Who are you wearing?
How long did you take to get ready?
You look stunning!
Female celebrities hear these questions and comments all the time. Their male counterparts? They may get a comment or two on how handsome they look, but no one’s really asking where they got their tux or how long it took to style their hair, are they?
The Academy Awards took place this Sunday, and amidst all the Hollywood glamour and drama, a new trend emerged in the form of a hashtag that quickly gained traction and was tweeted thousands of times this weekend.
#AskHerMore was initiated by the Representation project, an organization that battles for women’s rights and equality around the world. This organization was also responsible for “Miss Representation,” the 2011 documentary exposing how the media giants affect the place of women in society. Reese Witherspoon posted a photo on Instagram and linked to the Representation project. Within minutes Twitter users picked it up and began tweeting at the red carpet with questions for the women there—requests like asking Lady Gaga about her support for the LGBT community or talking to Naomi Watts about her martial arts training.
And why should we forgo asking women about their careers, hobbies, and interests in favor of asking them about their dresses, hair, and makeup? It’s true that all those things are focal points of awards shows, and when an actress looks beautiful in her gown, there’s nothing wrong with telling her so.
But women’s lives are so often overlooked, while their appearances are dissected and rated and ranked against other women.
News outlets have a chance to give the viewers an inside look at the lives of Hollywood’s finest. Judging by the Twitter response, the public cares more about the women themselves than how much their gown cost. Instead, the red carpet reporters give us a list of designer dresses that the average viewer can only dream of affording. At best, this endless fashion show is mind-numbingly boring. At worst, it’s insulting to the women and the audiences who want to know more about them.
The good news is that platforms like the Oscars and Grammys seem to be undergoing a shift. #AskHerMore is a sign that celebrities are recognizing the power they have to spread positive messages to the public. These ceremonies they used to be merely awards shows; celebrities are now taking advantage of all the free publicity to enact social change.
Patricia Arquette, winner of Best Supporting Actress, doubled the impact when she delivered her acceptance speech and argued for income equality. “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen in this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said, “it’s our time to have wage equality in the U.S.”
And she seems to just be the latest to use her platform this way. Take, for example, Miley Cyrus’ homeless VMA date last year, or Katy Perry’s recent Grammy performance where activist Brooke Axtell spoke out about domestic violence. These famous women have causes that are close to their hearts, and using awards shows and red carpet events to spread the word only makes sense.
There’s no way to prove that a simple hashtag can enact social change. But awareness is everything, and the night of the Oscars, the world’s eyes were on not just the outfits but on the message as well.