One unifying message came through at the 2018 Golden Globes: Time is up ― on industries that protect abusers, and on a world that tries to silence people of all genders who speak up about sexual harassment and assault.
Laura Dern pointed to a culture that silences victims and called for “restorative justice.” Frances McDormand spoke about the “tectonic shift in our industry’s power structure.” Natalie Portman made the gutsy choice to call out the “all-male nominees” for Best Director while introducing them, and Barbra Streisand expressed horror that she’s the only woman to have ever won in that category ― in 1984. Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Amy Poehler, Dern, Susan Sarandon, Emma Watson and Emma Stone used their star power to elevate their dates for the evening ― activists Ai-jen Poo, Tarana Burke, Saru Jayaraman, Monica Ramirez, Rosa Clemente, Marai Larasi and Billie Jean King.
At a time when Hollywood awards shows can feel pointless, boring and frivolous, the Globes emphatically did not. “I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” Oprah said, taking the audience to church. ”And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
But notably absent from this public-facing movement? Those aforementioned “pretty phenomenal men.”
Despite a sea of dudes in black suits wearing Time’s Up pins, not one man who was honored at the Globes used his speech to stand in solidarity with women colleagues ― or even mention gender inequality, sexual harassment or abuse. The red carpet was similarly lopsided, as women were overwhelmingly asked about the meaning of their black attire, and men were asked to plug their latest projects. (To his credit, host Seth Meyers tackled Hollywood sexual harassment and abuse head-on during his opening monologue, calling out alleged Hollywood predators like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen by name.)
Viewers took note of the male silence. “Can we take a moment to honor all of the incredible men at the #GoldenGlobes that used their speech time to boldly stand in solidarity with women tonight,” tweeted Twitter user Brown-Eyed Amazon, with a photo of an empty auditorium.
The gender gap shows that some men feel that sexual violence, sexual harassment and gender inequality are issues that do not affect them.
“They get the choice,” said Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “They don’t have to [comment.] And that’s perhaps because they haven’t yet figured out that it impacts their well-being, too. How nice to feel like you don’t have to participate.”
That male celebrities felt they could sidestep the discussion about industry sexism and abuse was especially glaring, considering that some of the actors who won were honored for roles that specifically addressed sexual violence. Sam Rockwell won for his role as a police officer investigating the rape and murder of a teenage girl in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and Alexander Skarsgard took home a Golden Globe for his performance as serial abuser Perry Wright in “Big Little Lies.” Both praised their female co-stars, but neither addressed how men perpetuate a culture of sexual violence.
Instead of silently standing trying to present themselves as allies, men should turn their discomfort outward, grapple with it openly and take action to right it.
Public male alliance with the cause can be tricky, and some male stars (and their publicists) may have decided it was best left to black attire. When members of any privileged community decide to be vocal on behalf of a group they are not a part of, there’s always a chance of making a widely noticed misstep, or of inviting charges of insincerity. Men who step into the public eye to discuss toxic masculinity and gender inequality also tend to be valorized by the media in a way that can ultimately take away from the work being done by women and gender nonconforming people. (See: the never-ending discussion over actor Matt McGorry’s “woke bae” status.) This makes activism a somewhat risky PR move ― something that a public figure needs to decide is worth potential controversy and critique.
“They’re afraid that they don’t get it and that they’re gonna say something that makes them sound stupid or wrong, or be offensive when they don’t mean to,” said Houser. “You’re a celebrity on national television. If you say something stupid, Twitter’s gonna blow up and it’s gonna be captured in perpetuity.”
But it’s imperative that men make the decision to do the right thing despite the PR risk. Men are certainly impacted by the continuum of sexism and sexual violence ― both as victims of abuse (Terry Crews and Corey Feldman) and as individuals who have to navigate a world that defines masculinity very narrowly.
And men who do not exist in the public eye are simply more likely to take cues from famous, powerful men than they are from women. “Sexism is rampant ― let’s just own it,” said Houser. “If that’s the reality in America, then maybe men are likely to hear it better coming from other men. So step up. We need men ... to spread the realities and truths that women have been telling.”
There is also the grim possibility that many men in attendance at the Globes ― even those wearing pins and black suits ― are poor allies in their professional and personal lives. Actress Zoe Kazan tweeted Sunday night that she was “all for solidarity & visible protest but there is definitely at least one man in that room wearing a #TIMESUP pin who is the exact opposite of an ally.” She later said did didn’t intend to call out anyone specifically, but intended her statement “most probably just a fact.” There’s a reason that when Meyers joked at the top of the show that “for the male nominees in the room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your name read out loud,” some men in the audience looked patently uncomfortable.
Perhaps that discomfort is a good thing. After all, change ― especially when that change involves the acknowledgement and relinquishing of privilege ― is often deeply uncomfortable. But instead of silently standing trying to present themselves as allies, men should turn their discomfort outward, grapple with it openly and take action to right it.
“If you’re not part of the solution, it’s really easy to be painted as part of the problem,” said Houser.
Time is up, gents.