Awards season is upon us, culimating with the Oscars on Sunday. Inevitably there is a rush of excitement: who will take best film, best director but what sends the media into an absolute frenzy is the best and worst dressed.
I was fortunate enough to attend this year's Baftas and every single female artist was dressed head to toe in couture. The paps were all lined up at the end of the carpet to take the money shot. Kate Winslet mentioned that her daughter had asked her what the fuss was about. And Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones made the point that none of the female stars were wearing their coats, to show off their dresses, which in the Baltic wind was no mean feat!
Meanwhile men all escaped the critique, freed up by the universal tuxedo, to focus on their word, their achievements on set.
Sadly if you're not dressed to kill then your 'fashion fail' will overshadow your accomplishment. Bafta winner, Jenny Beavan didn't wear a posh frock and got by Stephen Fry teased for being the worst dressed costume designer. A man would never have received such a comment about their 'shabby' black tie. More alarmingly it points to the inherent obsession with image at the core of society - for women, appearance is still everything.
In Cannes a few years ago a French humorist performer was also slated for dressing down, but she was slated because she was a 'comedian', an insult in itself as if to say 'I am the funny one so I don't have to look pretty'.
A few years ago all of this bashing was restricted to the press, but now it is rampant on the Internet, with trolls poise over the buttons ready to 'damn'. Again none of this is very constructive for young girls, or boys. Last year Dove attempted a #speakbeautiful campaign on Twitter, to encourage positive word of mouth. Unfortunately it was drowned out by the likes of E's Fashion Police.
All of this is very distracting from the body of work undertaken by each award winner. In Carol, Cate Blanchett undertook the role of a homosexual bourgeoise, yet it was her bejewelled dress that was mentioned most on social media.
For younger generations all this does is perpetuate the myth that external beauty is the key to success. Kate Winslet talked about when she was judged for being 'too fat' as a teenager and told she would never make it as an actress. She chose to ignore it and persist. It is also equally demotivating to learn that women are not only judged more for their looks in Hollywood but also paid less than men. Jennifer Lawrence spoke out about it in October, having discovered in the Sony hack that she was being paid much less than her male counterparts. Having won three Oscars, Meryl Streep still gets paid less than fellow actors. There is also a paucity of strong female roles and female driven roles, stemming from the old-fashioned notion that films starring women don't sell.
All in all, women's equality is lagging far behind in what is supposed to be a dynamic and progressive industry. They are hypersexualised, scrutinised over their looks and then penalised for being female. A rather demoralising state of affairs.
Let hope this Oscars the women presenting and receiving awards will stand up and be counted, drawing the world's attention to this issue. Women should be allowed to wear what they want, earn what they deserve, and be rewarded for their success, just the way men have been for years.