by Emily Engle
Last Sunday, February 22, the Academy hosted its 87th Oscars but this one immediately stood out from the previous 86: it was quickly branded as the “Feminist Oscars” due to a viral hashtag #AskHerMore.
The campaign launched from The Representation Project, an organization dedicated to ending gender stereotypes. But it quickly became popular after celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Patricia Arquette, Shonda Rhimes, and Lena Dunham publicly voiced their support.
The idea for the campaign was brainstormed after women noticed, year after year, men on the red carpet were asked by reporters what they’d been working on, how their current role was going, and what they hoped for in their future career while the women were only asked the designer of their dress, the color of their nails, or worse, only told to, “Give us a twirl!”
In the days leading up to the awards, Witherspoon launched the hashtag by stating to ABC, “This is a movement to say we’re more than just our dresses…This is a group of women – 44 nominees – and we are so happy to be here and talk about the work we’ve done. It’s exciting for me to get to talk to other nominees to talk to other women about the work they’ve done.” She also later posted to Instagram about the campaign, “It’s meant to inspire reporters to ask creative questions on the red carpet. I love the Oscars AND fashion like many of you – & am excited to share #WhoAmIWearing later tonight…But I’d also love to answer some of these Qs.”
Feminism also embedded itself in other ways at this year’s Academy Awards. For example, when Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress, she delivered a passionate speech for women’s equality and rights, bringing the audience to its feet. And graduate journalism student Michelle Ghoussoub wrote after the event that the movement was needed because “We continue [today] to see women reduced to what they are wearing, or asked humiliating questions about their diet regimes.”
And the movement isn’t the first of its kind. It’s similar to the hashtag #YesAllWomen that launched in 2014 after Elliot Rodgers’ tragic killing spree in California. In that case, the hashtag aimed to draw attention to the harmful societal idea that women “owe” relationships to men.
But even though the #AskHerMore movement went viral, especially on Twitter, it was not entirely with support. Several websites wrote after the awards scathing articles on Witherspoon’s “failed attempts” at a campaign. For example, USNews mocked her by writing, “The dresses are actually a huge part of both the economics and appeal of an occasion whose continued popularity…is predicated on its ability to peddle the glamour…of Hollywood.” The writer also added that actresses are often paid to wear and promote certain designers.
What articles like these misinterpreted, though, was that Witherspoon was not calling for a complete silence to the questions about apparel and appearance. She was calling for the questions to be asked, but then followed by more in-depth queries. She was calling not for the media to bypass a woman’s outward beauty, but for them and society to acknowledge that women are beautiful both inside and out.