The world of celebrities has always put emphasis not just on talent but on appearance, particularly that of female celebrities. As such, it’s unsurprising that famous ladies often have to endure blatant sexism in their day-to-day lives, especially during those interviews which follow the tried and tested format of “how did you get into shape for your latest role?” or “what will you be wearing on the red carpet?”, while their male counterparts enjoy questions about the complexities of their roles, or at least get to answer on something other than how they look.
However, it seems a revolution is beginning: female celebrities appear to have had enough of this treatment, and are fighting back by calling out the press on its objectification of women. This backlash seems to be working — the controversial Mani Cam, designed for women to showcase their nails and jewellery at red carpet events, was notably absent at this year’s Oscars. This article lists ten celebs who are taking part in the fight against sexism, in their great responses to sexist situations.
Late in 2014, Rihanna launched a perfume named ‘Rogue Man’. The launch, in Atlanta, saw Rihanna welcoming a large crowd of fans, and for a time the interviews seemed to be going well: the singer answered questions about the different components of the scent and noted her long-time ambition to create a male fragrance.
One bumbling interviewer saw the tone change, however: when Rihanna was asked “what are you looking for in a man now?”, her response to the sexist and irrelevant question was light-hearted but definitive — she shut the interviewer down with a pithy “I’m not looking for a man, let’s start there.”
9. Scarlett Johansson
In a 2012 interview, Scarlett Johansson was asked a question so sexist that it crossed the line from boring and insulting to downright creepy. Regarding the skin-tight costume worn by Johansson when in character as the Black Widow, interviewer Jerry Penacoli asked whether she was “able to wear undergarments” underneath.
Penacoli ignored Johansson’s evasive response to the weird question, which happily gave the actress an opportunity to shine: she pointed out that he had in fact essentially asked her whether she is wearing underwear in the films, and backed him into a corner when he revealed that he had even asked Joss Whedon, the director, about the matter. Johansson’s “what kind of interview is this?!” sums up the reaction of the general public to such blatant and even scary sexism.
8. Julianne Moore
The Mani Cam, a brainchild of E!, has recently become a derided feature amongst many female celebs. The feature, consisting of a miniature replica of the red carpet which celebrities ‘walk’ their fingers down to show off their manicures, rings and bracelets, was interesting as a novelty — when it first came about in 2012, many celebs were amused and willing to give it a go.
However, recently it has become notably unpopular, and at this year’s SAG Awards Julianne Moore summed up the general opinion when asked to let her hands take a turn down the red carpet: with a laugh, Moore rejected the idea, saying “no, I’m not doing that […] I’m not doing it!”. She later deemed the Mani Cam “humiliating” in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.
7. Fifth Harmony
Fifth Harmony is a girl band formed by Simon Cowell on the US X Factor, during its second season. The young women dealt brilliantly with sticky questions about what girls ‘should’ wear during an interview at the 2014 American Music Awards, saying that “[they] as women are not in a position to be telling other women what to do and what to not do”.
Just recently, the group responded in similarly capable fashion to a dubious statement taken from an interview with British pop group The Vamps, which said that their whole group had “had a go” at Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui (they have since clarified that they meant have a go at flirting with her). Fifth Harmony sprang to Jauregui’s defence on Twitter, with a particularly snappy tweet from band member Camila Cabello noting that “the amount of sexism and immaturity is astounding.”
6. Taylor Swift
Over the past year, Taylor Swift has moved away from the image of wholesome country-pop singer. The release of the single “Shake It Off” last year — from Swift’s hit album 1989 — was widely viewed as direct attack on her media portrayal as the perpetually heartbroken girl who blames other women for stealing her man.
Swift is all too aware that this image is still prevalent amongst her critics, though, and fought back during an interview with an Australian radio show in October of last year. The singer said of the criticism that she writes too much about her exes: “I think frankly that’s a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing songs about their exes […] no one raises the red flag there.”
5. Amal Clooney
Hugely successful human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin made headlines when she married actor George Clooney in September 2014. Her new status as wife of one of the world’s most eligible men means that she has been thrown into the world of high celebrity, and is under scrutiny for her every move, expression, and choice of outfit.
In January of this year, Clooney represented Armenia in her capacity as human rights lawyer in a case regarding the 1915 Armenian genocide. The courtroom, perhaps unsurprisingly, was swarmed by journalists and photographers attempting to get a glimpse of Clooney, who had the perfect response to the Telegraph‘s question of what she was wearing: she replied that she was sporting Ede & Ravenscroft, a famous company which produces legal robes, thus firmly reminding the press that she was there as a lawyer, not to be objectified.
4. Jennifer Garner
At an Elle Women in Hollywood event in October of 2014, actress and producer Jennifer Garner gave a heartfelt speech on the ways in which she personally experiences sexism, particularly notable in opposition to her husband Ben Affleck. In one of the speech’s most hard-hitting points, she noted the different questions she and her husband get asked at interviews.
Garner had been asked repeatedly that night how she balances work and the couple’s children, while Affleck was questioned solely about his latest film. She then astutely pointed out that “as for work-life balance, [Affleck] said […] no one had ever asked him about it. And we do share the same family. Isn’t it time to kinda change that conversation?”
3. Emma Stone
While the main focus surrounding recently-split Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield at the moment is whether or not they will reconcile, the couple came under public scrutiny for another reason in 2014, when Stone called out Garfield for a questionable remark.
The actress was not afraid to challenge Garfield’s thoughtlessly sexist answer on how Spider-Man got his suit at a kids’ Q&A about the movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Garfield had told a child that the superhero “sewed it […] It’s kind of a feminine thing to do.” Stone immediately asked how sewing was feminine, and was undeterred by Garfield’s “it’s amazing how you took that as an insult”, eventually forcing him to backtrack.
2. Mark Ruffalo ft. Scarlett Johansson
As a wild card (and since the situation does directly involve a woman — Scarlett Johansson once again, as a matter of fact), actor Mark Ruffalo is included on this list for his brilliant participation in a joint interview with Johansson.
In April 2015, an interview about the new Avengers: Age of Ultron with Cosmopolitan UK saw the interviewer flip the usual format of questions, asking Johansson how many of her character’s impressive stunts she does herself, and getting a brilliantly game Ruffalo to answer detailed questions about what he would be wearing to the premiere and how he got in shape for his role. Directing the typically ‘female’ questions to Ruffalo saw him answer with amusement and — understandably — some boredom.
1. Emma Watson
As Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, actress Emma Watson has the perfect platform to vocalise her views on feminism and sexism. In a 2014 speech at the United Nations, Watson put forward her movement He for She, which works towards worldwide gender equality. Watson presented it as a response to the sexism experienced by all women, and also to her own specific experiences of sexism, examples of which include her sexualization by the media when she was fourteen. She also cited the difficulties for men as a result of a sexist society, noting especially the mental health issues they often suffer because of their repressed emotions. As far as responses to sexism go, coming up with a counter movement and presenting it at the UN is possibly the best you could imagine.