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I’m sure that is what many people thought (or even said) when Viola Davis made her acceptance speech at the 67th Prime-time Emmy Awards this past Sunday night as she walked away as the first African-American woman to win the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
What started all of this?
Was it Halle Berry in 2002, who is still the only black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress, who mentioned “…every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance tonight because this door has been opened” during her acceptance speech?
Or was it Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech earlier this year that demanded “wage equality once and for all” and now Voila Davis’ proclamation that “[t]he only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
Or is it simply the other countless speeches, articles and studies written each and every year about the lack of roles and opportunities for women in Hollywood.
But to Halle, Patricia and Viola, you won? Isn’t that enough? When you stand to accept an award, must every woman make some political statement about the plight of Hollywood and opportunities for women in this country?
The orchestra conductor need not worry about the length of this answer because it is short and sweet – yes.
The question is not “how dare she make these types of statements at such prestigious occasions?” The real question is “how can she not?”
How can she not when only 31% of speaking roles in films are given to women and only 23% of protagonists in film are women. And behind the camera on the tip top floors of the high rise buildings in the C-suites, film studio heads are 94% white and 100% percent male while television network and studio heads are 96% white and 71% male, as reported by the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report.
I’m sure Viola Davis would have preferred to stand in front of the Emmy audience and simply thank her family and friends for all of their support. I can only imagine how Patricia Arquette’s mind must have been racing as she walked up the stairs to accept her Academy Award asking herself over and over again if she would truly speak the words written on the note in her hand. But they did and they spoke for all of us, not Black women or Hispanic women or Asian women – women period. That is no small feat.
It is a complicated issue for which right now we are only armed with a simple solution: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and we won’t stop, we can’t stop until the playing field is leveled.
As happy as I am for Viola Davis’ award at the Emmys (and I am ecstatic), I am equally disturbed that in 2015 we are still experiencing these types of “firsts”. And for the millions of dollars we hear that actors are receiving everyday for numerous roles to know that the woman who is possibly standing right next to them in the movie/television promotion poster doesn’t make the same wage is mind-blowing.
So thank you Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Regina King, Patricia Arquette, Meryl Streep, Dame Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Kerry Washington, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Mindy Kaling, Geena Davis and many many others for having the courage to use “your time to shine” for us. Ladies, continue to squeak that wheel until, as Harriet Tubman stated, “we all can cross that ‘line’”.
“You should lose some weight”, “Girl, you need to gain some weight”, “Maybe heels will make you more attractive”, “Wow, you in heels, look like a towering giant”. Body shaming, it comes from direct criticism of your body or it can come as “friendly suggestions”. Any way it is said, it hurts and, as women, we tend to internalize our hurt and begin being ashamed of the way we look. Even worse, we perpetuate the cycle by continuing the criticism of others. Our society should focus on body-respecting.
No woman seems free of body shaming in today’s society. With social media’s outreach growing and Hollywood’s stardom becoming the main attraction, we see how even our greatest stars can suffer from body shame and body-critics. Instagram is now beginning to see a roll of “nude” celebrity women standing up for their own beautiful bodies. Kim Kardashian is putting out rumors of a surrogacy with her nude selfie, Naya Rivera also did a photo shoot where she poses nude with a fur stole holding her baby bump and Christina Aguilera does an Instagram post of her getting “personal” with her followers. Of course, there are supporters and then there are the naysayers. Yet these women are showing that their bodies, no matter the judgement of others, are beautiful!
Of course beautiful women are being body-shamed regardless of their shape, according to the media, the only perfect body type is no body-type. As seen when Serena Williams is called out for being too muscular in an article from Ben Rothenberg, who writes for The New York Times, “has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame”. Further insult happens when the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska is quoted to say,
“It’s our decision to keep her as the smallest player in the top 10,” said Tomasz Wiktorowski, the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska, who is listed at 5 feet 8 and 123 pounds. “Because, first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman.”
It is this mindset that a woman is only a woman if she is petite and feminine in every aspect of her life which makes being a woman difficult. In truth a woman can look or be any way that she chooses, just as a man can. Being athletic is not a crime, nor is being muscular. Yet it is not only the “muscular” women who are under attack. Claire Danes recently came out saying “I feel like my body is monitored” in an interview with People magazine. She goes on to say,
“I remember a couple of Emmys ago, Lena Dunham and I were on the carpet together. We were singled out and criticized for having different body types – I was too skinny and she was too big…She is a dear friend of mine, and it made me angry because this is just how we are.”
And our bodies are exactly that, just how they are. There is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing shameful about being a woman. In reality, we all look different and have different traits. These are not flaws or imperfections but simply differences in looks. Our Words, Wine and Women team all look different, have different personalities, styles and looks, but each one is beautiful, just like you, the reader are.
It is a hope of mine that one day women AND men everywhere no longer have to feel the stress and shame of not having that “photoshop perfect” body. Of being proud of the body they have and realizing they ARE beautiful as is. The way this hope becomes a reality is by each of us appreciating our own bodies and respecting those who have a different body. Body shaming should become body respecting and it starts with us!
This article originally appeared on examiner.com on May 20, 2015.
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