At the Golden Globes this year, the red carpet sparkled with protest

The 75th Golden Globe awards has been praised for kicking off the awards season on a defiant note. Leading the way, of course, was Oprah Winfrey’s rousing speech on winning the Cecil B. DeMille award for ‘outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment’.

In her speech, Oprah mentioned a fact that wasn’t as publicised as the other media-friendly bits about women’s emancipation. She said, “In 1982, Sidney (Poitier) received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.”

This is a loaded statement. Not only did an African-American woman receive the award 36 years after the first African-American man (after all, even among minorities the men fare better), she won it 56 years after Judy Garland, the first white woman winner in 1962.

Stale imbalance

You might think that white women have had it much better. Not so. Since the Cecil B. DeMille Award was instituted in 1952, the honour has been bestowed 65 times (it was not awarded on two occasions). However, women have won it a mere 15 times. One would expect the new millennium to have tilted the balance somewhat. But far from it. Since 2000, only four women have won the award. You might find solace, however, in the fact that three outstanding women have received the award this unfinished decade — Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey.

The other noise-generator this year was the colour-coordinated, all-black attire and #TimesUp pins worn by almost all attendees. These were all statements against the sexual harassment and abuse allegations that took Hollywood by storm last year, culminating in the global #metoo movement. It did have a few critics, such as Rose McGowan (who revealed last year that Weinstein had raped her in the ’90s), who called it feeble and hypocritical. For the most part, however, it seemed Hollywood was united in support of the movement, despite a few surly faces among the men.

Fashion as a political statement is, however, old sauce in Hollywood award functions. According to a story in The New York Post, it was the 60s and 70s that made the red carpet a fertile nursing ground for politics and other causes — such as the Vietnam War, civil rights and the women’s lib movement. For the Oscars in 1972, Jane Fonda wore a black Yves Saint Laurent suit with a Mao collar, partly as an anti-Vietnam War statement, and partly in support of women’s lib.

More recently, Emma Stone wore a matching Planned Parenthood pin at last year’s Oscars while Ava DuVernay wore a gown by Lebanon-based designer Mohammed Ashi in the wake of President Trump’s travel ban on people from a few Muslim majority countries.

Pure posturing

While the support for the #metoo movement grows, some in the LGBTQ community have been left disillusioned by Hollywood’s indifference, according to a report in Washington Blade. While Handmaid’sTale and Lady Bird (both LGBTQ-themed projects) picked up laurels, and Benj Pasek won for Best Original Song, the night was otherwise bereft of recognition for LGBTQ roles, films or actors.

The biggest miss, of course, was Call Me by Your Name, a much-feted film and festival favourite nominated for Best Motion Picture (Drama). It has a gay director (Luca Guadagnino) and screenwriter (James Ivory). Neither was nominated. The film lost to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Another festival favourite, A Fantastic Woman, starring Daniela Vega, a transgender actor, wasn’t even nominated.

And, of course, if the awards are truly serious about empowering women, they might want to consider having a female host to crack jokes at the expense of men.

The writer is photographer and founder of The Indiestani Project, a poetography collaboration.