As the entertainment industry entered 2018 with the eminent feminist movement #MeToo at its forefront, it is no surprise that the conversation has continued to grow and grow. Following its revival by actress Alyssa Milano in October 2017, #MeToo has since grown from a platform used by women across the globe to expose incidents of victimisation from men, into a platform of female strength, unification and determination to say NO. Examples of the movement’s impact have been seen across social media, where millions of women have been inspired to find a voice and speak up about their struggles of sexual harassment in and beyond the workplace. The same can be said for the 2018 Grammy Award ceremony in January which saw many nominees wear white roses as a symbol of the movement, in addition to the March 2018 Oscars ceremony which gave hints of a call for reformation and increased equality in the entertainment industry. Additionally, the #MeToo movement has since gained its parallel identity, #Timesup, which was echoed in singer and actress Janelle Monae’s affirmation: “We come in Peace, but We Mean Business… Time is Up”. This she expressed when accepting her Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Female empowerment has by no means been limited to participants of the #MeToo movement this summer. Throughout the entertainment industry (and of course in our everyday lives) there have been countless instances of diligent and determined acts made by women, portrayed both fictionally and non-fictionally, which have become a symbol of the irrepressible force that the female population is and has become. On the 19th May this year, the nation watched Prince Harry and soon-to-be-royal Meghan Markle tie the knot, resulting in Markle becoming potentially one of the most feminist royals to date. Alongside her growing responsibilities as a royal, the Duchess of Sussex has continued her support of the #TimesUp movement and endorsement that “Women don’t need to find their voice, they need to be empowered to use it.”.
A refreshingly innovative celebration of female empowerment, talent and tenacity was seen in the musical showcase ‘There is Nothin Like A Dame’ which owned the stage of Cadogan Hall, London, for one night only on the 30th August this summer. The concert was a poignant celebration of one hundred years of women in Musical Theatre which featured four leading female performers from the West End performing some of the nation’s favourite songs belonging to musicals from the last century. The four performers were Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman, Alexia Khadime and Ria Jones, who were accompanied by the captivating musical talent of their orchestra and musical director, Mr Adam Hoskins, who too joined them on stage.
Adam expressed: “It was of particular interest to see the arch of the female narrative progress over the course of the Twentieth Century. Interestingly, only the last two pieces involved female composers. I think this massively reflected the nature of the popular reception and the changing nature of the female creative. Of course, there have been extremely important female creatives (Betty Comden, Agnes De mille, Gillian Lynne, Mary Rodgers), but in an industry dominated in the later half by commercial success, and therefore business and financial import, it is little wonder some men have kept women out of the board room. I loved collaborating with the five singers and hope to work with them more!”
From start to finish, the four singers performed showstoppers belonging to female characters who have made an impact on the female image and transformed the way women are perceived in the modern world. These included Big Spender from the 1960s musical Sweet Charity, I Dreamed A Dream from the 1980s musical phenomenon Les Misérables and the more recent The Wizard and I, from Wicked, performed by all four of the women as a momentous reflection on their, and other women in the industry’s, successful careers. Nevertheless, this unforgettable evening was by no means designed to paint the perfect picture of women. Audience members were treated to songs devised for a range of characters including prostitutes, villains and even murderers within their plot lines. Evidently, the decision to celebrate female roles such as the leading ladies of Chicago was not to provide role models for women, but to salute women who have defied social restrictions and used their experiences to help other females to do the same. Likewise, a similar example of empowerment in the entertainment industry this summer was seen in Steven Soderbergh’s comedy Ocean’s 8 in which viewers were treated to an action-packed heist led by a team of intelligent, devious women including actresses Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna. Who said only men are capable of crime?
In the most up-beat manner possible, Mamma Mia: Here we Go Again was a perfect addition to the list of most empowering moments for women in entertainment this summer. This all-time favourite musical made a comeback which was everything fans of the film and the eighties pop band ABBA had hoped for, and this time it put its everything into celebrating both female independence and unity. For some viewers, Meryl Streep’s lack of appearance was disappointing, nonetheless Lily James gave a peerless performance as young Donna. In particular, James thrived in her portrayal of the character’s resilience and determination to overcome and cope with betrayal, solitude and motherhood; all achieved with the help of her trustworthy friends and confidant, Sofia.
Although there’s a huge sense of pride to be gained from looking back on how far women have risen in the last century, it is the unfortunate truth that women are continuing to be faced with challenges and knock-backs which require their consistent strength to suppress. And it is these reactions which are pivotal in the fight for equality; demonstrated in stories from as recent as one or two weeks ago as seen in the media. Monica Lewinsky, an advocate of the #MeToo movement, illustrated this only a few days ago when forced to stand up for herself during a live interview. She afterwards stressed: “It’s more important than ever for women to stand up for themselves”. Likewise, recent debates surrounding Women’s Magazine Cosmopolitan’s front cover of Plus-Size Model Tess Holliday and 24-year-old blogger @scarlettlondon ’s latest lifestyle posts, show that there still may be a large population of people who are indifferent to the concept of equality, but there is an even larger majority that is prepared to confront them and argue back. Following the Cosmo uproar, one regular reader even commented “If I had seen plus women like me on magazines growing up, it wouldn't have taken 25+ years to love my body”, so AMEN to Cosmo for finally proving to the world that beauty is infinite.
So, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt this summer, despite just how unaffordable uni accommodation is, it’s that I’m proud to be female and have just about the best support network of women in my life to make me even prouder of the person who I am.
For now, I’ll get back to reading the latest issue of Cosmo and listening to Ariane Grande’s most recent single: God is a Woman.