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From the Golden Globes protest, the #MeToo movement, #TimesUp and the women’s march all over the world in protest of the patriarchy from Washington to the far corners of the world- it is safe to say that 2017 was a bitch of a year. We started it with a bigoted sexist and white supremacists sympathiser assuming the highest office in the “free world” and ended it knowing that practically 99% of the men in Hollywood are deplorable. Going into 2018 we needed some hope, we needed something to jolt hope into humanity, to hear words of hope, and more than anything else, we needed hope for womankind. Hope. From the #MeToo movement to #YouOkSis social media played a big part in bringing to light some of the most despicable acts by men upon women. 2017 was an eye opener. But what about 2018? What did she have in store for us? We were very apprehensive, didn’t know what to expect. History was rather unkind to us last year, it would be too much to expect something better. Wouldn’t it?
Award shows and Hollywood. Well I’ll be damned. Who knew hope would come from the most cynical of places. When the sexual inappropriateness of men in Hollywood was brought to light, is still being brought to light, the world was left aghast. How many women have had their lives destroyed by these men in power. Careers ruined, families torn, relationships burned… It is finally time. Time to call it. Women in the industry decided in was time to call it on the sexism, misogyny, bullying that has ruled the industry and several others unlike it. It was a long time coming. TimesUP is a legal defence fund set up to help combat sexual harassment and abuse in the work place by providing subsidised legal support not only in Hollywood, but in industries across the board, from the manual worker to the executive, to the actress on the red carpet and women far removed from the glittering flashes of the camera. When women decided to wear black in protest, some sneered, missing the point, others were sceptical. I was one of the sceptics. What would wearing a black dress do? But there is power in numbers and this was not about making a fashion statement, or any statement relating to trends. A sea of women wearing black in protest, collectively? That night it said something. It conveyed a message for the woman before the camera and the woman on the margins, sidelined and silenced, the weak and bullied, the strong who cannot fight for fear of loosing it all, the single mothers doing the damn thing in a male riddled world. It spoke up for women; ball gowns and tulle became much more than that. Jewels were not the talking point on the red carpet but women all over the world. Even going as far as calling out E! on E! about the treatment of Cat Sadler and the pay disparity at the network.
This was the time and place, where an image spoke a thousand and one words. When the colour of the garment was not about the trend from fashion week or the designer who made the garment, but it was statement in solidarity. In its silence, it was brilliant. Even more powerful seeing it on the brilliant women changing this world beyond the hashtag; activists who were guests of Hollywood A-List actresses; Michelle Williams and Tarana Burke founder of the #MeToo movement and senior director at Girls for Gender Equality, Meryl Streep and Ai Jen Poo Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Laura Dern and Monica Ramirez co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Emma Watson and Marai Larasi Executive Director of Imkaan a Black feminist network organisation, Susan Sarandon and Rosa Clemente organiser, political commentator and independent journalist who works for voter engagement, Amy Poehler and Saru Jayaraman president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and ROC Action… women working tirelessly for women. For the night and beyond, Black was not just a colour, it was a message about strength. It represented a struggle, sorrow, pain, those who serve, those who are silenced. It is a colour universally acknowledged to convey heaviness and burden. It is also a colour that allows a woman to stand apart and be seen. And on this night women came together, for a common cause, uniformed in their protest, hoping to change of history, history that has been male dominated, male narrated- and make this world a better place. It is often said, educate a woman and you educate a nation. That saying wasn’t more true than on the night of the Golden Globes.
And then there was Oprah’s speech. I have played and replayed this speech so many times I can pretty much recite it from memory and in the wake of everything that has happened recently. As the first Black woman to be awarded with the Cecile B de Mille award the magnitude of this moment was not lost on her, it was there when back in 1964, she watched as Sidney Poitier was awarded the Oscar for best actor and many years later the same award at the Golden Globes in 1982. But more important, she acknowledged what this moment means for the many young girls who were watching her. She referenced Recy Taylor who was kidnapped and raped by six white men in Alabama as she made her way home in from church in 1944. Ms Taylor’s story is one that everyone should know. She spoke of the domestic workers, and farm workers and restaurant workers, women whose names we’ll never know, women who did not have a choice but the endure years of abuse at the hands of men in authority because without that job, the chance, that pay check the alternative was for their children to starve. The sacrifices women make, have been making and continue to make… We needed to hear that. We, women needed to hear that someone out there has our back and with this speech Oprah showed up for us and in so doing, every woman wearing black told us she had our backs.