We've heard the questions even more than we've heard the term "break the Internet" — certainly more than enough to last a human lifetime. You know the ones: Red carpet interviewers asking women "who they're wearing" or what type of extravagant beauty routine they decided to undergo prior to arriving at the awards ceremony. Feminists have argued that this line of questioning is sexist. And it's undeniable that at the pre-shows for award ceremonies everywhere, men are often asked about the roles that have garnered them nominations or about the process they undergo in preparing to embody a character — rather than what designer name is in their labels. So in an effort to "Flip the Script," Elle.com asked men on the red carpet of January 15's Critics Choice Awards the same questions that women get asked. And the responses were relatively unsurprising: The men didn't do much to get ready for the big affair. They hate having their pictures taken. They have cigarettes and/or booze in their pockets for the evening. And yes, their wives helped them pick out their ensembles.
Eddie Radmayne, for instance, told Elle, "[My wife] Hannah helps me entirely." At eight years old, Jaeden Lieberher said it didn't take him long to get ready at all: "It's mostly everybody else. All the girls." On not wearing heels, Downton Abbey's Allen Leech said, "My feet are killing me. I want to be comfortable." And Orange Is the New Black's Michael Harney didn't need any prep time whatsoever for the ceremony. "I was really with my son all day. I cooked him dinner and then I jumped in the shower. I had a hell of a time getting the stud on my tuxedo shirt. That's it. Thirty minutes."
On the one hand, I understand the skepticism surrounding this need we have to ask celebrities what they're wearing at these ceremonies — because why do we really care? Actors and actresses at award shows are honestly predominantly at these ceremonies as part of their work, after all. When I go to a work function, no one asks me if I was able to wear underwear underneath my clothes! But this brings us to the other part of the equation: The part that understands that the red carpet segment of an event is about who the celebrities are wearing and what they look like on the big night. At the end of the day, fashion is an art form, and celebrities provide us with yet another medium for the observation of sartorial beauty. While avoiding the "asking for it" rhetoric, the fashion component is an invaluable part of the red carpet experience. Otherwise, everyone would simply show up wearing jeans, right? If you're going to walk the walk, you should be prepared to talk the [fashion] talk — no matter your gender.
Being able to show interest in and openly discuss fashion and beauty doesn't mean that you are incapable of being masterful at your craft. And just because such a pursuit is labeled "feminine," it doesn't make it any less valuable or valid than perceived "masculine" hobbies or interests. Asking women more questions about the grooming they opted into (or out of) doesn't necessarily prove that sexism is rampant on the red carpet. However, the fact that men's answers were so minimal does signal that the things we expect women to do in the name of beauty are sometimes out of control.
To ask men about their beauty routines or their designer jackets does ultimately feel silly, if not absurd. We all expect that their answer will basically be "I woke up like this" — because groomed facial hair and brushed coifs are all they really require as far as a "beauty routine" goes. And the answers we've heard from Elle's experiment have proven this point. There's nary any diet talk, questions about intimate body waxing, or requests to see their pedicures. But the focus on fashion and grooming isn't the problem: The expectation for women to participate so fully in it is. Yes, perhaps we should ask men these seemingly inane questions, too. But let's actually look at the answers and ask them why they didn't feel the need to prepare — why they don't really feel responsible for their "look" or "style." The policing of women's bodies is too real, and the fact things like "worst dressed" lists exist as solely female-oriented pieces is problematic.
As for the questions about "balancing work and family" or what it's like "being a female actor/director/producer," these aren't necessarily questions for the red carpet portion of an event. While I'm glad that the press is taking the opportunity to ask these important questions whenever possible, I equally wish that we would ask them of celebrities of all genders, and that their answers would be honest. I think transparency is one of the most important things when it comes to dissecting celebrity culture — when we're talking about the immense amount of time and money it takes for celebs to look like they do at awards shows or how they're actually able to parent their kid while juggling a career. Whether it's the additional emotional and domestic labor that the non-acting spouse puts in or whether the family receives some support from childcare providers/nannies, I wish they were as honest about that as Jennifer Lawrence always is.
Images: Getty; Giphy