Oscars #AskHerMore Debate: Should Equality Trump Glamour?

Red carpet producers, women in entertainment and the style community weigh in on the debate

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Actress Reese Witherspoon poses in the press room during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Loews Hollywood Hotel on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Reese Witherspoon‘s request that reporters #AskHerMore on Sunday’s Oscar red carpet has the entertainment industry, style community and mainstream viewers sharply divided.

A day after the Oscars, opinions are split between those who say women are subject to a double standard by relentlessly being asked about their appearance, and those who say the red carpet is exactly the place for those kinds of questions.

“There are two factions fighting this,” said Rob Silverstein, executive producer of the syndicated entertainment show Access Hollywood told TheWrap. “It’s not easy to ask interesting, good questions on the carpet. You can’t get into anything deep… it’s not a sit-down interview. But what we try to do is have fun, it’s about creating moments with celebrities. They’re on the red carpet, they’re dressed up, it’s a party!”

Nonetheless, Silverstein bowed to Witherspoon’s request to cease and desist from asking about her dress.

“We are more than our dresses,” Witherspoon said on the red carpet on her way into the Oscars, after having used the hashtag in an upload to Instagram. The hashtag immediately took off on social media, sending a ripple through the red carpet coverage.

Seeing the debate while on the red carpet, Silverstein said he and “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush decided to entirely strike the well-worn question, “Who are you wearing?”

“Because of the Reese Witherspoon thing, we killed it,” he said.  There are ways to ask that without being so trite and pedestrian. Joan Rivers started that years ago, and it was cute when Joan Rivers did it. It’s not cute when other adults say it.”

Speaking of fashion, members of the design community are outraged that their role in this high stakes event has been diminished — and most of the time they loan their creations. Still, having an A-list star walk the Oscar red carpet in a designer’s gown is worth a fortune in free publicity. Unless, that is, no one asks about it.

“These designers are slaving away for free,” said one high-ranking fashion insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Calvin Klein collection dress that Lupita Nyong’o wore was comprised of 6,000  hand-placed pearl and ivory beads that required “several rounds of fittings” in both New York and Los Angeles, according to Vogue.

lupita dress

“Who is anyone to tell [journalists] not to ask what they’re wearing?” the individual said.

Of course, the grumblings about the red carpet double standard and the questions posed to actresses started long before the 2015 Oscars.

Backstage at the Hollywood Film Awards in November, a reporter asked Keira Knightley how she balances being newly married with her career. “Are you going to ask all the men that tonight?” Knightley shot back.

A month before that, at a Women in Hollywood event, Jennifer Garner shared an anecdote about how different the questions are that she and husband Ben Affleck are asked at press junkets. Garner said she’s asked about balancing work and family, while reporters were more interested in hearing Affleck talk about the breasts on his “Gone Girl” co-star Emily Ratajkowski.

“And we do share the same family,” said Garner. “Isn’t it kind of time to change that conversation?”

Before Garner, Scarlett Johansson griped about getting asked superficial questions about her diet and exercise routines. So has Emma Stone, Anna Kendrick, Anne Hathaway and countless other actresses.

For what it’s worth, attempts have been made before to change the conversation, at least about fashion.

In 2010, E! directed Ryan Seacrest to skip the “Who are you wearing?” question and focus on actors’ roles and personal lives. That, too, was met with backlash. “Hey, Ryan, Talk to the Dress,” read one New York Times headline.

Kevin MacLellan, president of production at E! at the time, said research showed viewers were more interested in “up-close-and-personal gab fests,” according to the paper.

But viewers may have changed their minds yet again. In the age of social media, fans have more opportunity than ever to voice their opinions, and they have strong ones about the #AskHerMore hashtag, a social media campaign designed to elevate red carpet discourse.

“#AskHerMore has a place, it just isn’t on the red carpet when the reason people are watching is to find out #whoworewhat,” said Twitter user @SantiWatkins.

“Also excuse me #AskHerMore but I guess I’m shallow for caring a lot about who each actress is wearing,” added @NikiAnnR. “The pretty dresses are the best part.”

“@RWitherspoon why dont you wear sweats then. U guys wear gowns that cost more than houses, and you want asked about the weather? #AskHerMore,” @Templeton423 directed at Witherspoon.

“So let me get this strt. Actresses want us to #AskHerMore yet they roll up dressed in $$millions in beads, pearls, etc #AskYouWhat exactly?” asked @ivywriter.

Access Hollywood airs 7:30 p.m.  eastern and pacific. Check your local listings.