Last year, the entertainment industry was turned upside down after one of its power players, famed film producer Harvey Weinstein, was hit with sexual assault allegations by a slew of women in Hollywood. Since then, the claims sparked a movement and launched the #MeToo campaign. Shortly after the “Weinstein Effect” that impacted the film industry, the #TimesUp campaign was born and took center stage at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Celebrities came dressed in all black to the ceremony as a statement of protest, with some taking it a step further by bringing activists as their dates. Weeks later, the solidarity protests continued into the 60th Annual Grammy Awards which was held this past weekend (Jan. 28).
Orchestrated by Roc Nation Senior VP Meg Harkins and Voices In Entertainment co-founder Karen Rait, many celebrities wore white roses at one of music’s biggest night as a form of demonstration against sexual assault and sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. With Janelle Monae’s riveting #TimesUp speech leading the way, recording artist Kesha was joined by her musical soul sisters Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha and Andra Day for an emotional Grammys performance in support of the #MeToo movement.
Although these moments of solidarity are well-intentioned, does it really have an impact on the issue? Using red carpets and acceptance speeches as platforms for protest does a great job of raising awareness to various movements, but in reality, is it actually spearheading actual change?
Long before #MeToo and #TimesUp, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) along with other major hip-hop names, boycotted the 1989 Grammy Awards following the Recording Academy’s decision to not televise its first-ever rap category win for Best Rap Performance. After hip-hop legends like Salt N Pepa and Russell Simmons joined in on the protest, the duo was invited the following year. Since then, the rap category and more have been a part of the Grammys’ televised ceremony (except in 2015).
Fast forward to the 2016 Academy Awards where Smith, along with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, skipped on attending the ceremony in protest of the lack of diversity in Oscar nominees. After #OscarsSoWhite became a trending topic and there was a visible absence of black actors at the 2016 Academy Awards, more men and women of color were admitted as voting members in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The following year, more actors and film projects starring people of color took home awards.
But what if we all followed in the footsteps of the Smiths and the many protesters before them? Wouldn’t skipping ceremonies like the Grammys make a bigger statement?
To stand against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry while still supporting its biggest events sends a shaky message of the movement being more about a visual representation of equality than about the actual steps towards changing the cause.
It sends the problematic message that although the entertainment industry is willing to wave its pretty white flag and agree that sexual assault and the abuse of power against women is wrong, we still are not willing to compromise our shiny trophies and designer dresses to truly stand with those that have been subjected to abuse in this industry.
Protests are not meant to be safe. The acts that changed the course of our society required sacrifice from those that chose to stand firmly behind the cause. The film and music industries could stand to do better in its effort to protect its women from sexual harassment. Changing industry hiring practices, for example, and holding accountability amongst high-powered male executives could also be effective. Hiring more women executives is a start.
Let’s hope that these movements continue to move forward to make an impactful and visible mark that can be seen in not only the film and music industries, but also our society.