This Sunday is the date of the annual BAFTAs bash when anyone who is anyone in the world of film and television dons their finest to walk the red carpet and (for a very few) ultimately to ascend the stage as a winner!
However, this year’s event will be a less colourful one as all guests have been invited to wear black as a show of solidarity for the Time’s Up movement started in the US. Of course, wearing black to a formal occasion is nothing new; men have been doing it for ages – early solidarity movement and just lack of imagination? Women often choose to wear a little black dress but equally others often want a little colour in their lives and after a succession of freezing cold, bleak, grey days, who can blame them?
It may be intended to send a message to men but I don’t think it is a movement in the right direction for equality. I don’t think our suffragette ancestors gave too much thought to dress as they chained themselves to railings, marched and attended rallies, sacrificed limbs and health at racecourses and in prison. The problem is that these black dresses on show will still be couture: Chanel, Dior, McQueen etc etc and some people will look better than others because black suits some but for others is a bit of a wash-out. It’s not much of a hardship and some of those photos from the Golden Globes do look the tiniest bit smug. When I worked at one of the bigger bookshop chains I had to wear a ghastly nylon black sweatshirt as did all the staff, that was a sartorial affront!. It might have made us easier to spot but it didn’t make us equal. As a part-time worker of several years experience, I was on a lower grade and pay scale than most of the younger, newer staff, some of whom I had even trained! School uniform doesn’t engender uniformity – expensive Mary-janes, parents with more leisure and money to brush and plait hair, press clothes, polish shoes all shout advantage.
Anyway, last year, I thought it was all about diversity and the individual. This year, ignoring the ‘invite’ and brightening up may mean being called out for disunity, exclusion and at worse, be harmful career-wise when surely we should be creating a safe environment when all persons of any minority can stand up and out and say no and not fear the consequences. Actions speak louder than the colour of your dress.
My books of the week are: Educated by Tara Westover; this extraordinary memoir is due to be published next week and is the story of the author’s first 20 or so years as the youngest child of a Mormon fundamentalist family and how she was ‘educated’ out of it’s powerful and abusive control, a fight all the more difficult in the face of her obvious love for them. It is completely absorbing and I can’t stop talking about it! And she will be speaking at an event here very soon!!
My second is The Third Miss Symons by F M Mayor, a Virago book which seems to have fallen on the ‘no longer of interest’ pile in that publishing house and now languishes as a print on demand title… It is a tiny novel but is a complete picture of a life lived by so many women towards the end of the 19th century of dependence, narrowness and unfulfillment. Yet Etta Symons is very much a character in her own right and this achievement in so short a book when books three times as long never get there is remarkable.