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Men of Hollywood, spare us your ‘solidarity’ and actually speak up, for once in your over-privileged lives

Matt Damon, Taika Waititi, Jeff Bezos and Chris Hemsworth wear black at the Golden Globes.
Matt Damon, Taika Waititi, Jeff Bezos and Chris Hemsworth wear black at the Golden Globes. Photograph: Alberto E Rodriguez/Getty Images

After the fuss over actors and actresses wearing black to the Golden Globes, is protesting by fashion the most effective form of protest for female celebrities?

Graham, by email

You can hardly blame actors for thinking so. For decades, women have spoken out against abusive men in Hollywood, from Louis B Mayer to Alfred Hitchcock to Mel Gibson to Casey Affleck, and, until October 2017, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, they were ignored, laughed at and ostracised, while the men were, almost invariably, protected. After all, don’t female actors know they are supposed to be silent and objectified? It wasn’t just Hollywood players who told them this, but the media, too, and never more so than at the Oscars, Golden Globes and Baftas. These ceremonies are supposed to be celebrations of their work, but became entirely about reducing them to silent show ponies, whose careers could be made or broken by whether some daytime TV host liked the Gucci dress their stylist called in. Anyone who dared to make a political statement at these events was derided – shut up and let’s just look at your dress, Meryl!

So, I don’t blame female actors for feeling their loudest instrument is their wardrobe. Personally, I would have preferred them all to go to the Golden Globes wearing sweatpants, a 17-year-old Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt and Ugg boots, rather than a minxy black Alberta Ferretti dress, to show what a woman looks like when she really DGAF, but one step at a time. I do, however, have some words I’d like to say about the men.

As you may have read, some of the actors showed their support by dressing in black, too, which, as protests go, really puts those Black Power salutes at the 1968 Olympics to shame, don’t they? Oh sure, Tommie Smith and John Carlos might have risked their own and their families’ livelihoods and safety, but did you see that the Rock wore a black tuxedo instead of maybe a burgundy one?

Look, it’s super cool that some of the guys want to show solidarity with the ladies – we appreciate it, guys! And God bless, for example, Seth Meyers, who may or may not have been wearing black (I honestly can’t remember), but gave good hosting (let’s all take a moment to make a silent prayer of thanks that Ricky Gervais wasn’t hosting this year). But I would like to talk a little about a phenomenon I have noticed of late that I call the Woke Man. The Woke Man is one who is recently, and suddenly, like, really down with the important liberal issues. He will tweet ever so urgently about how completely outrageous Toby Young’s nine-year-old tweet about Claudia Winkleman’s breasts was, and then blithely talk over and humiliate women. He will insist that he is, like, totally a feminist because he is A Good Guy and he follows some women on Twitter. So, now all women should listen to him because he knows what’s best for them.

In other words, being the Woke Man allows a chap to seize the moral high ground with minimal effort. Wearing a black tux to the Golden Globes to show solidarity with women is the ultimate A-list Woke Man move, given that (a) most men wear black tuxes anyway and (b) it says precisely nothing. You know what would really show solidarity with women in Hollywood who have suffered harassment and unfairly reduced employment opportunities, guys? If you actually spoke up for once in your over-privileged lives.

You could refuse to work in a film in which you’re being paid more than the actress opposite you. You could admit how much Weinstein’s misogyny worked for you, in that none of you were expected to give him a naked massage in order to get a role in his next movie, and you could own up that many of you knew what was going on and never said a word. I mean, sure, we can go into 2018 believing that none of Brad Pitt’s high-profile friends knew what Weinstein was up to, as they have insisted, even though Pitt has said he confronted Weinstein over the alleged harassment of his then girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow – but really, who has the energy? Did Pitt never mention this story in between takes on Ocean’s Eleven, or on one of his boys’ holidays with certain other actors who worked quite a lot with Weinstein? Did it never come up, over cigars and whiskey on a Cannes hotel balcony, that, after going after Paltrow, Weinstein then allegedly harassed Pitt’s ex-wife Angelina Jolie? Are we all really supposed to believe this? It’s 2018 and I’m just too tired to fake credulousness any more.

Men – especially high-profile Hollywood men – have many more means of speaking up at their disposal other than via their wardrobes. But this requires them to relinquish some of their privilege, given that speaking up for others means sacrificing something of yourself. It means not being the centre of attention, not having your ego fed at all hours of every day and, most of all, it means acknowledging how much you yourself have benefited from the current system, and how much you trampled over women to do so. Ugh, how awkward! So much better to post some self-validating tweets and wear a Gucci tuxedo. Yeah, that’ll show ’em!

This article titled "Men of Hollywood, spare us your ‘solidarity’ and actually speak up, for once in your over-privileged lives" was written by Hadley Freeman, for The Guardian on Monday 8 January 2018 01.16pm


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