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Style: Can you still be a feminist and enjoy looking at the dresses at the 2018 Golden Globes?

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The Golden Globes kicks off awards season this Sunday, and with it an onslaught of red carpet coverage, which, if the vast majority of media reporting is anything to go by, is really what these ceremonies are all about. Anyone who witnessed Brokeback Mountain and Capote lose Best Picture to Crash will attest to that. Or indeed the punishing moment that musical Chicago won over The Pianist in 2002.

Black dress red carpet © Getty Images Black dress red carpet

The hysteria and intense scrutiny over what women wear to an awards ceremony is obviously ridiculous, but this season is set to be very different. In the wake of the numerous sexual assault allegations to have emerged in Hollywood within the past few months, actresses will wear black to the Golden Globes. The move is part of the newly-launched Time’s Up initiative, where over 300 industry players have donated money to assist the legal fights of women who have faced sexual assault in less privileged arenas. It also calls for legislation to punish companies that tolerate it.

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At first glance, this is of course a powerful move; a show of sisterly solidarity sending the message that women will stand up together, unified against the patriarchy and oppression. The louder the voice the stronger it is and one that will not be silenced anymore. There’s also power in women taking something that has been historically used to reduce, objectify and demean them and subverting it to make their voices heard, to say something political, to change the course of how they are treated.

Emma Stone © Getty Images Emma Stone

That said, despite the rallying cries of how great it is to be a woman right now, there is something infinitely depressing about actresses having to wear glamorous funeral attire in a bid to stop powerful men sexually assaulting their juniors. Some critics of the move have said that perhaps women should wear brighter colours to celebrate their newfound power, but then how would that have been any different to any other red carpet?

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And, we can ascertain from recent media coverage that not everyone gets the point about what the all-black dress code is about – take the numerous headlines that have offered advice on which black dresses they’d like to see actresses wear at the Globes, or one well-known magazine suggesting that their readers might "yawn" over the “all-black dress code".

But any evolution takes time; this is just part of a process. Times are changing; E!’s Mani-Cam is no longer, where female celebrities were asked to hold out their hands for inspection (after all, no part of a woman’s body must be left unscrutinised). Women now wear flats on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet, after a backlash in 2015 involving industry insiders who were banned from screenings because they weren’t wearing high heels. That same year, there were calls from actresses to the media to stop asking them about their appearances, backed by the hashtag #askhermore.

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Emma Watson © Getty Images Emma Watson

So can you be a feminist and enjoy looking at the dresses Hollywood stars choose to wear on Sunday night? It’s a complicated issue and for every argument there is a counter. There is nothing wrong with enjoying glamour and fashion – both are a form of self-expression. It should also be noted that some (admittedly not all) celebrities will still get paid to wear certain brands – in 2006, Charlize Theron was allegedly paid $50,000 to wear two Chopard bracelets. However, what is erroneous is the tone that so any media outlets take – the sneery, snide and sometimes outright nasty captions that come with worst-dressed or maddest outfit charts. If you play it safe, you’re chastised for not trying hard enough and if you go hell for leather, you’re ripped apart too.

With this year's Golden Globes red carpet, it is particularly complicated. Does it undermine the political message that these women are trying to communicate to talk about the silhouette or the design of their dress? While it always been demeaning to rank women’s outfits in a good to bad format, given what these women are trying to achieve, to do so has never felt more tonally off. As with previous years, we will publish an extensive gallery of what everyone is wearing, men and women, because there is a reason Hollywood has chosen this internationally famous event to make a stand – they want you and the millions of people around the world to see their protest. In 2017, the Golden Globes was watched by 20 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter – that’s no small amount.

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What we won't be doing is pitting women against each other or asking users to vote for their 'best dressed'. As a fashion publication, we can appreciate the effort that has gone into every look, from the creation of the outfit to the carefully considered hair and make-up, a feat that often requires an army of craftspeople and artists. Call me wild, but a desire for fair treatment between humans and an appreciation for aesthetics are not mutually exclusive. You can want powerful men to stop sexually assaulting women and also think a couture gown is beautiful.

It’s impossible to know the impact that the black dress code will have in terms of how the media will cover the event, given that nothing of this scale has ever been held before. But, perhaps, just perhaps, it will help us reconsider the tone and the importance we give to how a woman looks. But for now, spare a thought for E! News’s Giuliana Rancic who will have been forced to learn some new lines, presumably after having had to scrap her traditionally squealing question of ‘who are you wearing?’

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