Editor’s Note: This is a response piece to a column that originally ran on azcentral.com. To read that column, click here.
In an opinion piece published Monday, Linda Valdez of The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com takes on fashion at the Academy Awards, arguing that Hollywood’s A-list women eroded the legitimacy of the #metoo movement because they dared to dress provocatively.
Her article, entitled, “Too much cleavage? How Oscars gowns sabotage MeToo,” notes that “the women of the evening wore plunging necklines, thigh-high skirt slits. They did their best to attract attention based on their looks and sex appeal.”
Men, she says, “dressed to be respected in tailored clothes designed to show personal power.”
Specifically, she calls out Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabelle Sciorra — three of the loudest voices in #metoo – and writes: (they) “offered plenty of cleavage to distract from their message…”
I admire and respect Linda, but in this case, I could not disagree more with her assertions.
Her 1950s mentality of sexual politics
Let’s start with the over-arching premise of the column, shall we?
Valdez is essentially espousing a 1950s mentality of male-female sexual politics.
Women should be demure in their dress and mannerisms so not to excite or arouse men.
Women should cover up to be respected.
Breasts = reasons not to be taken seriously.
Nope. Nope. And more nope.
What’s particularly troubling about the narrative is this:
Valdez uses all the traditional arguments that perpetuate the idea of women being less equal to men (Adam and Eve, men being unable to control their lust after the female form) as the basis for arguing that women should not feel obligated to dress in revealing or sexy gowns.
Fine. Valdez is well-intentioned.
But she presumes that women are selecting their outfits because they “remain captive to the male-generated stereotypes about what gives them value as human beings.”
And on that, I call bullsh**.
Women can — and should — wear whatever makes THEM feel empowered and beautiful.
For Emma Stone, that was a burgundy, tuxedo-styled jacket and tailored pants.
For Frances McDormand, it was a gold and black, full-coverage brocade dress.
For Rita Moreno, it was a re-vamped version of a gown she wore in 1962 (mad props for that, by the way.)
For Tiffany Haddish, it was a $4,000 white Alexander McQueen dress she’s worn in public at least twice before.
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This is what ethical fashion looks like, people! Go @tiffanyhaddish! 💪 "I feel like I should be able to wear what I want, when I want, however many times I want, as long as I Febreze it.” — Tiffany Haddish in her #SNL monologue 💃 #ethicalfashion #fashionrevolution Photo: @nbcsnl
For Hayek, Kellie Marie Tran and Betty Gabriel, it was ballgowns fashioned from rich colors, intricate embroidery and necklines that showed (gasp!) cleavage.
And guess what? Nothing about those outfits says a damn thing about their accomplishments as actresses, philanthropists, public speakers, directors, etc.
This unnecessary criticism comes a week after actress Jennifer Lawrence was roasted in London for not covering up a gorgeous Versace dress with a warm coat.
In response, she told her critics to “get a grip,” adding: “Everything you see me wear is my choice. And if I want to be cold THATS MY CHOICE TOO!”
Some of the most repressed societies in the world mandate that women cover up and hide their bodies. It’s a not-so-subtle attempt to remind them of their second-class status, to keep them from expressing their sexuality and wielding it with power.
Think of all the times you, as a woman, have second-guessed what you wear: is it too skimpy, too dowdy, too masculine, too flirty, too dressy, too casual?
Newsflash: Men almost NEVER have these thoughts.
They put on clothes. They leave the house. And they assume they’ll be treated with respect.
As a society, we must get past this inane and arcane idea that how women dress somehow determines their value, and that it is anybody’s business but their own.
There will be no equality with the kind of thinking Valdez enumerates in her column.
And it’s doubly unfortunate that women are among those still perpetuating it.