Kicking off a year in which gender and racial inequality are at the height of public awareness, the 2018 Golden Globes red carpet underwent a transformation. It became a runway for wildly famous Hollywood stars to showcase something much more important than their decadent jewels or glamorous gowns. Seven actresses will arrive at the famed Beverly Hilton with a new kind of date — social justice icons who advocate for everyone from female restaurant workers to Native Americans striving to protect their land. Amy Poehler's date at the 2018 Golden Globes is Saru Jayaraman, an author, advocate, and president and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. ROC United, according to its website, aims to influence fair wages and safe workplaces for restaurant workers.
Jayaraman recently wrote an essay for Food and Wine magazine about how fair wages in the restaurant industry are essential to fighting harassment. She makes the argument that some women in the restaurant industry are encouraged to tolerate upsetting behavior from customers in order to get the tips they need to offset the low base wages they're paid. "As women earning just a few dollars an hour from their employers, they are forced to tolerate inappropriate behavior — from lewd comments and groping to assault — in order to feed their families in tips," Jayamaran wrote. "And this culture of objectification creates a hostile environment that leaves workers vulnerable to further abuse from coworkers and management."
Poehler and Jayaraman are just one of the seven actress-activist duos who took to the red carpet to make a statement this Sunday. Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Emma Stone also brought gender and racial equality activists to the ceremony, according to the Los Angeles Times, to promote the Time's Up movement, a campaign announced at the start of this year by Hollywood's elite to promote equality for women in all career paths. "Our goal in attending the Golden Globes is to shift the focus back to survivors and on systemic, lasting solutions," reads a joint statement from the stars' guests, according to the LA Times. "This moment in time calls for us to use the power of our collective voices to find solutions that leave no woman behind."
The joint statement went on to assert that this group will stand by all women who come forward with their stories, and work to make sure that they are heard. "As longtime organizers, activists and advocates for racial and gender justice, it gives us enormous pride to stand with the members of the Time's Up campaign who have stood up and spoken out in this groundbreaking historical moment," the statement read, according to the same LA Times piece. "We want to encourage all women — from those who live in the shadows to those who live in the limelight, from all walks of life, and across generations — to continue to step forward and know that they will be supported when they do."
This Time's Up movement comes on the heels of a reckoning within Hollywood as a whole. Countless women on Sunday's red carpet will be wearing black in solidarity with gender equality and those sharing stories of assault, and many are donning Time's Up pins as well. Following the bombshell reports of the alleged abuse by industry icon Harvey Weinstein, the house of cards continued to fall as more and more men and women have come forward with accounts of inappropriate behavior within an industry that is so often seen as glamorous and worry-
Poehler has remained relatively mum about the specific scandals rocking the industry, though she's always been an advocate for gender equality. Her character on NBC's Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope, is a feminist television icon, and Poehler also is a co-founder of Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, an organization aiming to encourage young women to be themselves and pursue what makes them happy. Though she's remained out of the spotlight on this issue, it's fitting that Poehler is still quietly using her celebrity to bring recognition to the work of women like Jayaraman.