"Who are you wearing?" It's the age-old (or at least, decades old) iconic question of red carpet. And it's become something of a problem.
At the Oscars this weekend, reporters will flock to the red carpet to say hello to the world's biggest movie stars, and, inevitably, someone will say it: "You look great! You must have really prepared to wear this dress." It seems innocent, and it can take many forms: it can be the diet question, or the workout question. How long did it take you to get ready today?
While it's fine to give a compliment, far too many women are recognized for how lovely they look on the carpet, as opposed to the work and talent that landed them at the Oscars in the first place.
#AskHerMore is a social initiative launched by the Representation Project and supported by Smart Girls at the Party, Amy Poehler's female empowerment group, encouraging critical thinking and treating female celebrities as the talented people they are, as opposed to a body to display designer duds.
Alee-a Blanco, a representative for Smart Girls, chatted with MTV News about what women should be asked on the red carpet, and what you can do at home to support #AskHerMore.
Take a good hard look at your questions.
Reporters should avoid "generally anything that somebody wouldn't ask a man," Blanco said. "Like 'how long did it take you to get ready?' or 'what was your diet plan before this event?', 'are you hiding a baby bump?' 'You look so good, how did you get in shape after having a baby?' We rarely hear men being asked how do you balance career and family."
For example, Jennifer Garner recently recalled comparing notes with husband Ben Affleck after a junket. While every reporter had asked her about balancing working life and her family, not one had asked Affleck. "And we do share the same family. Isn’t it kind of time to change that conversation?" she said. "For the record, he’s not on diaper duty tonight. He’s working."
Ask about what's inside, not just what's outside.
Blanco didn't have any shortage of questions when asked what she wishes she heard women asked more often: "'What feeds your soul? What does your character teach you and how did you overcome a day when you didn't feel it? How do you break through that hurdle? Ask about what they're reading, what they're interested in, or ask specific questions highlighting really great charity work." Reese Witherspoon could talk about her production company instead of her dress, and Kerry Washington's work spreading awareness of financial abuse is far more interesting than her post-baby body.
Don't be a downer, just be considerate.
It's still totally OK to have fun! We wouldn't have awards shows and red carpets in the first place if we didn't want to have a good time seeing some of our favorite make-believe friends in their Sunday finest.
"I think it's fine to ask who are you wearing and all of that, but I think it just becomes a problem when it's the only question that's being asked," Blanco said. "We can talk about these things and we can ask what makes you feel beautiful and how are you expressing your personal style in what you're wearing. It's about how the actor feels in the item and what makes them feel their best. ... I think there's just a better way to ask these questions without being sexist and without doing full body pans of a woman."
Spread the word.
Here's where you come in. While not everyone will have a pass to this weekend's red carpet, social media is a great way to spread awareness of the #AskHerMore initiative. Smart Girls will be livetweeting the night, and invites Twitter users to join in highlighting great moments of the show. Blanco also encouraged people to remember that taking the sexism out of celebrity is an ongoing process.
"Just continue to have the discussion," she said. "It's so easy to get wrapped up in it and let it be done once the night is over and the [awards] season is over. We see these kinds of questions not just during awards season. It's something that we can continue to talk about even when the event is over. For example, when Elena Serova, the first Russian cosmonaut in 20 years went into space, she was asked at a press conference about hair and makeup tips in space and how she would deal with that. Her male colleague was asked all of the cool questions."