Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep have already given the proverbial finger to Hollywood’s sexism this award season. Here are a few ways other stars can follow in their footsteps.

As a fitting end to a year during which one Hollywood star after another proclaimed her devotion to feminism (see here, here, here, and here), awards season is shaping up to be a great platform for women in Hollywood who are tired of the status quo.

At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Cate Blanchett called out a camera man on the difference between how he was shooting female stars and male stars: Men on the red carpet are filmed from the torso up, whereas women are subjected to a full body pan, with the camera beginning at their feet and traveling up to their faces, giving viewers a chance to admire their shoes, dress, figure, jewelry, and hair. Blanchett, tired of being more objectified than her male colleagues, knelt down to camera level just as it was beginning it’s voyeuristic trip up her body and asked, “Do you do that to the guys?”

At the National Board of Review gala, Meryl Streep presented the best actress award to Emma Thompson with a heartfelt, funny, and excoriating speech on Thompson, Disney, and Hollywood. Referring to Thompson as “a rabid, man-eating feminist, like I am,” she went on:

Not only is she not irascible, she’s practically a saint. There’s something so consoling about that old trope, but Emma makes you want to kill yourself, because she’s a beautiful artist, she’s a writer, she’s a thinker, she’s a living, acting conscience. Emma considers, carefully, what the fuck she is putting into the culture. Emma thinks: Is this helpful? Not: Will it build my brand?

Thompson took the stage and continued the not-so-subtle jabs at Hollywood culture:

You mustn’t forget that us old people really love to be surrounded by the young. It’s so exciting. There you are, taking over. Hah hah, good luck! … I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful. And pointless, really. You know, I really would like to urge everyone to stop it. Just stop it. Don’t wear them anymore. You just can’t walk in them, and I’m so comfortable now.

Then there was the Golden Globes, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two women who are not afraid to use the word “feminist.” The evening began with Elisabeth Moss giving the finger to the “mani-cam”—a camera set up on the red carpet to capture stars’ manicures up close. Then, during the awards, Fey joked about Matthew McConaughy: “For his role in Dallas Buyers Club, he lost 45 pounds—or what actresses call being in a movie.” Regarding the lack of roles for older women, she quipped, “Meryl Streep is so brilliant in August: Osage County, proving that there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60.”

The biggest awards show of the year is yet to come, so I thought I’d provide rebellious stars with a list of things they can do to challenge the sexist status quo in Hollywood at the Academy Awards, whether on the red carpet or at the mic.

1. Take a cue from Emma Thompson and don’t wear heels. You can still wear designer shoes and show them off to the cameras, but make them flats, or sparkly tennis shoes, or better yet, combat boots.

2. Dress in drag. Women look hot in well-fitted tuxedos, and this way you won’t have to squeeze yourself into any kind of Spanx/corset, and you won’t have to worry about your boobs falling out.

3. Don’t wear makeup, or wear only light makeup that emphasizes your natural beauty instead of trying to make your face look photoshopped.

4. Only two of the nine nominees for Best Picture are about women; only three even have a woman in a leading role. None of the directors and only one of the writers nominated are women. You can use your acceptance speech to call out the Academy’s critical preference for male directors, male writers, and movies about men by thanking only women. At the end, say something like, “There are many men I could thank, too, but since the Academy is disproportionately honoring them tonight, I thought I’d do my part to balance the scales.”

5. Bring a woman as a date so the camera shows an audience full of ladies. Though women buy half of all movie tickets, Hollywood continues to promote the canard that “movies about women don’t sell,” even to women. Maybe being present as more than half the audience will help us become at least half as visible.

6. If you’re a dude, wear a dress. Show everybody how absurd it is to have to compress your body to fit into an hourglass. If that’s too far for you to go, at least insist that the camera do the full-body pan from your feet up, and be sure to put your hand in front of the mani-cam.

7. For those of you watching at home, play a drinking game. If you want to get wasted, drink every time a man wins a non-acting award. If you’re a lightweight, drink when a woman wins. Don’t worry, you probably won’t even get buzzed, even if you include the gender-specific acting awards.

I doubt that any Hollywood stars will take me up on these radical suggestions, though not wearing heels doesn’t seem like too much to ask. But as long as there are even a few moments at the Oscars along the lines of what Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Elisabeth Moss, and Tina Fey have done, I’ll be pretty pleased. Home, in comfortable clothes, no heels, and no makeup. But pretty pleased.

Holly L. Derr is a director, professor, and feminist media critic who covers theater, film, television, video games, and comics. She holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University and has taught at Smith College, Harvard University, Brown University, The California Institute of the Arts, and the University of California at Riverside. She has been published by Ms. Magazine, Bitch Media, Women and Hollywood, XX Factor/Slate, and The Atlantic.


Originally published by Ms. in the Biz

When Beyoncé’s latest album dropped, feminists went nuts. This is not the first time they’ve gone nuts over Beyoncé: When Ms. Magazine put her on its cover earlier this year, its readers erupted in outrage that a woman who “writhes around,” scantily clad “for the benefit of men” could be considered a feminist. Millions of other women came to her defense, arguing that feminism is about allowing women to be whoever they want to be. The editors of Ms. stood by their choice, but the disagreement hasn’t faded, and the new album has only added fuel to the fire. The combination of lyrics sampled from a Ted Talk given by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
‘You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man.’

– and those contributed by Beyoncé’s husband referring to himself as Ike Turner, casting her as Tina, and referencing a well-known episode of domestic abuse between them, debate once again flared as to the validity of Beyoncé’s claim to feminism.

Such controversies may not do much to further the cause of feminism, but they sure do generate page views. Not surprisingly, therefore, in the last few years, Hollywood reporters have taken every opportunity to ask stars, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” While women like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and even Susan Sarandon have eschewed the term, others have boldly taken up the mantle and declared their commitment to changing the status quo for women in Hollywood.

photo2In an interview with the Guardian, Ellen Page spoke freely about her support for reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights and her appreciation for feminism:

I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word? Feminism always gets associated with being a radical movement – good. It should be. A lot of what the radical feminists [in the 1970s] were saying, I don’t disagree with it.

Regarding projects she is writing and directing, she shared, “Of course, if you just write a script in which the woman has control over her destiny and love isn’t the main thing in the film, that’s seen as super feminist. [But] it’s hard to get stuff made, especially if it’s about women. Everything’s about international bankability.”

Geena Davis has thrown the weight of her name, her resume, and her money behind the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a research-based organization working to “engage, educate, and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female portrayals for children’s entertainment.” The Institute found that the ratio of male to female roles in family films – three to one – has not changed since 1946. In a recent guest article in The Hollywood Reporter, she offered some great advice on solving the problem:

Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?

Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.

By Jerry Avenaim [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Jada Pinkett-Smith, who questioned the feminist policing of Beyoncé by asking “Whose body is this anyway?” on Facebook, also used the social network to defend her daughter, Willow, when she became subject to vitriolic criticism over a haircut: “This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are her domain.”

Pinkett-Smith further defined her brand of feminism with a Facebook post on how sexism harms men as well as women: “There is a deep sadness when I witness a man that can’t recognize the emptiness he feels when he objectifies himself as a bank and truly believes he can buy love with things and status. It is painful to witness the betrayal when a woman takes him up on that offer.” She has also become a spokesperson for the anti-human-trafficking movement through her organization “Don’t Sell Bodies.”

The list goes on and on. Jennifer Lawrence has used her press junket for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to advocate against women calling each other fat and for more reasonable representations of women’s bodies on screen. Evan Rachel Wood loudly protested the MPAA excision of a cunnilingus scene from her film Charlie Countryman. Natalie Portman called representations of women who are vulnerable just as feminist as those of women kicking ass. Amy Poehler told a reporter her feminism is “just who I am, in the same way that I’m a woman, or I’m 5’2″ or whatever.”

The controversy over Beyonce’s feminism shows no sign of fading, but though the singer was “terrified” before the album’s release, she says now she feels liberated, and the dispute certainly hasn’t hurt album sales. If these women aren’t shying away from calling themselves feminist – and haven’t suffered any repercussions to their careers for it – why should anybody else?

So when reporters ask you, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?”, what will your answer be?