19th Feb 2018
Kate Middleton didn’t wear black to the BAFTAs in solidarity with the #TimesUp gang; nor did Best Actress Frances McDormand. But it will be actions not outfits that determine whether the movement succeeds says Erin Lindsay.
Feminism is a complex, subjective concept that means so many different things to different people. It has evolved from a struggle to gain equal rights in the most basic forms to contemplating what it means to be a woman in today’s society. Now more than ever, women are exploring their identities and their symbiotic relationship with society on a whole new level. We’re discussing things that we would have never even thought of 50 years ago. It’s amazing.
The #TimesUp movement signified a step in the right direction to this end for all women when it began to pick up steam in late 2017. The movement describes itself as ‘address[ing] the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.’ It has dominated our screens as we get further into awards season, as women and men in the entertainment industry have donned black as a symbol of their allegiance to the movement at all the major award shows. The very few women who have chosen to forego a black outfit have been met with vitriol from social media, with accusations of them being complicit with the abusive behaviour that has been shown to be far too commonplace in Hollywood. At the BAFTAs last night in London, we saw the movement cross the water to Britain, where again, the women in attendance wore black to show their determination to see the movement through. And again, we saw the vitriol against those who ignored the movement.
The Duchess of Cambridge opted for a dark green gown with a black sash at last night’s awards, where she accompanied her husband Prince William, who is the president of BAFTA. The Royal Family are forbidden from taking political stances on any issue and are also discouraged from wearing black unless attending a funeral or a Day of Remembrance. These facts seem to clear the issue up, seeing as Kate was said to have opted for dark green as a nod to the suffragettes and the black sash as as much of a sign of solidarity with Time’s Up as she could give. But it wasn’t enough for the many outraged social media users who found her outfit to be a slap in the face of the protest that other women had made.
— Nikki Long (@Nikki_L87) February 18, 2018
It should be mentioned that there was just as much of a backlash against the backlash, with many women taking to their platforms to renounce the critics of Kate Middleton as ‘anti-feminist’.
Another woman in attendance at the BAFTAS was the amazingly talented actress Frances McDormand. Frances picked up the award for Best Actress for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She gave a brilliant acceptance speech, all the while wearing a dress covered in pink and red embellishments. But no one is talking about Frances’ lack of plain black dress. Because during her speech, she said, “I have a little trouble with compliance,” motioning to her outfit to a round of laughter and applause. “But I want you to know that I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black.” She went on to praise the movement and how her own movie ‘has played a part in recent acts of defiance.” And so that was that, and we went on loving Frances McDormand.
It seems a little unfair that Frances had the opportunity to stand up and clarify her position when Kate did not, and probably never will get the opportunity to clarify hers. At the end of the day, we don’t know what Kate Middleton’s opinions are of Time’s Up. It is entirely possible that she doesn’t care at all about the movement, just as it’s possible that she cares a great deal but is banned from speaking out about it. None of that is the point. The point is that women who are all in support of women’s equality spent an evening and subsequent morning arguing amongst themselves about what another woman was wearing.
#MeToo and #TimesUp have been centered around the fact that for too long, women have been silenced into compliance. They felt as if they could not speak out or act out against oppression and abuse and harassment. That is changing now, thanks to the millions of women in solidarity with each other around the world. But what happens when that solidarity turns to a self-policing environment? Do we all have to support the movement in the same way, or else run the risk of looking like we’re disregarding it? Surely the true measure of a woman’s support for a movement is what she has done to support it.
There is no right way to be a feminist. If you’re in favour of women’s respect and equality and you’re willing to learn and grow from the stories of women of all backgrounds, races and religions, you’re doing better than most.
To me, the only constant in the ever-evolving world of feminism and all its intricacies is that it is about women leading their own lives. I’m reminded of Amy Poehler’s motto that she repeatedly uses throughout her autobiography Yes, Please – “Good for her, not for me”. Feminism is defined as a movement for women’s equality and surely equality in its purest form comes down to freedom of choice. Women have the right to behave, dress and work in a way that fulfils them and the right to do this without judgement or unfair treatment. Least of all, from each other.
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