On Sunday We Wore Black: Social Movements and Brilliant Strategic Communication

by Tamu McPherson

All the Pretty Birds was founded on the tenet that human beings express themselves through their personal style. That we often choose to dress a certain way in order to associate ourselves with like-minded individuals who share similar passions, principles and political points of view- a tribe that can provide both emotional and physical protection and with in the confines of which we can feel at home.

This week, Time’s Up – the recently formed Anti-Harassment Action Plan founded by prominent Hollywood women including; producer Shondra Rhimes, actresses Tracee Ellis Ross, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and Reese Whiterspoon, and attorneys Tina Chen and Nina L. Shaw, whose  mission it is to “fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and in blue-collar workplaces nationwide,” – invited members, guests and the organization’s supporters to wear black on Sunday, demonstrated most publicly by the attendees of this year’s Golden Globe awards. In wearing black they aimed “to stand in solidarity with women and men everywhere who have been silenced by discrimination, harassment or abuse.”

The red carpet was awash in black, and no stylist or celebrity seemed hindered in their choices by the dress code – every single star shined.

After spending time letting Queen Oprah’s acceptance speech wash over me (praise the universe, amen), I started to think about the enterprise that went into pulling off a mostly black red carpet. We are talking about mobilizing an entire industry to organize black, evening wear for most of the attendees: brands, PR teams, stylists, publicists and the actors themselves. We love that Time’s Up’s members used their influence within the fashion industry to advance and spread their message. In response to criticism aimed at #wewearblackonsunday, Rashida Jones, a founding member of Time’s Up,  shares with In Style, “This is not a silent protest. I don’t think why we wear black is divisive as much as it is being discussed and debated without all the facts. Many women on the red carpet will discuss what’s important to them about their choice to protest and wear black.” 

Think about it, most mainstream publications cover the red carpet now-a-days. And admit it, you throw parties, Whatsapp group chats, Instagram DM, and email your friends about your favorite looks and entertainer crushes (Viola Davis, Zoey Kravitz). Collectively, we spend hours consuming red carpet content: devouring red carpet interviews; creating mood boards, style boards for fashion, hair and makeup; and these looks ultimately translate into important publicity and impressive sales for fashion companies. Does anyone remember Julia Robert’s Valentino dress that spawned a trillion knock-offs by the time prom and wedding season arrived?

What’s more, whereas male actors and industry executives may be asked about inspirations, methods, and any other number of professional topics on the red carpet, female actors know all too well that no matter what question a reporter leads with, they will eventually stoop to a level of outfit dissection that mean are nearly never subjected to. The dreaded, “So, tell me about what you’re wearing?” How poetic if this ubiquitous, tired, demeaning question can be turned on its side as a segue into discussing current socio-political events.

To insert a strong social message within the context of such a highly publicized arena guarantees that a strong and unified message will be shared tenfold by the engine that is social media. Being blessed with Queen Oprah Winfrey being the first African American woman to be awarded the Cecil B. De Mille honor and having her resoundingly endorse this movement in the best speech I’ve heard since Michelle Obama’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton (there goes those strong WOC voices again), is another celestial weapon of communication.

Speaking to Anja in New York this morning, she noted “In an age where everyone feels immense pressure to put together immediate social media responses and statements for the media, there was something bone-chilling about releasing Times Up on January 1st. They had been working silently behind the scenes for so long to put it together, with zero lip service, no self-aggrandizement – just a well-formed, unified, solid plan. It honestly renewed my hope and my energy.”

Launched eight days ago, these women mean business. To the men who have abused their position of power for far too long, take notice: YOUR TIME IS UP.


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