If you watched the red carpet for the 70th Primetime Emmys, which officially kicked off this year's awards season, you might surmise, at least fashionably speaking, that business in the post-#MeToo era was back to normal.
After all, the gowns — in all of their twirly girl splendor — exceeded my glamorous expectations: Tiffany Haddish's custom Prabal Gurung, replete with colorful stripes inspired by the Eritrea flag, was my absolute favorite. Penelope Cruz killed the carpet in a fringed Chanel, and Claire Foy's white Calvin Klein by Appointment was perfection beautifully wrapped in a back bow.
But as I listened to the actresses like Issa Rae urge women to work with other women who are "hungry," to create opportunities for themselves. And Mandy Moore muse about her plans to run the movie, rather than just star in it like idol Reese Witherspoon. And Evan Rachel Wood remind women of the importance of self-care. It felt as if we were witnessing the official first chapter of the #MeToo evolution on the red carpet.
Whether it was planned or not, it was clear women in Hollywood have collectively advanced beyond the tailored you-will-respect-me black gowns of the Golden Globes and Time's Up pins they wore on Academy Awards red carpets last season in the months after Harvey Weinstein's slimy behavior became public. Righteous indignation has been replaced with a quiet — albeit beautifully dressed — power telling women to stand for the status quo no more.
When Moore said it was time for her to think about her future by making possible projects she wanted to do, she was planting those seeds in the heads of all women. She was using her time in the spotlight to inspire all of us watching the red carpet to do the same. Self-actualization is in our grasp.
It's one thing if a little girl sees a woman looking pretty on the carpet. It's another when that little girl sees someone pretty on the red carpet taking control of her career, her life, and telling her that dripping in diamonds isn't enough. Pretty great, but not enough.
Wood took a different tack: By reminding women that self-care was important, she was telling women we don't have to be all things to all people. That's something else that we get tripped up in, and that takes you away from your goals.
Wood attended the Emmys with Amanda Nguyen, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and creator of the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights. "Just make sure you take care of yourself and love yourself first. That is the foundation of everything. If you have that, you can get through anything," said Wood in quite the stunning Altuzarra pantsuit.
Moore, Rae, and Wood were not just making room for themselves. By using the red carpet, they were making room for other women.
Now, that I heard.
I found these moments of women standing for and with other women to be even more powerful than the beautiful sea of well-tailored black gowns that moved like a wave of indignation at January's Golden Globes. It took courage. The Hollywood system — which lets men publicly discuss their careers, and has women walk the red carpet and only talk about the label they are wearing, rather than their dreams to run the world — is what helps abusive men stay in power.
But if the events that revealed rampant abuse of sexual power taught us anything it was that women don't have time to wait. We have to encourage one another whether on the red carpet or in the women's bathroom. This sets an example not just for ourselves but for the women in our lives who come after us. Since the #MeToo movement launched last year, woman after woman — from Stormy Daniels to former Miss Americas — have been faced with a decision. Speak up, or allow things to remain the same.
Two recent examples come to mind.
Christine Blasey Ford had considered testifying on Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's alleged sexual assault of her, which occurred more than 30 years ago,while the two were in high school. She first made the claims anonymously, but eventually came forward. She now says she will testify only after a full investigation because of threats against her life. I hope she decides to testify, because the only way to undo the belief that boys will be boys is to shine a light on ill behavior. Women have to do that.
And then there is Julie Chen. Chen, a cohost for CBS's The Talk and the wife of beleaguered former CBS chairman Les Moonves, will step down from the show. That's a shame. The Talk does nothing if not champion women. While I understand that Chen's predicament is embarrassing, she didn't do anything wrong. He did.
Of course, women talking freely, discussing their ideas, dreams, and futures while on the red carpet isn't exactly like Ford's or Chen's situations. But they are connected because any time a woman speaks out beyond what's expected of her — just ask Serena Williams — she's eschewing the game that keeps her submissive. Red-carpet events are the epitome of being seen and not heard. We've seen time and time again when we collectively focus on her couture and his career, women lose.
By cheering for themselves celebrities like Rae, Moore, and Wood were being proactive and standing in their truths in fashion. That's why it was so inspiring.