Apparently feminism went on holiday at last week’s 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards. E! Network red carpet correspondent Isaac Mizrahi grabbed then peered down the front of Teri Hatcher’s dress, asked Eva Longoria about the disposition of her pubic hair, and squeezed Scarlett Johansson’s breast in an extended grope—twice. All of this outrageous behavior was beamed to millions and E! got what it wanted—attention and more viewers motivated by prurient interests.
Hatcher acted shocked, the key word being “acted,” but otherwise did not put a stop to Mizrahi’s affront. Longoria simply did not answer the question, while Johansson appeared nonplussed, asked, “What’s going on?” then put up with Mizrahi’s antics. For women adept at marketing themselves, all of them missed their chance to be the focus of national news, rather than Mizrahi.
Hatcher at 40 should have the perspective and self-awareness to have recognized the moment. At a minimum, she could have pulled away and said something like, “Keep your hands off me!” Or better, had she said that and slapped Mizrahi., she not only would have made national news, she would have become the hero of women everywhere. Hatcher would immediately have become “The woman who said ‘No’” to sexual harassment in front of the entire nation. She would be the “strong professional woman” who stood up for herself. She would be the talk of talk shows, and she would have launched herself into a whole new level of fame, for this incident and its aftermath would have been covered not just on entertainment but hard news programs. But, alas, she didn’t take action—nor did Johansson, who arguably had even more cause to protest Mizrahi’s behavior. They missed their moment for singularity.
Perhaps if any of these women had protested, their reaction would have elicited chuckles later, because these are women whose entire careers and personal presentation is built upon sexual contexts and evident sensuality. But even so, I think they could have won the day, because most women, or anyone for that matter, know that unsolicited improper touching is not acceptable and not legal, even if you remove moral concerns from the equation. Women from Oprah to Hillary would have rallied to their defense, and so would have a lot of men.
Curiously, none of these actresses have demanded an apology and none has been issued. In fact, the only people who seemed to have been offended by this public display of over the top behavior is GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. GLAAD took umbrage with the openly gay Mizrahi’s use of the word “dyke” in his conversation with Charlize Theron. E! Network president Ted Harbert said, “"While E! Networks does not generally condone the use of that word, we are totally confident that Isaac is the last person on Earth who could be accused of even the slightest degree of homophobia." GLAAD later said that E! agreed to edit out this word in future airings of the program.
So in Hollywood morality, it’s O.K. to use a word like “dyke” if you are not “homophobic.” By this logic, one could use the “N word” if he or she is “not a racist,” or could call someone a “Nazi” if he or she really didn’t mean anything by it. It’s an interesting argument in this day of political correctness.
Also by Hollywood logic, it may possibly be an egregious error to use a derogatory term referring to gays or lesbians, but it’s apparently just fun and games to touch unsuspecting women in improper places—a behavior that in any other context would be called sexual harassment.
Feminists have argued for more than three decades that women should be treated with respect, should be regarded with dignity, should be accorded equality with men, should not be trotted out as mere sex symbols, etc. Later radical feminists positioned themselves and their movement as “men and marriage haters” and considered all sex with men to be forms of oppression, viewpoints that continue to undermine the movement’s other worthy considerations. But much of early feminist arguments had value and needed to be made. The Golden Globe incidents are a case in point. Feminists should be screaming the loudest about this episode, but they have been curiously silent.
This incident also demonstrates how much culture has changed. While neither Lauren Bacall nor Katherine Hepburn were paragons of personal virtue, can you really imagine either of them tolerating the public embarrassment endured by Hatcher, Longoria, and Johansson? Not really—primarily because they had come of age in a time when culture still operated with a reasonable moral consensus. Women did not enjoy all the civil liberties we now consider their due, but they were, largely, accorded a public degree of respect.
Morally, of course, from a Christian perspective, this episode is even more unacceptable and further evidence of cultural decline. So for once Christians and feminists ought to be climbing the same bully pulpit, decrying sexual harassment of any person, no matter who he or she is or what he or she does for a living. Christians will speak out on this issue, and I’m one of them, but where are the feminists?
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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