With a lingering gaze which started at the bottom of her pink Givenchy gown, the camera swept upwards, inviting us to admire the curve of Cate Blanchett’s hips and breasts. Except, suddenly, the shot was punctured when she bent towards the camera and asked “Do you do that to the guys?”
Cate’s pointed question to the E! News camera crew has become the talking point of the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards 2014. With seven little words she went from being a Hollywood darling playing her part on the red carpet, to being the voice which called out the objectification of women by an entire industry.
Good on Cate Blanchett. Do camera crews film women and men in the same way on the red carpet? No, of course they don’t. And the difference is about far more than showing viewers the intricacies of a designer gown. Admittedly, there would be little interest in lengthy takes of similar-looking tuxedos – but what’s happening on the carpet isn’t just a filming of outfits.
Cameras are inviting us to take in every inch of the bodies of the women they film. We are asked to admire how their bums look in their dresses, to measure up how their hips look from the front and side, and of course – to assess their breasts as well. The cameras do none of this for the male superstars.
Hollywood stars undoubtedly expect scrutiny in an industry built on looks. Yet the blatant invitation to viewers to judge the figures on the red carpet should be called out. And so, Cate Blanchett did just that.
Her words won’t change anything. We will still demand to see our favourite actors in their beautiful dresses. We will still pour over their pictures and make comments on them. But, hopefully, Blanchett’s seven little words will force an initial whispering which will get louder. Hopefully her seven little words will prompt a questioning of a practise which blatantly objectifies talented women and asks the world to do it too.
One day, I hope to watch red carpet events such as these with my daughter. I know we will admire the sequinned dresses and sparkly handbags. I know we will gaze at perfect make-up and hairstyles and wonder if we can emulate the look ourselves. I know we will have our favourite outfits and shoes which we will dreamily lust over.
But I also hope we will be watching footage which doesn’t ask us to leer over the women on our screens. I hope we will be watching celebrities who are filmed for their talented work, and not for the shape of their busts in their gowns. I hope we will one day no longer be invited to pause our eyes on their hips and their cleavage. Their bodies are just that. Their bodies. No matter how public their roles, no matter how widely seen their films, their bodies are their’s alone.
I hope that one day, when my daughter and I watch the stars on the red carpet, we are allowed to do it without further objectifying the women who walk along it. I don’t want my daughter to judge those celebrities on their figures. I don’t want her to accept that it’s ok for the camera to almost caress the bodies of the stars on the screen and invite us to ogle over the footage. I want my daughter to know that a woman’s body is her own, no matter how she chooses to display it.
Well done Cate Blanchett, they were seven beautiful little words.