What Chris Rock Got Wrong About #AskHerMore

Photo: A.M.P.A.S/ REX Shutterstock.
As expected, Chris Rock extensively addressed race and racism in Hollywood while hosting the Oscars last night. (This was the second year that #OscarsSoWhite has been a trending hashtag turned very worthy, very zeitgeist-y conversation.) He did so from the very first line of his opening monologue, in fact. But he also tackled another hashtagged movement, one that's rooted in Tinseltown's gender politics: #AskHerMore.

“Everything is not sexism, everything is not racism,” Rock said after mentioning #AskHerMore. The campaign was started by The Representation Project in early 2014 to challenge (and, hopefully, change) how women on the red carpet are often asked solely about who they're wearing, not about their work or other more meaningful topics.

“They ask the men more because they’re all wearing the same outfit," Rock said. "Every guy is wearing the exact same thing. If George Clooney showed up with a lime-green tux on and a swan coming out of his ass, someone would go, ‘Whatcha wearing, George?'"

So basically, the comedian humorously explained away the gendered interviews as kind of, sort of logical, since women wear more interesting outfits and, thus, have more interesting things to say about their sartorial choices. That's certainly true — no matter how outré one's tux is.

But Rock sort of missed the point of #AskHerMore. Based on his logic, the hashtagged movement is, in essence, about both genders being quizzed equally about their outfits' fabulous origins. But that's not the objective of #AskHerMore, since the ideal outcome is for female celebrities to get queried about their craft as well as meaningful, substantive topics. You know, the same kind of chit-chat their male counterparts engage in on the step-and-repeat.

If female actresses are asked serious, respectful questions in addition to being quizzed about the all-important "Who are you wearing tonight?", that would be fine. #AskHerMore means the supposedly softer-hitting stuff (i.e. fashion choices) can coexist with meatier questions. It means the haute couture and the heavier material don't have to (and shouldn't) be mutually exclusive red carpet interview fodder.

But far beyond the red carpet, #AskHerMore, at its core, is about gender equality in terms of screen time and rich, varied roles for both men and women in the industry. Thus, asking male celebs more about their fashion choices, as Rock humorously posited, is irrelevant when it comes to achieving gender equality in the business of movie-making.

“Jokes aside, sexism is a very real issue in Hollywood. In an industry where only one-third of speaking characters in films from 2014 to 2015 were female and only 28.3% of speaking characters were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, we have a lot of work to do," The Representation Project said in a statement issued after Rock's #AskHerMore quips.

"Representation on-screen needs to match our population before we can dismiss #AskHerMore as silly fodder. Surely at the Academy Awards, we can talk about women in ways that celebrate their artistic achievements and do not reduce them solely to their looks, beauty, and sexuality," according to the statement. "#AskHerMore suggests that reporters can ask about the dress, but also that a woman is more than what she wears.”
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