We Want Awards Season Presenters to #AskHerMore. But How Much Is Too Much?

We Want Awards Season Presenters to #AskHerMore. But How Much Is Too Much?

On January 10th, the 73rd Annual Golden Globes will be broadcast at 5pm PST/8pm EST from the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. But a few hours before that, the red carpet shows will begin. The red carpet has been deemed a controversial place to be, especially in the last year, as social justice and feminism have found a place on the internet. Last awards season, Amy Poehler’s organization Smart Girls created the hashtag #SmartGirlsAsk and asked people on social media to share what questions they think women should be asked on the carpet. Jennifer Siebel Newsom created the #AskHerMore campaign, which has been backed up by celebrities like Reese Witherspoon.

Why the change? Up until now, red carpet interviews with female celebrities have revolved around one question: Who are you wearing?

Recently, reporters have been criticized for asking women who designed their gowns and nothing else. They have been accused of asking them shallow questions about their appearance, their workout regimen, or how little they had to eat in order to look fit for their films instead of more substantive ones. The above campaigns were created in an effort to convince reporters to ask in-depth questions about the actresses’ work, process, and the industry.

As someone whose lifelong dream has been to be one of those reporters talking to celebrities on the red carpet, this attack on red carpet reporters hits home. The entertainment news industry is already the butt of everyone’s jokes, being called unprofessional and constantly being accused of fabrication. Unfortunately, there is a percentage of reporters who put their feet in their mouths often (see: Reporter who told Rashida Jones, who is biracial, how “tan” she looked on the 2015 Screen Actors Guild Award red carpet). But criticizing the reporters is a one-sided move, considering that there are front-running reporters, such as Ryan Seacrest and Robin Roberts, who act professionally while still asking about fashion.

But can anyone win? In 2010, Seacrest avoided asking anyone who they were wearing and received backlash when fashion enthusiasts who claimed that the red carpet is about fashion. And they weren’t wrong. The gowns and suits featured at awards shows are a big deal. It isn’t as if actors and actresses go to their local mall and pick up clothing made in bulk. A lot of this fashion is made for them and costs a lot, and designers rely on red carpet events to make their work seen. The fashion industry is its own business and ignoring it on the red carpet isn’t fair to designers who work hard year-round to create these looks. If fashion weren’t a part of awards shows, there wouldn’t even be red carpet shows. Red carpet pre-shows balance the careers of the actors and actresses, the designers, and the reporters. (

And in a talk of double standards, it isn’t as if people like Seacrest aren’t asking the men who designed their suits.)

While celebrities like Witherspoon and Poehler are behind the movement to ask questions that do not revolve around a dress, how much is too much? When the Smart Girls Twitter account tweeted asking what the women at the Emmys red carpet should be asked, even Hillary Clinton reached out with, “Love this idea, @smrtgrls. If you were president, what’s the first thing you would do? #SmartGirlsAsk” Are questions like this a little too heavy? Do they not deserve more time to be thought about? Asking something that involves a lot of thought can catch a celebrity off guard, lead to an awkward silence, and might result in an answer that isn’t as well thought out simply because she wanted to answer the question. This, in return, can lead to more backlash in case somebody says something and later regrets it. This is then unfair to the speaker who may have great ideas but was not expecting to have to share them half an hour before waiting to find out if she won an Oscar.

It is easier to recite the name of a dress designer, make a few jokes nobody will remember, and move on to the next interview.

Here’s another thing to consider: Each celebrity interview on the red carpet lasts about 90 seconds in order to make sure there’s enough time to talk to every nominee, presenter, and the host(s). The celebrities themselves are being moved from reporter to reporter to conduct these mini-interviews. The red carpet isn’t necessarily the place where real conversations can logically happen.

It is no secret that reporters need to be more sensitive about what they say to actors and actresses. This requires being more educated about a person. For example, knowing Rashida Jones was biracial would have saved that reporter a lot of embarrassment. It is not to say that women should not be asked interesting questions on the red carpet or that they should only be asked about fashion. It is possible to have both sides without reaching extremes. Instead of asking a woman solely about her appearance, simply ask about her designer to satisfy the fashion buffs watching. Instead of asking her how she plans to tackle the wage gap between actors and actresses, perhaps ask about upcoming projects. This way, the conversation remains Hollywood-themed and she is able to talk about herself and her interests with little pressure.

An even better solution would be to channel the #AskHerMore energy towards what is asked during publicity interviews, in which there is a lot more time to sit down and talk about a role and an actress’s process without a focus on clothing. Luckily, this has already started being done. Cosmopolitan UK sat down with Scarlett Johanssen and Mark Ruffalo during promotions for Avengers: Age of Ultron and directed all the questions about looks and appearance at Ruffalo while asking Johanssen about her character and stunt training. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart turned the tables on each other and asked each other questions the other would normally get. This led Eisenberg to the realization that during interviews men are asked about deeper things while women are asked a lot of invasive questions about their personal lives (and not necessarily the film they’re promoting).

In a setting where the interviewer and interviewee(s) have a chance to sit down and have a conversation, where is the excuse then?

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.