I know what some of you might be thinking—Here we go, another feminism post. But what people are often too ignorant to realize is that feminists don’t spread the message that women are better than men, rather they advocate the right for women to have equal rights as men.
When one thinks of Hollywood, words like celebrity, glamour, and style usually come to mind. It is no secret that this industry puts a lot of emphasis on looks. Even on the red carpet, entertainment reporters tend to focus their interview questions on appearance. Particularly women are asked the infamous question, “What are you wearing?”
It’s not that the question itself is the main problem, it’s that this is generally the only question women get on the red carpet. In doing so, media outlets merely scratch the surface.
After all, we have to remember these are award shows, not fashion shows. It is a time to celebrate one’s achievements, not to overlook them. The bottom line is women in Hollywood shouldn’t be encouraged to hide their intelligence behind a pretty face.
While the movement first sparked conversation at the 2014 Emmy Awards, it didn’t gain as much widespread attention until actress Reese Witherspoon spoke out about the hashtag at the 2015 Academy Awards, according to Google Trends.
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) February 22, 2015
With the hashtag #AskHerMore, Witherspoon posted a photo to her Instagram account of suggested questions for reporters to ask on the red carpet. Two of which were: “What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken that you feel has paid off?” and “What accomplishment are you most proud of?” She urged people to engage in the movement and challenge interviewers to redirect the conversation to highlight an actress’ work and social causes.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, founder and CEO of The Representation Project, shared how thrilled she was about the world’s response. Newsom said, “We’re changing the dialogue. We’re changing the conversation just through women recognizing that they actually have an opportunity to challenge the media to ask us more.”
Newsom emphasized the goal is not to omit the fashion question altogether; however, it is to empower women to share more about their craft than their dress.
2014 Emmys: One way to generate buzz on Twitter is live tweeting. The Representation Project took advantage of this by generating “auto-populated tweets” to reporters on the red carpet during the 66th Emmy Awards. This made it easy for people to tweet the deeper questions interviewers should be asking, but also gave people the opportunity to come up with their own questions using #AskHerMore.
2015 Oscars: Storify shared that before the 2015 Academy Awards, The Representation Project prepared tweets with “fun facts about actresses, performers, and presenters” to better engage with its audience. In a live tweet session, Twitter users were able to mix and match the “pre-fabbed #AskHerMore tweets” by clicking on the listed actresses and reporters. They could also create an original question to tweet, as long as the hashtag #AskHerMore was included.
— Miss Representation (@RepresentPledge) February 22, 2015
For the second annual #AskHerMore campaign at the Oscars, The Representation Project also teamed up with Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, an organization “dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”
— AmyPoehlerSmartGirls (@smrtgrls) February 22, 2015
Many celebrities got on board with the idea, including the likes of actress Lena Dunham, and TV producer and writer Shona Rhimes. They recognized the importance of a campaign like this that enables women to speak out about injustices prevalent in the media today.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) February 22, 2015
Stop asking women questions about what they wear to cover the containers they carry their brains around in. #AskHerMore
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) February 23, 2015
2015 Emmys: This time, #AskHerMore started off with a viral video called “Connie Britton’s Hair Secret” to remind the public about the movement in a comical way. For the 67th Emmy Awards, The Representation Project also stepped up its game by adding one more hashtag to initiate discussion. Inspired by #AskHerMore, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls coined the hashtag #SmartGirlsAsk to influence better conversations between actresses and reporters.
October 14th’s Democratic Debate: The Representation Project realized sexism isn’t only a problem at award shows. Especially with Hillary Clinton as a contender for the 2016 Presidential Race, the issue of sexist reporting has become evident. In order to change that, the hashtag #AskHerMore was used during the democratic debate to call out unfair reporting targeting gender. Furthermore, the hashtag was intended to highlight the lack of recognition of women’s achievements.
It wasn’t just the celebrities that spread the message. Many media outlets addressed the sexism problem in Hollywood as well.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 21, 2015
— ELLE Magazine (US) (@ELLEmagazine) February 23, 2015
Another big contributor to the campaign’s outreach was Upworthy. The site compiled a series of clips that shows how the direction of questions on the red carpet has changed as a result of #AskHerMore.
The media outlet also posted tweets to show the campaign’s impact.
— Upworthy (@Upworthy) February 23, 2015
2014 Emmys: 6+ million people were reached, The Representation Project noted.
2015 Oscars: According to Storify, the hashtag ended up reached 25+ million people around the world. In addition, over 50 media outlets covered the campaign, attributing to its overall success.
2015 Emmys: Over 100,000 had taken The Representation Project’s pledge to “transform culture.”
2015 Democratic Debate: Storify accounted for 5+ million impressions.
Now, the campaign has gained popularity in politics, as Hillary Clinton runs for President. The hashtag is bringing attention to the sexism in politics that is evident in the presidential debates.
While there is still a long road ahead before gender equality fully exists, #AskHerMore certainly put us on the right path. It is important for people to acknowledge there are more to women than what they wear. Ultimately, what is so great about this hashtag is that it transcends Hollywood, forcing people to think of all the areas women are objectified or stereotyped in society.
As an aspiring woman reporter, I will strive to dig deeper when it comes to addressing underrepresented people in the public eye who may have a lot to say, if given the opportunity to do so.