There’s nothing that screams 2018 feminism more than a bunch of celebrities holding hands on a red carpet. This year’s Cannes festival is the latest opportunity in a long string of awards ceremonies for the rich and famous to gain some brownie points.
If there were an awards ceremony for the most right-on awards ceremony (please no one take me up on that), Cannes might well win. This year’s tote bags contained a flier emblazoned with #NeRienLaisserPasser (or, roughly, don’t let anything happen). ‘Let’s not ruin the party’ it said in French, warning attendees to watch their behaviour. Along with this, there was a new Cannes sexual-harassment hotline, set up with the help of Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality. The New York Times reported that three women manned the phones until 2am every day. There has so far only been news of one complaint being taken to the police, but Schiappa defended the hotline by saying it was ‘important simply because it exists’.
After guests had a rummage in their bags, and familiarised themselves with French law on sexual harassment over a glass of prosecco, they were treated to a political protest on the red carpet. A group of 82 women walked the red carpet in solidarity, claiming to be making a statement about gender inequality in the movie business. Cate Blanchett, Salma Hayek and other scandalously underpaid and unappreciated Hollywood megastars stood, stony-faced, in front of hundreds of flashing cameras.
Then there were speeches. Melissa Silverstein, founder of the initiative Women and Hollywood, was one of the 82 women who came forward to speak. ‘When you add women – you add inclusion and diversity – it's just the way that women operate in the world, having been kind of marginalised for so many years’, she said, eloquently. 'We stand together on these steps today as a symbol of our determination to change and progress,’ Cate Blanchett stated. Blanchett has been making noise about how diverse this year’s Cannes is for weeks. Though you might expect that, as she is the president of the jury this year.
But the pièce de résistance, the most inspiring and dramatic moment of Cannes 2018, was undoubtedly Kristen Stewart’s protest on the red carpet. Some of you may remember the appalling scandal of 2015 when festival goers were turned away from a screening for wearing rhinestone flats. This caused international outrage, with celebrities condemning the dress code of heels for women. Quite clearly the pain and anger hasn’t died down after three years, and Stewart decided to make a stand for women everywhere. On the red carpet for the screening of Spike Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman, Stewart actually removed her Christian Louboutin heels, with her own hands, and walked barefoot. In the rain. On her own (well, under the shield of an umbrella held for her by a man).
This year’s Cannes is a perfect wake-up call to anyone celebrating the #MeToo or #TimesUp celebrity movements. These star-studded shows of solidarity are nothing more than photo opportunities and embarrassing pleas for attention. Is this what feminism calls as a win – a grossly overpaid and overrated actress deciding to walk barefoot? Louboutins cost around £500 – far more than most women make in a week; if Stewart doesn’t appreciate a good shoe, she should give it to someone who does.
No one seriously thinks these public displays of politics have any meaning. It’s hard to buy the argument that women are hard done by in Hollywood when the rest of us are sat at home watching them swan about in designer gear in our pyjamas. If women want a serious feminist political movement, we have to drop the theatrics, and stop applauding fame-hungry celebs.