Why I Won't Let My Kids Watch the Red Carpet on Oscar Night

Pretty dresses are fun to look at, but when does watching actresses parade down the red carpet become objectification instead of appreciation? By Sierra Filucci
Why I Won't Let My Kids Watch the Red Carpet on Oscar Night

When Cate Blanchett called out the cameraman who slowly scanned down her body during a Screen Actor's Guild Awards interview in 2014, she spoke up about something that's bugged parents watching the red carpet for ages: sexism. Blanchett asked, "Do you do that to the guys?" And of course, the answer is no.

For those of us who are fans of movies, pop culture, and even pretty dresses -- and who are also parents -- the Oscars red carpet presents a challenge. We can hold our noses while we watch with our kids -- grimacing when actresses are asked to show off their manicures -- for the chance to hear a few words of wisdom from talented actors and actresses being interviewed. But the reality is that the messages reinforced during these events aren't good for kids, and especially our daughters. The focus isn't on the hours of work Reese Witherspoon or Ava DuVernay poured into their movies, but on how they fill out their gowns and whether their stylists chose the right shoes to match.

Add these messages to the hundreds of sexualized images of women in TV, movies, on magazine covers, and in video games, and the red carpet is one more example that teaches kids that women's value exists primarily in their bodies instead of their minds.

For those of us with daughters, the weight of sexism and body-shaming can feel overwhelmingBut as parents, we have the power to turn things around. Here's how:

Talk about it. Kids actually care what you think -- even if they don't always look like they do. If you make media literacy a part of your parenting practice, you're arming your kids with protection against the barrage of mixed messages that swirl around them every day. The red carpet is just one place to start the discussion about how the media treats men and women differently. Or, for a different approach, take control of the red carpet experience and turn it into a source of inspiration for creativity like Mayhem and her mom did.

Aim for balance. Most of us don't want to avoid popular culture completely. But by being selective with the types of media we expose kids to -- especially when they're younger -- we can give them an appreciation for the great things movies, books, TV, and games can offer without reinforcing negative messages. Look for movies and games, for instance, that portray woman as strong, nuanced characters, instead of helpless victims. From The Tale of Princess Kaguya to Boyhood, this year's Oscars honors some that fit this category.

Set an example. Think about how you talk about celebrities and their appearance around your kids, whether you're watching the red carpet or leafing through a supermarket magazine. But more important, think about how you talk about your own body and appearance. Helping girls and boys to appreciate all the wonderful things their bodies can do, without focusing on a Hollywood version of beauty, will pay benefits for life. And pointing out when famous people are kind, smart, and generous can help reinforce the idea that character and behavior is more important that how you look or dress.

Thankfully, some actresses are standing up against sexism in Hollywood, but there's a long way to go. As more women become leaders in the movie industry, we suspect more folks will object to asking actresses, "Who are you wearing," and instead ask, "What are you creating?"

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About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more
Will you let your kids watch the Oscars red carpet?

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Comments (8)

Adult written by Kanika Chopra

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Parent of a 9 year old written by fosterfest

I like where you are headed with this, but I have to take issue with some of it -- designers are creators, so asking "Who are you wearing" is asking a question about creativity, and I explain this to my sons when we watch the awards shows together. I've noticed that in the last few years, the interviewers ask more men this question, as well, even though tuxes and suits are often hard to distinguish, but that raises awareness of the design element. What's truly objectionable in these shows are numbers like "We Saw Your Boobs" in last year's show - I doubt we'll get anything that crude and demeaning from this year's host, the fabulous Ellen.
Adult written by batlaw

While I agree with much if not most of this ....come on .. of course they don't scan down the body of the guys. A pair of tux pants is a pair of tux pants. Much different than showing the entire length of a fashion gown.
Parent of a 12 and 15 year old written by denejean

I agree with many of your points, Sierra, but further to that, I believe that the general obsession with Hollywood and "famous" people in general is unhealthy, covetous and sets unrealistic expectations for our children. I heard some crazy statistics that half the teens in America right now think the will be "famous" - no plan, no talent, no study, they just will be. We act as though we know these people because we see their faces constantly, watch their interviews and obsess over what they wear. I enjoy a good movie as much as anyone, but surely we can be doing better things with our lives, and let our kids observe and participate in that instead. My kids won't be watching the Oscars, nor will I, and nor have I ever.
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old written by BrooklynShoeBabe

I wear make up; I wear wigs; and I love shopping for shoes. I get manicures, pedicures and my eyebrows done, but my daughters undrstand that these ARE NOT THINGS a women has to do to be beautiful or to be considered women. I also tell them that if you don't consider yourself beautiful without a stitch on, putting on all that extra won't help you feel better. I've been telling my daughters ths for years, and I will continue to tell them and stress it, because as is they don't see "Beauties" like them or myself (African-American, plus-sized, natural haired) in the media. My daughters are currently 7 and 9. For the past 2-3 years, my daughters have watched Fashion Police, What Not to Wear, and How Do I Look? with me because we like looking at pretty shoes, clothes and celebrities, but we don't watch passively. I explain to them that they are free to express themselves through their fashion without having to follow the rules of friends or what magazines and TV says. I tell them that they can wear the colors, make up, shoes that they want when they're older (when I'm not buying them clothes, of course), and that the only opinion that matters is their own. I also explain to my daughters that a lot of outfits they see on TV are not for real life, like Beyonce's outift on the Grammys. I tell them that is for performance only. My children have now gotten to the point that they understand that some clothes are for the stage and others are for real wear. In short, not only am I going to allow my girls to watch the Red Carpet Show with me, I'm throwing a Red Carpet viewing party for them, two of their friends and myself. I will answer any questions they have about the comments made on the show and I will point out things to reinforce lessons I'm teaching them. Finally, my girls recognize Jennifer Lawrence as the kick-ass heroine of Hunger Games and to see her in a pretty dress is an exception not the rule.
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old written by Sierra Filucci

I love that you're taking ownership of the red carpet and turning it into a media literacy experience as much as a pretty dress-appreciation experience!
Parent of a 7 year old written by rfrag9404

The only awards show allowed in our house is the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. Not only do we not watch the Red Carpet but we do not watch the actual Awards shows. That decision came while sitting down to watch the Grammy Awards a few years ago and the show opened up with Rihanna and Britney Spears grinding on each other and kissing each other. Thankfully there were no questions asked but that was the end of Awards shows in our house and I am happy for it because apparently the same type of spectacle was put on this year by Beyonce and Jay-Z. It is absolutely sickening.
Parent of a 12 year old written by kenyadee

I get what the author is saying, but...I don't totally buy it. Yes, the announcers on the red carpet are often completely inane. But I'd rather my child watch that than the commercials that run during the Super Bowl,or any professional football game for that matter. It's one hour out of a 4+ hour spectacle. These people are there because they are being recognized for their work. No, the announcers are talking about designer dresses and tuxedos and not film technique, but I like my son to see that when you attend special events, especially ones where you might be in the spotlight, you dress up and put your best food forward. We have a very casual culture and I see young people looking like they are dressed for a sick day on the couch when they go out to eat at nice restaurants, attend church, or go to a show of some kind. I can tell my son what I think of the stupid comments but I can also point out that this actor or actress has been acting for 20 years from a small commercial to a big-name movie. I like him to see that fame is often not something that happens overnight. Many (okay, not all) of these actors work hard to get where they are. More importantly, during the awards themselves, he can see that there are other film industry jobs: sound engineer, cinematographer, director, costume designer, script writer, etc.


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