Why Didn’t Men Speak Up at the Golden Globes?

Two FASHION staffers discuss the absence of male voices at the awards show

The ranks here at FASHION are not filled with men. Shocking, right? But there are one or two (there are actually, literally, two). Naturally, when a question about male behaviour arises it’s only fair that one of them stand in for the members of his gender and provide some insight. Today, we have some concerns about men and the Golden Globes. Two of our staffers—from the men’s corner, Greg Hudson, and from the women’s, Pahull Bains—talk it out.

Pahull Bains: As the E! red carpet interviews went on and on—as celebrities arrived, some arm-in-arm with women’s rights activists; as every actress was asked why she was wearing black that night; as men stood tall in their crisp black tuxedos, silver Time’s Up pins glinting on several lapels—I waited. Waited for someone besides a woman to be asked about the climate and culture of abuse that’s largely driven by men. That moment never came. Was it too much to expect the men of Hollywood—some of whom were quick to make dismayed statements when the Weinstein news broke—to stand in solidarity with women, their colleagues, their friends, their peers? Or, actually, they did stand in solidarity. The problem was that’s all they did. Why didn’t any of them speak up?

Greg Hudson: First of all, hopefully this is the kind of mansplaining that isn’t hugely patronizing and gross in that I’ll try to explain men. But, if I do border on the other kind of mansplaining, let me know.

On the one hand, of course the men at the Golden Globes—other than Seth Meyers—should have used their time to say something in solidarity with the movement. It’s impossible for any marginalized group to achieve true equality without the support of allies within the power structure. And we’ve seen, especially in this particular situation surrounding sexual misconduct, how silence can look a lot like complicity. Part of the problem leading up to this moment was that men who knew or saw what was happening, didn’t say enough—or anything at all.

While I’m suspicious of this excuse, since it seems to make women responsible for men’s actions, I think some of those men at the Golden Globes would argue that they didn’t say anything because they felt it wasn’t their place to. Either because they didn’t want to make it about them by broadcasting their woke-ness, or because they worried they’d say something wrong and get in trouble for it, the men probably assumed it was best to let the women do all the talking.

After all, hasn’t that been one of the main messages to men, that it’s time—like Oprah said—to choose to listen?

PB: Absolutely. One thing that’s come out of this is men realizing that they need to pay more attention, to listen, to keep an eye out for questionable power and gender dynamics in their workplace—but another thing that’s come out of this is that men do need to speak up. A Twitter movement that sprung up—and then died out—in the immediate aftermath of #MeToo was #HowIWillChange, led by men who promised to make changes in their own behaviour going forward, which I think is equally, if not more, important. We need to have change on both sides. Women can talk till they’re blue in the face about how the power structure needs to change and men need to be held accountable, but until men, as allies, pipe up too, it’ll all be for naught. We can’t carry the weight of this gargantuan movement on our own.

And I think what bothered me the most was the men who donned Time’s Up pins for the ceremony, which are, ostensibly, a sign of unequivocal support for the movement. You can’t throw on the symbol of a movement, and then not follow through with your words and actions in actual support of said movement. Ira Madison III, an entertainment writer for The Daily Beast, pointed out the hypocrisy of Justin Timberlake’s tone-deaf pre-Globes tweet—a selfie of him and Jessica Biel with the caption “Here we come!! And DAMN, my wife is hot! #TIMESUP #whywewearblack”—with a blistering response: “If #TimesUp why were you in a Woody Allen film”.

All the big winners of the night—Ewan McGregor, Alexander Skarsgard, Gary Oldman, James Franco—wore Time’s Up pins. But if they didn’t plan on uttering a single word in support of women, or in acknowledgement of the underbelly of their industry and the wave of reckoning wrought by the Weinstein news, well, they should’ve just stuck to ambiguous black suits and left it at that. Why take that extra step to don the pin if, at the end of the day, it’s seemingly just an empty symbol to you? It all just rang a bit too hollow for me.

GH: I was just having lunch with a friend of mine, and—as men are wont to do—we were discussing this exact thing. We tried to imagine what we would say if we had won a Golden Globe. And while I don’t think it’s impossible to come up with an appropriate statement, it was difficult to imagine—unless the work you were nominated for specifically addressed gender roles (Alexander Skarsgard, we’re looking at you)—saying something supportive without it seeming performative. But, just because it would be difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have happened.

Although you bring up another reason why I think men shied away from saying anything. It can seem dangerous to say anything unless you have been perfect. It would be great if everyone stopped working with Woody Allen as soon as his sordid history came to light, but for whatever reason that hasn’t been the case. Now, I’m not here to litigate Woody Allen (though I wish someone would, like, professionally), but how does calling out Timberlake, when he was trying to show Twitter support for his wife and the cause, help? James Franco wore a pin, too, which opened him up to accusations on Twitter of sexual misconduct in his past.

A lot of these men haven’t been perfect—they’ve been celebrities, used to getting what they want and not being held accountable for missteps. That doesn’t excuse criminal behaviour, but one of the difficult aspects of this reckoning has been the notion, whether by omission or commission, that all misconduct is equally severe. Not all dumb, sexist things are as heinous as what Weinstein, or Toback, or Spacey allegedly did. So if you know you’ve done questionable, though not illegal, things, or even if you aren’t sure you have, it’s better to stay silent than be discovered as a hypocrite. Just stay quiet and let your pin do the talking.

PB: But that’s precisely why the #HowIWillChange “movement” could have led to something really great—it was a chance for men to reflect, introspect, and reconsider their own past behaviour and actions. Of course no one’s perfect! But the only way to make amends and move forward is by admitting—or at least facing—where we might have gone wrong. Overall, men’s reactions to the #MeToo posts on Facebook and Twitter led me to believe that this was a bit of a revelation for many—a newfound awareness of what women face on a daily basis, and the realization that their own behaviour in certain situations might have been, if not criminal by a long shot, still problematic, and might have compounded the problem rather than lessen it. I don’t think Hollywood’s men needed to make grandiose, hyperbolic statements at the Globes. And I’m sure very few—if any—of them would be above reproach, like you said, for varying reasons. But just acknowledging that this tidal wave of awareness had made them rethink their own actions—however small and seemingly meaningless, perhaps an errant comment—and encouraged them to be better allies, confidantes and, well, human beings, would have been a major step in the right direction.

GH: Yeah, that seems right. An acknowledgment, at the very least, would have been good. I don’t know if it would have made the statement any more powerful, but it would have been a good example to the boys watching at home (and, yes, of course there were little boys watching at home; I never watched the Golden Globes as a kid, but I was religious about the Oscars) if, say, The Rock, or Thor, or Ron Howard (because what little boy doesn’t idolize Ron Howard) had shown humility and grace by praising and supporting the women they all work with. I don’t necessarily think it was right that men didn’t say anything. These are just my theories why. I don’t think it was a thoughtless, insensitive accident, but it certainly was a pretty powerful missed opportunity.

#HowIWillChange is that when I pick up my EGOT—which I will be getting all at once—I will definitely say something. But, I should probably say something before that, too.