Hollywood has a gender problem, one that runs deep. Women only make up 15 percent of leading roles, and 30 percent of speaking roles. They are underrepresented behind and on the screen. The one place where actresses do hold the spotlight is on the red carpet at awards shows and premieres, but even there, their experience is steeped in sexism.
Instead of being asked by reporters about their work, actresses get questions about what, or who, they are wearing. But actresses are beginning to fight back. Cate Blanchett called out an E! cameraman at the Golden Globes when he panned a shot up her entire body, and now they've adopted a hashtag: #AskWomenMore.
Before the red carpet even started, Reese Witherspoon posted her support of the movement on Instagram:
❤️ this movement #AskHerMore..have you heard of it? It's meant to inspire reporters to ask creative questions on the red carpet. I love the Oscars AND fashion like many of you - & am excited to share #WhoAmIWearing later tonight. ( not yet!!) But I'd also love to answer some of these Qs....And hear your suggestions?! (Share em below!) There are so many amazing, talented nominees this year..! Let's hear their stories! Spread the word. #AskHerMore #Oscars #Countdown
A photo posted by Reese Witherspoon (@reesewitherspoon) on
The AskHerMore campaign was launched by The Representation Project, a non-profit that hopes to use film to help society overcome patriarchal and sexist standards in society.
The group wrote in a blog post, "Even at the Oscars, where we celebrate the highest artistic achievements in film, reporters often focus more on a woman's appearance than what she has accomplished. This Sunday night, we're encouraging the media to #AskHerMore!"
"This is a movement to say we are more than just our dresses," Witherspoon told Robin Roberts on ABC. "It's hard being a woman in Hollywood or any industry,"
Ask her about the causes she supports, not her support garments #oscars #AskHerMore: http://t.co/RdjPR3k6pB— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) February 22, 2015
Stop asking women questions about what they wear to cover the containers they carry their brains around in. #AskHerMore— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) February 23, 2015
Love @RWitherspoon "We’re more than just our dresses… we are so happy to talk about the work we’ve done" #AskHerMore— Miss Representation (@RepresentPledge) February 23, 2015
Women's outfits and behavior on the red carpet are generally subject to greater scrutiny than men's. While actors can arrive at the Oscars wearing any suit they choose, so long as it fits decently, women have to find a dress that is impressive, memorable, and different from the dresses that everyone else is wearing. The pressure to look good and behave admirably is stressed for women much more than it is for men.
As Hadley Freeman wrote in The Guardian, "This is a strange pocket of the Western world, where it is still deemed utterly acceptable to take smart, successful women and reduce them to beauty pageant contestants."
Asking actresses real questions about their careers and work is the absolute least the entertainment industry can do for women. And hopefully, that will help lead to beginning of broader, sweeping changes.