By Olivia Libowitz
Elm Staff Writer
How far does someone have to go to be making a difference these days? If you read my article last semester on open secrets and the Weinstein situation, you know I’m very concerned with the world-wide environment that allows those in power to take advantage of women—and men—who are in more vulnerable positions. I’m a firm believer that everyone should get out every day and make small and large changes to help us move as a society toward a place where everyone is more equal, respected, and safe. We need to do more than just denounce people on Facebook or in private; we must do it on a larger scale too.
It’s time for a discussion about what counts as not enough social activism and what counts as harmful social activism. If you watched the Golden Globes this year, you may have noticed they were different than usual. Celebrities were decked out in black on the red carpet, wearing pins bearing the “Time’s Up” slogan, to support the Time’s Up movement, which aims to end the culture of sexual assault and harassment. The ceremony celebrated women heavily, with almost zero speeches which didn’t slam one of Hollywood’s defamed men, or praise the strong women in the room.
Of course, there was some backlash to the movement. The supporters said the sort of positive commentary you’d expect: they gave women the spotlight, they took the focus off their clothes and onto their skills, they drew everyone’s attention to a cause. Some dissenters felt the move had a different affect.
Rose McGowan, an actress and the first to openly call out sexual assaulter Harvey Weinstein, was unimpressed by the blackout. She said, “Your silence is the problem,” continuing her argument that women in Hollywood needed to speak out earlier. Studio10 Anchor Jessica Rowe said celebrities should have boycotted the ceremony all together for a bigger impact. Many are chiding the movement, saying that accessorizing does little to help the cause.
Let’s break this down into pieces. McGowan, and every woman who’s been victimized by Hollywood, has every right to feel that other celebrities should have spoken out sooner. As I’ve said, this open secret culture is harmful, and people do need to speak out when they know injustice is taking place. I still implore people to remember that many who aren’t speaking out are also in vulnerable and scared positions. Must we post the same photo of Oprah with Harvey Weinstein a hundred times? There are pictures of smiling McGowan with him too. That doesn’t prove complacence or support; it proves that this man and many other powerful men have too much influence to openly go against, without risking one’s career or safety. We cannot learn to support women who have been treated unfairly by attacking others in the same position.
To Jessica Rowe’s point, sure. They could have cancelled the Golden Globes. Every celebrity could have stayed home and ordered pizza. But what would we have missed? Oprah’s empowering speech? Watching Saoirse Ronan and Frances McDormand get lauded for their amazing performances? Natalie Portman showing up on stage without a single damn to give? Then these women would have missed out on being applauded for their hard work, and they’d be left to tweet hashtags of support, which is what we’ve all said isn’t enough.
As far as showing up with pins and black dresses as accessories, women also showed up with #MeToo activists as their dates. Emma Stone, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Shailene Woodley, and Amy Poehler all brought women such as #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, Rosa Clemente, and Aj-jen Poo. All these women got to be put in the spotlight next to celebrities who drew eyes and ears to their message.
This is not to say that there’s not more to do. And obviously, all of the activism these women are doing comes with a healthy dose of privilege. All these women have fame and a platform for support that most women in the world do not get to access. Is it still a privilege to be able to go out to a party in your honor and have a voice, even after being assaulted? Yes. Of course. But I feel that just because a step is not the furthest one can go, doesn’t mean we can’t gain any ground by taking those steps. No good comes from damning those who take them. Not every movement will change society, but one small step forward is better than standing still.