From black blocs and Black Lives Matter to Victorian mourning, the Golden Globes protest played on a rich sartorial historyby Johanna Thomas-Corr / January 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
Listening to the news on Monday morning, I wondered if we had slipped overnight into Naomi Alderman’s feminist sci-fi novel, The Power. There was a rare thematic unity to the items on the 8 o’clock news: the resignation of the BBC’s own China editor over gender pay disparities; the news that women are at risk of undiagnosed heart attacks; and, top of the agenda, the Golden Globes. It’s usually treated as the “fun” item. This time the male newsreader sounded like he was announcing a natural disaster.
There was a hurricane-like force to Oprah Winfrey using the occasion to call time on “brutally powerful men.” Leading the way with four awards was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a film about violence against women. Stars turned up clothed uniformly in black. Black was the palate and black was the mood, as the film industry’s award season played out in the long shadow of Harvey Weinstein.
Of course, there have been plenty of hashtaggable cause celebres in Hollywood (#OscarsSoWhite, #AskHerMore) but it’s hard to remember such a widely co-ordinated campaign as #whywewearblack—one that put any issue before froth, fantasia and designer name-dropping.
Some have questioned whether it reflects the richness and scope of women’s experiences. Doesn’t wearing black make a woman even more invisible? “[It’s]a feeble form of protest,” complained the Washington Post’s fashion editor, Robin Givhan this week. “Why choose a kind of full-body uniform that drains women of their individuality and paints the issue at hand with a single, nuance-free stroke?”
But the optics were simple and effective. Black is serious and strong, and on the red carpet, it matched with the men’s tuxedos, flattening out differences at an event where women have always been made into fetish objects.
When worn by large numbers of people, black is also intimidating, with connotations of hard-left anarchist groups in “black blocs,” whose uniformity makes them harder to pick them out on CCTV. No one at the Globes got out of their limos in bandanas or ski masks, but the “blackout” did signal grief, power and dissent.
The Black Panthers chose black berets during the 1960s as a foil to the military’s army green ones. Today, members of the Black Lives Matter movement carry out many of their protests clothed in black.