Not-So-Little Black Dresses

Not-So-Little Black Dresses January 8, 2018

“I’m not usually into award shows… but I watched every minute of the Golden Globes last night.” Variations of this sentiment spread widely across my newsfeed today, and I echo it. While I usually flip around or come and go during these things, last night was different. I was all in. I even (confession) sent my kids to be early, because they were distracting me from something that felt like a real-time revolution. From the opening monologue to the acceptance speeches, to Oprah’s fiery sermon, the night carried a unified message to the patriarchy: Time’s Up.

A few highlights, in case you missed it: 

Seth Meyer’s opener, including one-liners like “Welcome, ladies and a few remaining gentleman…” And his bit with

Amy Poehler who riffed on how she didn’t need a set-up to deliver a punch-line; then proved as much to be true, while accusing Seth of mansplaining.

Sterling K Brown made history as the first black man to win Best Actor in a Drama. There were also big wins for

The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. All feature strong women characters at the center of the story line, as well as an assortment of women writers, producers and directors.

And then there was Oprah, who received the Cecil B. DeMille award. She is the first woman of color to receive this honor, and her acceptance speech absolutely brought the house down. If you catch up on nothing else from the evening, read or watch her speech. Which is easy enough to do, since it is basically breaking the internet today. 

Image result for golden globes black dresses

On the heels of that thunderous applause, Natalie Portman came to the mic to present nominees for best director. Throwing some wicked and well-timed shade, she said “and the ALL MALE nominees are…” Some of her colleagues laughed uncomfortably, while others cringed or groaned at the irony. In a night devoted almost entirely to elevating women’s voices, Portman’s message to her peers was significant: Hollywood is still a (pretty big) part of the problem.  Lady Bird was written and directed by a woman.  It was nominated in multiple other categories, even winning Best Motion Picture. That writer-director Greta Gerwig was not even nominated in the director category is a mind-bending exercise in everything that’s wrong with America. Natalie Portman’s side-eye was perfection.

And then, of course, there was the march of the black dresses. High couture, with the usual hits and misses; but all coordinated as a statement of solidarity to the recent revelations of widespread sexual harassment and assault in the industry, and in the culture at large. Along with the all-dark wardrobe, men and women alike sported pins that said “Time’s Up,” and made statements of support and solidarity in their acceptance speeches. And, rather than the usual dates and spouses, many A-listers brought guests who are activists and justice workers.

And you know the best part? In all this loud and visible resistance, they never said his name. 

They never mentioned the one whose presence in national leadership has emboldened and empowered so much abuse against women. They never said the name of the one who loves nothing more than attention and spotlight, however negative it might be. Since they never called him by name, he can’t punch back with ridiculous Tweets, or rant and rave about how unfairly people treat him. He can’t go on a new tirade against “the liberal media,” while ignoring the clear legitimacy of concerns about his character.

The night was, in part, about him; or rather, a response to the grotesque culture he represents. But it was also about much more than him. Yes, he is a symbol of patriarchy, but he is only one small expression of. With his name unspoken, the message can ring louder and longer; because unless there is broad, systemic change, our culture of toxic misogyny will still be in play long after his (hopefully short) tenure in the office.

Let it all serve as a reminder that resistance does not have to grant more notoriety to one who clearly thrives on notoriety. 

And no, Hollywood can’t fix everything. These are actors and artists, not policy makers and justice workers. But for last night–and hopefully for much longer than just one night–they were actors using their platforms for change. For that moment, they were artists recognizing the potential of art to shape social norms. They were storytellers using their voices to tell a better story for us all.  

As of last night, black dresses are not just for mourning and cocktail parties anymore. They are the wardrobe of the resistance. 

They are, as my friend Quinn said, “a thick black line of couture between yesterday’s oppression and this new day of reckoning.” One little black dress might be just a black dress. But so many of them, all in one place, is a movement. And, as one strong black voice said so well: “It’s about to be a new day.” Let’s wear it well. 

My new book “Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality,” is available for pre-order now!

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