So Tell Us, Who Are You Wearing?

While sexism in the workplace is visible across the board, one place where it has been in the limelight is in the case of Hollywood actors. From how accomplished women are addressed, to opportunities they receive, and even their own personal safety—female actresses deal with sexism in many areas of the workplace.

One area where we see sexism take place is on the red carpet. Growing up, award season was always a big deal for my mom and I. We would watch every one—the Oscars, the Emmys, The Golden Globes, and the The Screen Actors Guild Awards. We would always tune in about two hours before the award show to watch the red carpet coverage. During this time, news outlets stand on the side of the carpet and interview celebrities as they enter the show. Even when I was young, I noticed the stark difference between the questions asked of men and the questions asked of women. Women were predominantly asked questions regarding their appearance at the event, such as “Who are you wearing?” (meaning who designed your dress and jewelry), and, “What inspired your look tonight”, followed by comments about how beautiful they looked. Men on the other hand, are usually professional questions such as how confident they are that they will win in the category of their nomination, and what inspired their performance in the film.  These variances come from something  called benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism is defined as involving, “the attribution of typically positive traits or qualities, “ (Schneider 2012). While this may seem like a positive thing, benevolent sexism actually has negative effects. “The attributions associated with benevolent sexism, even though they sound positive, are derived from stereotypes that see women in limited ways and often stem from a male-centered perspective” (Schneider 2012).  So while the interviewers may seemingly be complimenting the female actors, the difference in how they question them actually represents sexism and underlying stereotypes because it puts women in the limited light of value based on appearance rather than value based on merit, like male actors.

Some sexism in Hollywood also takes more obvious forms, such as the opportunities allotted to women vs. men. Even though there has been some progress what roles are given to women representations are still problematic. “Female characters may no longer be tied to train-tracks and rescued by mustachioed heroes, but they still tend to be stereotyped and marginalized. Male actors do most of the talking; women are far likelier to take their clothes off” (The Economist 2016). In addition to less talking time on screen and sexual objectification, women are also less likely to be portrayed as an action hero. “Although women account for half of cinema-ticket sales in North America, for example, executives were so convinced that female-led action flicks were a turn-off that they hardly made any” (The Economist 2018). This denial of equal opportunities is a result of hostile sexism.  Hostile sexism can be defined as, “negative expressions or behaviors that reflect negative attitudes towards women” (Schneider 2012). So because negative attitudes about women’s abilities lead them to be given less quality roles, it is clear that women face hostile sexism in the workplace. Additionally, sexual misconduct in Hollywood suggest the existence of hostile sexism. The Times Up Movement has recently taken place in response to this problem, with many women in the industry coming forward with stories of being harnessed by male actors and directors.

With both of these forms of sexism coexisting, where women are praised for their beauty yet deprived of equal opportunity, Hollywood’s over all culture of sexism can be described as ambivalent. Ambivalent sexism is defined as when people hold both hostile and benevolent attitudes simultaneously (Schneider 2012). I have multiple suggestions for how this ambivalent sexism should be remedied. First of all, men and women should be addressed with the same questions as men when interviewed publicly on the red carpet. Secondly, leading female roles should be given as much verbal dialogue as their male counterparts. And finally, men in the industry should be held accountable for their sexual misconduct, and women who bring it to light should be believed rather than shamed. 



#MeToo, part two; Sexism in Hollywood.” The Economist, 3 Mar. 2018, p. 12(US). Global Issues in Context, Accessed 30 Sept. 2018.

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

1 comment

  1. Hi!

    You’ve made some great points and I agree with you. I do think that things are changing in Hollywood and that’s thanks to things like the Me Too movement. Women were inspired by other women who have come forward and then we got such movements. Now everyone is participating and doing their part. It always starts with that one brave soul who decides to speak their truth, then ends up motivating and inspiring others to do so as well. When it comes to movies, for example, I have noticed a change as well but salaries don’t seem to have changed much. Of course it’s all an improvement from how it used to be, but according to an actress friend of mine, things are far from perfect. Salaries are still not fair and need a change. Why that hasn’t changed much by now is beyond me. Overall, wonderful post!


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