The Dark Side of the Red Carpet

January 17, 2016



I wanted to enjoy the red carpet at the Golden Globes – really, I did!

In the past, it’s been one of my favorites.

The Star Power!

The Couture Dresses!

The Mani-Cam!

The red carpet “pre-game show” has become its own industry, complete with dedicated TV programs before, during and after the (supposed) main event.

This year, though, I couldn’t quite get into the spirit of enjoying the spectacle OR analyzing the gowns for fit fails. (Yes, that’s been another element of the red carpet for me…Golden Globes at the Golden Globes! I used to go on TV to dig into this juicy topic.)

Why the change of heart?

The red carpet is a gauntlet of judgment women endure to be analyzed and picked apart from, literally, head to toe. We ask women who they’re wearing and focus entirely on their appearance, as if they’re playthings to be adorned and assessed for our pleasure. Men don’t get nearly the same scrutiny.

The red carpet puts out the message that what’s on the outside matters most – even when you’re successful. In fact, even when you’re a TOP achiever in your industry, at an event that’s supposedly about applauding your work, you’ll be evaluated for how you look, not what you’ve accomplished.

This is hardly a ground-breaking observation. But it’s important to call out the red carpet for what it is – a lesson in systematic objectification.

Research shows that when we encourage people to focus on how a woman looks, it actually shifts the way we perceive her. When people to look at a celebrity and are asked to focus on appearance, they end up seeing that same woman as less intelligent, less friendly, and even, less human.

There’s a certain bah-humbug-ness to all this. The red carpet is fun! The dresses are pretty! These actresses get paid tons of money, and awards shows are part of the price of fame!

I get it.

And if the impact was EXCLUSIVELY on the actresses who sought a Hollywood career, I might feel differently. Unfortunately, the cult of celebrity is SO pervasive – and SO knit into the culture of women in general – that expectations flow outward. Women everywhere judge themselves by the impossible standards of the red carpet.

I’m not naïve. The red carpet and its attendant hoopla isn’t going anywhere. But in the same way you can enjoy a Big Mac or happily slurp a mochalattecino and know you’re making a choice that isn’t healthy, let’s be clear about what the red carpet is, and the breadth of its impact.




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SHE BUZZ is the place to go to tune into the world of women. From news stories and trends to the issues women uniquely face in the world by virtue of being women. It may be fun and festive, or sad and serious. This column will be guided by current events and personal opinion – all on the topic of women’s experiences.
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Ali is a bestselling author and has been featured in TV, print and online for publications such as Cosmopolitan and Essence Magazine, among others. She holds an MBA from Wharton Business School and spends her spare time in her pottery studio.


Ellen Lewis, editor/publisher of Lingerie Briefs