Gender prejudice on the red carpet: Why do women have so much more to prove?


Stars on the red carpet often find themselves to be the subject of discussion and relentless criticism based on how they’re dressed. Well, at least the women are – the bar’s so low for men that they might as well get a pass. (Graphic by Cole Altmayer)

Women are constantly judged for everything we do – what we eat, what our bodies look like, where we work – but the most ludicrous has to be clothing. We are expected to look infallible in every situation, while men are held to a much lower standard.

Don’t believe me? Let’s turn our attention to Hollywood – a place of great influence. On the red carpet, women are expected to go above and beyond: wear uncomfortable dresses, sky-high heels and the same amount of jewelry as a royal. 

“Different” for men’s red carpet fashion is a bright-colored suit, while in order to stand out as a woman, you have to toe the line between feminine beauty and outrageousness.

US Magazine cited Brad Pitt as one of the “most memorable red carpet fashion moments of 2020” for his simple tuxedo, stating boldly that “the A-lister looked as dapper as ever in a velvet Brioni tuxedo.” Of course Brad Pitt looks dapper, he’s Brad Pitt. Show him wearing something other than a tux and I might (MIGHT) be impressed. 

Searching for the fashion on the Emmy’s red carpet from September 12 will give you an entire page of women – not a man in sight. Why is this? Because they were all wearing GODDAMN SUITS!

Beyond the red carpet, women are constantly criticized for their fashion choices: in the workplace, on the street, in school, at parties and on stage. Men like Snoop Dogg have worn casual clothing to every single concert they’ve played and no one cares, but if Taylor Swift showed up wearing a tracksuit, the world would implode. During presidential elections, no one has ever talked about male candidates’ fashion but Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit is now infamous. In offices, women are not taken seriously if they put in too much or too little effort. In public, women are blamed for unwanted attention if they wear clothing with too little coverage and are called prudish if they are too covered up. The contradictions are endless.

On a trip to Chicago for my friend’s birthday, I wore a corset and a skirt, because we were taking pictures. Then, while buying a burger at Five Guys, the male cashier said sarcastically, “Nice shirt.” 

Since that moment, I became insecure about what I was wearing and immediately donned my jacket to cover up. Why did that cashier (in his gray, drab uniform) feel he had a right to comment on my stunning outfit? People will always find a way to bring women down, and there’s no better avenue than fashion: something that brings me and many other women joy and security in our appearance.

The bias against casually dressed women has been scientifically proven through a survey done by students at Gettysburg College. In the survey, reactions to pictures of women and men wearing sweats were measured, and the results showed that people tend to have more positive responses to men dressed in sweats versus women. The men looked “comfortable,” while the women weren’t “trying hard enough.” Pictures of women in party outfits were deemed “asking for it,” while men dressed scandalously were “cold.” Simply by choosing to wear a more revealing outfit, women are automatically at fault for anything and everything that may happen. 

Of course, the societal standards imposed on women by men do not end with fashion, but I find it to be one of the most infuriating aspects of the struggles we have to endure as women. If women are expected to look perfect 24/7, we should expect the same of men. If guys don’t want to throw it back to the 10th century and start wearing heels again, they should ease up on criticizing the way women look. Red carpet fashion is understandably a hot topic, but commentators need to start requiring the same effort from the men, as well as the ladies.