s Ty Anderson offers his take on the week’s pop culture news.


Gone are the days when women were expected to stand idly by with their mouths shut, smiling and looking pretty. Right? Those days are gone now?

Not exactly.

Women have made countless milestones, launched countless movements and made great strides in the fight for gender equality — not only in America, but in many nations across the globe. But even so, women are feeling as though their accomplishments and intelligence are being overshadowed by superficiality and gender stereotypes. Hollywood award shows have a way of highlighting this fact.

Take the Oscars. Traditionally, women on the red carpet are asked about their attire. “Who are you wearing?” is the question of choice for Hollywood reporters, and I’ve never understood that.

If it were customary for stars to garb themselves in the leathery pelts of dead humans, this would make sense. For example, I believe Gwyneth Paltrow would have looked stunning draped in the boiled hide of her consciously uncoupled ex, Chris Martin. Such attire would complement her personality — I mean, skin tone — much better than that Ralph & Russo couture pale pink silk-crepe gown with the jumbo shoulder rose. Alas, this carnage is not how celebrities dress at the Oscars.

You can understand my confusion.

But what I truly don’t understand is this: Who cares? You can tell me about a dress, and you can tell me the name of the old white man who stitched it together, but who cares? I’m not going to know who he is, and quite frankly, I’m not going to care.

Such confusion is the premise for #AskHerMore, a campaign started by The Representation Project. The documentary “Miss Representation” analyzed how woman are portrayed in film and started The Representation Project. Reese Witherspoon, Robin Wright, Shonda Rhimes and other actresses have been spreading word of #AskHerMore that focuses on asking women about more than just their fashion choices.

It’s a great idea, and it’s an idea that I can definitely get behind. But with all the recent efforts toward equality, it’s easy to overlook the feats we’ve already accomplished. And that’s what I really want to talk about.

The past year has been great for actors on screens both big and small. With strong female leads in films such as “Gone Girl,” and TV shows such as “Scandal,” “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Empire,” it has not only been a great year for women, but for everyone.

While I applaud the efforts of #AskHerMore, of the feminist movement and of fighters for equality of every kind, I think it’s important to take a moment and admire the progress we’ve already made.

With “Fresh Off the Boat,” we finally see Asian-Americans depicted in not only a neutral, but rather a positive light. “Empire,” a show with a predominantly black cast, is making TV history with its ratings. “Looking,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Transparent” feature members of the LGBT community without ever hinting that they are somehow “different.” “The Mindy Project,” “Cristela,” “Black-ish” and all of the aforementioned shows are wildly popular hits that feature protagonists from all types of diverse backgrounds.

And that is perhaps the greatest testament to our progress as a nation. These examples don’t focus on the fact that they themselves are different than traditionally “straight and white” TV shows of the past. “Fresh Off the Boat” is a show about an Asian-American family, but is not a show about being Asian-American. “Empire” is a show about a black family, but it is not a show about being black.

These shows aren’t outright trying to make a point, and they aren’t capitalizing on what makes them different. The writers and producers focus on selling them for what they really are — honest depictions of real life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bad stuff. Yes, most of the nominees at the Oscars were white.

Yes, there are still people in this country who notice skin tone, gender and sexuality before noticing character, intelligence and integrity. And yes, it’s not perfect. But we’re getting there.

In no way am I claiming that our work is finished. There are still many milestones that must be reached before we can claim to live in a fair world. But the social climate today is unimaginably better than it was 100 years ago. And that is an accomplishment worth celebrating.


  1. Mansplaining: the column

  2. To Anonymous:

    If feminism isn’t willing to accept the help of men then it will never achieve it’s goal.

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