I usually don't watch the Golden Globes, the Oscars, or any award show consisting of the Hollywood elite patting themselves on the back for creating incredibly expensive art while also congratulating themselves for being at the forefront of social progress. The million-dollar red carpet, the performative speeches, and the subsequent scrolling through pictures of the after-parties while sitting at the office the next day: it's just not for me. I’m jealous. It's something I can't even begin to imagine being a part of, and often feels so out of touch with any part of my life. But not last night.
Last night was a giant "fuck you" to the longstanding power structure in Hollywood that has previously seemed unfuckwithable. I had some doubts going in, but they were proven largely unnecessary. We got to watch powerful, straight, white, men fear and question their place at the table, a feeling previously only experienced by oppressed groups like women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, etc. We got to watch as women publicly spoke their truth on a very large, very prominent stage. And if you think those women weren't scared, you're wrong. Even powerful, rich women have lived their entire lives knowing that, no matter how powerful they are for a woman, there's always a more powerful man who can take it all away (see: Mira Sorvino, Rose McGowan, and on, and on, and on...).
From the red carpet where Debra Messing and Eva Longoria beautifully took E! to task for not paying their female cohosts what they pay their male counterparts, to Seth Meyers's savage and necessary opening monologue take down of alleged* rapists (*ugh I have to add this), Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. Women, dressed in black in solidarity, and our agenda, ran the show.
Geena Davis, Jessica Chastain, and Reese Witherspoon all took shots at bad men in their brief intros. Oprah delivered what can only be described as the proverbial dunk speech of the night, eliciting tears and cheers from the entire room. And just as Hollywood got a bit too caught up in celebrating Oprah and forgetting all its current sins, Natalie Portman came on stage with Ron Howard to present the award for Best Director. As Ron Howard dutifully announced they'd be presenting best director, Portman followed up with, "And here are the all-male nominees". Portman's here to remind us that as good as Oprah made us all feel, we're still fucked in Hollywood and the work is just beginning. This isn't the culmination of work having been done, this is the beginning of it.
I've heard several men in my life, men I admire, reference the current women's movement as a "moment.” As if to say, this is a period in time that will inevitably end. It can't possibly last. And in the depths of my soul, a soul that has always been female and felt the limits of that in society, I feared maybe they were right. But last night, watching women I look up to, and who the world looks up to, refuse to stand down, gave me hope that this isn't just a moment in time, but the beginning of something very, very big. As Oprah described seeing Sidney Poitier win an Oscar as a little girl—someone that looked like her—I realized that watching all of these women unapologetically drag both individual men and the patriarchy at large, I was having my very own version of that. Being represented. And spoken for. And celebrated. Mattering.
It took bravery from each woman to make this happen. Even as I celebrate Messing for the public callout of E! on their gender inequality, media reports are describing her eloquent stating of the facts as an "outburst". And allegedly Comcast, who owns both NBC (where her show runs) and E!, are not happy with her. She's an aging woman (gasp!) in Hollywood and no matter how brave I thought it was, it could well affect her getting work at either of those networks down the line.
This is just the beginning of the movement, but it won't come without pushback. And as has been said, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality inevitably feels like oppression. As history has shown us, those in privileged positions have no interest in giving up that power without an arduous fight.
So what do the rest of us do? The little girls and grown women sitting in bed last night illegally streaming Oprah's speech with tears in their eyes and chills in their bones. I know that, for me, it gave me a much needed reminder that I am a member of a very large team. That for every scary moment at work where I'm fighting for the right to be heard in an all-male meeting, I have so many women behind me fighting with me. That even when I look around in meetings and realize that no one looks like me, I am not alone. And my fight, even as small as it might seem in one solitary work meeting, is important. My voice is important, and believing that, should scare every single bad man out there. That belief is unimaginably powerful.
As Frances McDormand delivered her speech, in her weird, perfect elegance, she echoed exactly how I feel:
"It was really great to be in this room tonight. And to be part of the tectonic movement in our industry's power structure. Trust me. The women in this room tonight are not here for the food. We are here for the work."
I'm never here for anything but the work, whether it's my job, or my right to exist in this world with equal respect. I'm not here to look pretty or to enjoy the free food. I'm here to work. And the world should be very, very afraid of that.