If Sunday's Golden Globes tell us anything, it's that our culture is experiencing somewhat of a feminist moment in Hollywood.
The "where do you stand on feminism" question has become standard fare for women in entertainment. They may not be the go-to resources on the subject, but the fact that the question keeps getting asked, and the interviews keep getting attention, signals that feminism is ever more prominently on the cultural radar.
Given the Golden Globe co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are unabashed feminists, it’s no surprise that their opening monologue poked fun at some good old-fashioned Hollywood sexism. For instance: “Patricia Arquette is here,” they announced, before adding, "Boyhood proves that there are still great roles for women over 40, as long as you get hired when you are under 40.” Fey also riffed on the ridiculousness of Barbara Walter's recent naming of Amal Clooney as the most "fascinating person of the year” primarily due to her husband being George Clooney: “Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award."
But the feminist theme was not just in the co-hosts prepared remarks, it also resounded in many of the planned and unplanned acceptance speeches—making the feminist moment palpable not just in the Beverly Hills Hotel ballroom, but in living rooms across America. Contrary to the negative stereotypes of feminism as militant or frigid, it made for a light-hearted, humorous, and refreshing evening.
Consider the acceptance speech of Maggie Gyllenhaal. After receiving a Golden Globe for her role in The Honourable Woman, she took the opportunity to comment on “the wealth of roles for powerful women in television lately," but not from the one-dimensional view you'd expect. "When I look around the room of the women who are in here, and I think about the performances I’ve watched this year," she said, "what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not. Sometimes sexy and sometimes not. Sometimes honorable and sometimes not. And what I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That’s what I think is revolutionary,” she continued, before thanking the many “wonderfully complicated women” in her life, starting with her mom.
Gyllenhaal's words strike to the heart of what many women want to see. It's about showing women realistically—not perpetuating false ideas of what women should look like or be like.
The idea that motherhood is not only a reality for many women but is a positive thing has been gaining steam in pop culture over the past few years—from the nursing-mom selfie trends, to the mom-and-child fashion spreads in Vogue. This same empowering vibe was evident when Patricia Arquette, who won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood, expressed gratitude “especially to my kids who I love and respect with all my heart. My favorite role in my whole life has been being your mom."
Michael Keaton, who won for his lead role in Birdman, gave a heart-warming speech with familial notes as well. Mentioning his parents by name, the actor expressed equal respect for his father who taught him work ethic, as his mother who he said was always "going to Mass and praying rosaries" and busy taking care of her seven children. I must say it's refreshing to hear a mother of multiple children mentioned in Hollywood—and not with the "poor woman" condescension, but with a tone of recognition and gratitude for the difference she made.
Feminism, at its most basic definition, calls for women to have the same equal rights and opportunities as men. That fundamental view of feminism is just as important now as ever. But, as the conversations from Sunday's Golden Globes reveal, it's also more than that. It's acknowledging that women, while deserving of equal opportunities as men, are not the same as men.
Women are complex, and our feminine traits are not weakness or flaws. Traits like the ability to age and have it change your appearance. Or the ability to have children and the option to stay at home with them if you wish, or continue to work with equal rights and opportunities as our male peers. These are realities that women everywhere experience, and that Hollywood has the unique ability to hold up as good through compelling stories (and award speeches).
I hope this conversation continues, and that more complex roles for women become prominent in mainstream entertainment. Then we’ll get to hear more from women like Gina Rodriquez, who won for her lead role in the TV show Jane the Virgin. “My father used to tell me to say every morning, ‘Today’s going to be a great day, and I can, and I will. Well, daddy, today is a great day. I can, and I did."
From where I'm sitting it looks like we are entering a new era for women in Hollywood—one that promises to show women in all their complexities, strengths, and weaknesses, for a world that’s watching.