On Friday, at the Variety Power of Women event, where Blake Lively was being honoured alongside Chelsea Clinton, Gayle King, Shari Redstone, Audra McDonald, and Jessica Chastain, Blake “popped off” when a reporter asked what her “go-to power outfit” was. Get it? Power of Women? Power outfit? Maybe it’s not the most original question, but does that make it an offensive question? Evidently Blake found it offensive enough to lecture the reporter – a moment that was recorded and then posted on Twitter resulting in all kinds of people applauding Blake for shutting down sexism, because, as she said, “Would you ask a man that question?”
I have written many times about the asking of that question and my frustration with the celebrity reaction to it, most recently back in March, when The Hollywood Reporter published its annual list of the Most POWERFUL Stylists. There’s that word: Power. More and more in Hollywood, fashion is power – specifically a power that heavily favours FEMALE celebrities.
Blake Lively is the co-lead topic on this week’s episode of Show Your Work, which will be posted this afternoon. Duana and I discuss Blake’s response to the fashion question at the Variety Power of Women event and whether or not it was a Show Your Work moment. We recorded on Friday evening, just after the story broke and after we’d been texting about it while we were modifying the rundown, editing the topics so that we could move Blake into the order. What I always admire about Duana is the way she can find the perfect way to describe a given situation. It also makes me crazy because I often wish I had described it that way myself. But here was her initial assessment about Blake “popping off” at the fashion question:
“She doesn’t know what she’s reacting to. Just that she’s supposed to/allowed to be indignant and ‘important’”.
Exactly. What happened was more a case of “I think maybe this might be sort of kind of sexist? So I think I should maybe be offended by it?” Do you think it’s sexist? Or do you KNOW it’s sexist? Is it sexist?
A man would not have been asked that question, it’s true. Because the male body is not political. The female body, and by extension what she CHOOSES to put on it, has always been political. It was political when women started wearing pants. It’s still political when a teen girl isn’t allowed to get on an airplane because she’s wearing leggings. It’s definitely f-cking political every time a girl is sent home from school for wearing something that might be “distracting” to boys and when a women is asked by the police or a judge why she was wearing what she was wearing when a man decided to sexually assault her.
Blake Lively, fashion, politics, and power – all of that was on my mind this weekend while I was re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale ahead of the series premiere this week (on Hulu in the US on Wednesday, April 26 and in Canada on Bravo on Sunday, April 30). In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood imagines (predicts?) a future America in which women have become lower class citizens and ranked by importance based on their ability to bear children. All women are made to dress according to their rank. All women dress modestly. The Handmaids wear red, all covered up, even their faces under a bonnet so that their virtue can be protected, because they are the ones promised to certain men for sex and, hopefully, pregnancy. The Marthas are the servants. They wear green. They’re no longer sexually useful but they can be relied upon to cook and clean. You get the point. Clothing is used as control. Clothing is one of the ways to limit the freedom of women. The Handmaid’s Tale may not be real but there was a real time, not too long ago, when women were not given a choice about what they wore. So, not only is women’s fashion political, when there’s a choice behind it (and Blake Lively would have had so many choices of outfits and would have put some thought into her choice of outfit for this event), it can also be POWERFUL, no matter where she is, from the classroom to the red carpet. More on Blake Lively on Show Your Work later today.
Yours in gossip,