In many ways, men’s attendance at the Globes can be entirely summed up by the clips of directors Guillermo del Toro and Martin McDonagh shifting awkwardly in their seats and chewing their lips at Natalie Portman’s mic drop moment.
Happy to participate in an awards ceremony that nods to problems affecting women as long as it doesn’t disrupt the actual ceremony itself or any of their paths to victory. Happy to wear black (tbh what else were they going to put on?), but not willing to actually say anything of worth about what it all means.
For all the girl-power groups shots, activist dates, black outfits and Oprah – goddess Oprah – a few eyebrows have consequently been raised that none of the male winners mentioned Time’s Up in their speeches. Not one of them. The words “systemic sexual assault” did not pass their lips.
Undoubtedly, after watching Matt Damon crash and burn when he tried to address the topic, the conclusion most men in Hollywood (and, more likely, their publicists) came to was that the safest move was to shut the fuck up. And, in many ways, that is a great outcome for everyone.
But it’s not enough.
The symbolic statement of wearing a Time’s Up lapel pin is fine (only if you know what it means of course), but accessorising with a cause is not a risk. And change calls for risk. The reason that women were bowled over by Natalie Portman’s actions was because she genuinely risked her career by going off script. She compromised her reputation and jeopardised her participation in future award ceremonies.
In wearing black on the red carpet, every actress there compromised her relationships with fashion designers, stylists, editors and photographers – all of which, as women, are fundamental to their success in the industry.
But those risks are worth taking for women. They aren’t just possible; they are necessary. They are vital.
That men don’t feel the same urgency to enact change is indicative of their privileged position.
Looking at renowned attention-hogger and notorious Janet-Jackson-exploiter Justin Timberlake’s use the hashtags #TimesUp and #WhyWeWearBlack in the same Instagram breath that he writes “DAMN, my wife is hot!” doesn’t exactly suggest that he has fully grasped the cause he is shouting (and probably beatboxing) about. The real kicker? He recently appeared in Woody Allen’s latest film, Wonder Wheel.
The symbolic statement of wearing a Time’s Up lapel pin is fine, but accessorising with a cause is not a risk. And change calls for risk
Granted, it’s a difficult one for male stars to get right. Women don’t need men to speak for them or over them. We don’t want their opinions on sexual assault, on what is acceptable and what is not, or on how we should rehabilitate offenders.
But any one of the winners could have recognised that he has hundreds of opportunities to talk about his career and collaborators (all the times he ever stands on a red carpet, for example, while the ladies talk dresses). He could have chosen to thank his friends and family in private and used his moment to draw attention to what Time’s Up is about, instead of relying on a lapel pin and the women in the room to do the work for him.
He could have acknowledged that with winning comes the privilege of being able to speak (for several minutes) to your industry – and a wider audience watching at home. It’s a privilege you don’t have a hope of enjoying if you are not even nominated – take, for instance, Greta Gerwig and every female director since 1984. For every all-male list of nominees, that is one more acceptance speech from a man and one fewer chances for women’s voices to be heard.
There was, however, an exception to the awkward silence: in his opening monologue, Seth Meyers did a pretty solid job of addressing the issues of sexual harassment while punching up at the accusers, rather than down at the victims (we see you, James Corden).
One of the lines that got the biggest laugh was “For the male nominees in the room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won't be terrifying to hear your name read out loud” before playacting a scene of relief that Willem Dafoe was the topic of conversation because of his nomination and not because of sexual-assault allegations.
Phew, goes the joke, Willem Dafoe is one of the good ones!
Fingers crossed that sentence stands the test of time. How many options did Meyers and his team scroll through before they settled on Dafoe as the safe punchline to this joke?
Because, beyond getting it wrong or being accused of jumping on the bandwagon or stomping all over women’s narratives, there will have been men who attended the Golden Globes, black tux and all, who have behaved abusively in their past, whether or not they acknowledge it as such.
Presumably, they don’t mind an assistant pinning a badge on them in the back of a limo, but they would rather not enthuse too much about a legal defence fund for the victims of sexual violence.
James Franco might have had a good night out celebrating his win with his buddies, but social media was seeing reports of sexual misconduct materialise.
Gary Oldman found time to vaguely urge “change” in his speech, while some viewers reminded themselves that he has previously been accused of domestic abuse and has steadily collected an archive of hateful comments that Mel Gibson would be proud of.
They are in plain sight. Like Harvey Weinstein was.
Meyers was right – this was the first time in three months that many men in that room weren’t scared to hear their name called out. But they should be. Time’s up.