Op-Ed: Reese Witherspoon's Push to #AskHerMore at the Oscars Was a Runaway Success
By Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Documentary filmmaker and actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom founded The Representation Project, a media advocacy group, in April 2011 to call out gender stereotypes. The #AskHerMore campaign, which the group spearheaded, tasked red-carpet interviewers to ask actresses more questions about acting and social causes rather than their fashion. Amy Poehler, Reese Witherspoon and Lena Dunham have been vocal about their support. Newsom, who is behind the 2011 doc Miss Representation, is the wife of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
"We’re more than just our dresses." What a powerful statement for Reese Witherspoon to make on the Oscars red carpet Sunday. Don’t get us wrong, my friend Reese and I both love fashion and want to celebrate the amazing designers who make red carpet couture. But the Oscars are a celebration of the highest achievements in film and that's where the focus should be, regardless of the nominee's gender.
Aiming to change the sexist tone of the red carpet, we at The Representation Project created the #AskHerMore movement to encourage and celebrate reporters who ask the women of Hollywood about more than just their appearance. And thanks to Reese and somany other wonderful ambassadors, #AskHerMore has become a runaway success.
It's been an amazing journey getting to this point. In 2011, I premiered my first documentary, Miss Representation, which looks at the ways mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As I traveled the world with the film, I saw how many people were tired of the media emphasizing women’s looks while ignoring our character, contributions, and creativity.
As a filmmaker and former actress, I've had the fortune of attending red carpet events. It can be an incredibly uncomfortable and unnerving experience, especially when the billion-dollar entertainment industry that employs you is partially propped up by, and certainly profiting from, the objectification of women like you and me.
Despite these hurdles, we have seen an increasing number of brave women stand up as #AskHerMore has gained traction. Reese shined both before the Oscars with her #AskHerMore social media posts and on the red carpet with her poignant summary of why this work is so important. Online, we were joined by other fearless leaders like Shonda Rhimes, Lena Dunham, Maria Shriver, and Gloria Steinem. So many people joined us that we got the #AskHerMore hashtag to trend on both Facebook and Twitter, creating more than 25 million impressions in a single night.
Red carpet reporters also took notice and asked some great questions. Thanks Nancy O’Dell and Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight -- your multi-faceted questions are proof that we're changing the culture on the red carpet and beyond.
Let's keep up this momentum! We at The Representation Project will keep tweeting awards shows and demanding equal treatment, respect, and representation foreveryone. Join us by taking the pledge at therepresentationproject.org and you'll receive ongoing support and inspiration. Together, we’ll challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes, so that everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation or circumstance can fulfill their human potential.