Time’s Up for Performative Allyship

golden globes

At the 75th Golden Globes award ceremony, almost every single guest in attendance was wearing black. Supposedly, the choice of hue was more than a simple fashion statement, and was actually a display of solidarity against the culture of misogyny, abuse and sexual assault that has been allowed to run rampant in the entertainment industry. However, it’s easy for these gestures to seem hollow and performative when at this same award ceremony, James Franco, a man who tried to groom underage girls, is receiving a globe for his acting talent.

I’d be a lot more willing to believe that time was really up on sexual abuse within the entertainment industry if more people were willing to stand in solidarity beside survivors, when it wasn’t personally convenient or advantageous for them to do so. Many stars are willing to say “sexual assault is bad and we won’t tolerate it”, but few are willing to take the personal risk that comes with publicly denouncing known abusers, such as Roman Polanski or Woody Allen. Ellen Page is one of the few actors to say publicly that she regrets working with Allen: “I did a Woody Allen movie and it is the biggest regret of my career. I am ashamed I did this.” Words like this really show that you are listening to survivors in a way that wearing black whilst talking about how excited you are about your next picture (which, incidentally, is directed by Allen) can never do.

When Greta Gerwig was directly questioned about her work with Woody Allen at the Golden Globes, she gave a tentative non-committal answer: “It’s something that I’ve thought deeply about and I care deeply about, and I haven’t had an opportunity to have an in depth discussion where I come down on one side or the other – but it’s something that I’ve definitely taken to heart.” It takes an incredible level of cognitive dissonance to be able to show up wearing black, in a show of solidarity with survivors of sexual violence, but not to be able to denounce one of Hollywood’s most well known abusers when asked.

Ultimately, choosing a black gown for an event or pinning a ‘Times Up’ pin to your lapel is easy; it doesn’t require to think about abuse as systemic problem, or consider the incidences of abuse that you might have enabled. There is a difference between joining a movement and jumping on a trend. Breaking the silence against a culture of systemic abuse shouldn’t feel easy or comfortable, and it definitely takes more than a room full of fashionable and expertly selected black evening gowns.

Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech bought a tear to my eye, and I appreciated Debra Messing calling out wage inequality, and Natalie Portman drawing attention to the all male nominees list. But calling out sexism and misogyny still failed to seem like the overwhelming takeaway from the evening that was otherwise dominated by empty gestures of performative allyship. Systemic problems like misogyny and sexual assault within the entertainment industry need complex solutions that a room full of black dresses can never provide.

I’m glad that abusers are being called out, and publicly named and shamed. I hope that the sight of  tide turning against them makes them feel unsafe and uncomfortable. But to make a real change, more people need to openly speak out against abusers, especially when it’s inconvenient. The Golden Globes, even with the Times Up pins, was still welcoming enough to abusers that they felt comfortable sitting in the audience and clapping as their friends and colleagues won awards, which is evidence enough that abusers still feel safe and protected in Hollywood and it will take more than preformative allyship to get them to leave.

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