So it’s the day after, post-Oscars haze, and something that took slight hold of the event this year was The “Ask Her More” (or as it’s called on Twitter #AskHerMore) campaign….in which red carpet reporters during awards season were encouraged to ask actresses about more than their fashion choices or other appearance related questions….and it is deeply bugging me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amy Poehler. I am very pro Amy and her Smart Girls movement is great. I don’t believe feminism needs to be shy and retiring the way it became for the past decade or so. From the "This Girl Can" to the “Run Like a Girl” ads, I am all for women and especially girls being told to stand up and be heard. Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech was awesome, and it’s her right to use that rare platform in life to express passion for women’s equality. She chose her moment and she came prepared to inspire.
But "Ask Her More" feels different to me. It feels a bit…condescending. Awards shows and high fashion, they have become inseparable. Has it become slightly ludicrous in the past few years with mani cams, do the fashion don’t lists create unnecessary cruelty and scrutiny? Probably yes. But asking Reese Witherspoon to inspire me with a treatise worthy of Steinem while wearing couture and diamonds just feels a bit…pointless to me.
Now, on top of eight hours of hair and makeup and corsetry and tape and all of it, these women are also meant to come prepared with inspiring statements for the sisterhood? Give them a rest, they just want to sit down and drink champagne while ogling Eddie Redmayne (or I would! ;-). I jest, slightly. There is plenty of inspiration to be found in the work itself this year, with most of the actresses forgoing vanity in the name of art (classic awards bait but nonetheless).
Rosamund Pike’s nominated but underrated performance in Gone Girl stands as one of the most misunderstood feminist roles in recent history - sadly I think Fincher went overboard into “psycho female” territory, cancelling out some of the book’s excellent message of the overwhelming pressures women have to be perfect, even when your husband is a layabout cheating arse. Because we couldn’t have the audience hate Ben Affleck now could we. Sigh.
Patricia Arquette was filmed over the course of 12 years for Boyhood and aged, gasp, naturally, which let’s be honest is in and of itself an achievement in Hollywood. Reese Witherspoon trekked across the desert without makeup on a grief soul journey. Jennifer Aniston (not nominated but by all accounts deserving of a nom) went the full de-glamour, sporting facial scarring and no makeup. Meryl Streep allowed herself to be further aged, to be the one thing Hollywood loves to do with older actresses, cast them as witches, and turn it on its head. These women are already working hard to dispel beauty myths and false expectations of womanhood.
Must we deny them (and ourselves) a few minutes of sparkly red carpet glory? The pleasure we take in beauty, in fierceness, in owning it, must that also be completely stripped? No one is forcing these women to wear fancy dresses. Do we really want to go back to the general Oscar frumpery of the late 70’s and early 80’s? What is the point of high fashion if it’s not to be worn and displayed on a world stage? I don’t know about you, but it’s likely the only chance I will ever have to gawp at it, and I enjoy it, unashamedly. I resent the implication that I am meant to feel guilty for this - that these women must somehow apologize or make up for it, come up with something “important” to say to counteract the frivolity.
Awards ceremonies already overfloweth with artistic earnestness, do we really need to demand more? I say no. At least not on the red carpet. If an actress decides she doesn’t want to talk about her dress, so be it, but please don’t presume that none of us want to know. Are there more important things in the world? Yes, and thankfully Hollywood glamour gives a brief, sparkly respite from the non-stop onslaught of frankly horrific news stories of late. I don’t believe we need constant reminding of why we as women deserve a voice. It’s condescending and goes overboard into mollycoddling, which personally I find offensive. I think most women are smart enough to appreciate fashion and feminism, so please, stop underestimating us. You do not need to ask her more.