How Care Took Center Stage on the Golden Globes’ Red Carpet
Meryl Streep’s new bestie is leading the charge for making care work the job of the future.
Dazzling black gowns, tailored tuxedos, and the ever-familiar red carpet kicked off the 75th Golden Globes on Sunday night. But it wasn’t the sparkle or the fame that took center stage this year — it was the women’s movement. Hollywood A-listers arrived at the event wearing all black in a show of solidarity and invited powerful women’s rights activists to join them, thereby turning the red carpet into a platform to highlight women’s issues. Instead of reporters asking the usual, “Who are you wearing,” entertainment news outlets like E! News asked celebrities the more poignant and thoughtful question, “Why are you wearing black?”
And thanks to Meryl Streep, care was front and center. Streep’s guest for the evening was Ai-Jen Poo, the founder and director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, a New York-based organization that supports fair wages and labor standards for those who work in home-based jobs such as nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers.
Streep, a long-time proponent of equal pay for women, couldn’t have picked a better “plus one” to accompany her to the awards show. Of late, Poo has spoken forcefully about the ways care jobs are transforming the workforce and the economy. When care is becoming a huge share of the work needed to let our economy and families function properly, she told Vox’s Ezra Klein recently, we have to reevaluate it.
"If you think about the definition of infrastructure as that which enables commerce, care infrastructure has to be fundamental, like roads and bridges," Poo said. "When we can figure out how to revalue the care part of our health — the health of families, the health of the economy — that's when we'll be on to fundamentals of a sustainable society."
In the interview, Poo also acknowledged that many of those in the home care workforce are "low-income, immigrant women" who deserve a voice, and fair labor standards and compensation for their important work — criteria that Streep strongly supports.
“She and I are so happy to be here in this particular moment,” Streep told E! News, as reported by People, as the two women proudly walked the red carpet in long-sleeved black gowns. “I think that people are aware now of a power imbalance and it’s something that leads to abuse. It’s led to abuse in our own industry, and it’s led to abuse across domestic workers’ field of work. It’s in the military, it’s in Congress, it’s everywhere and we want to fix that. We feel sort of emboldened in this particular moment to stand together in a thick black line dividing then from now.”
For Poo, that dividing black line started a long time ago. In addition to her long list of women’s care and equality-for-all credentials, she is the co-director of the Caring Across Generations Campaign, a think-tank whose stated goal is to build “a movement of all ages and backgrounds to transform the way we care. Poo won a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award in 2014 for her work as a labor organizer. In 2015, she authored the book, “The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America,” which discussed the ways in which the younger generation can ensure that the ever-growing elderly population gets has access to high-quality care.
Thanks to the hard work and lobbying efforts of Poo’s organization (and Care.com), the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in New York state in 2010. The bill was the first to offer domestic workers protection from all types of harassment or discrimination, as well as to compensate them for overtime hours and provide home-care workers with paid leave. Subsequently, a handful of other states followed suit in the years that came after.
In her official statement, Poo marveled at her opportunity to attend such an event, shining a light on her life’s most passionate work.
“I’m honored to attend the Golden Globes, representing the 2.5 million nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers that care for our families and homes. Domestic workers, as some of the most at-risk and invisible workers in the nation, want to send a clear message: from casting room to the kitchen, all women deserve dignity and safety where they work. Domestic workers know the power of organizing and see this moment of unity among women across industries as a turning point for our movement to end sexual harassment and violence once and for all.”
Across social media, celebrities like Maria Shriver and Perez Hilton praised Streep’s choice of guest.
Poo wasn’t the only activist who displayed both beauty and brains at one of Hollywood’s biggest nights. Here are other activists from Sunday’s show that are fighting for equal pay and women’s rights:
Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, accompanied Amy Poehler to the awards show. Jayaraman’s organization aims to improve wages and working conditions for the 14 million people who work in the U.S. restaurant industry. The robust organization is composed of more than 18,000 members, 200 employer partners, and several thousand consumers. She is also the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, whose areas of expertise include low-wage work, work labor standards, and living wage food service workers.
Billie Jean King, social activist, tennis legend, and founder of the Women's Tennis Association, walked the red carpet as Emma Stone’s “plus one.” The night was a meaningful event for the pair, as Stone portrayed King in the movie Battle of the Sexes. King, one of the first openly gay athletes, spent her career fighting for equal pay and women’s empowerment.
Monica Ramirez, co-founder and president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, was Laura Dern’s guest of honor. Ramirez established the organization in 2011 to support female farm workers through fair labor, wages, rights, and put an end to violence and sexual harassment on the job. For more than 20 years, Ramirez has been a voice for Latinas, immigrants, and farmworkers. Her goal is to increase awareness of the struggles many farmworkers endure while on the job.
All of these women are reason enough to be optimistic about the future. That said, it’s worth remembering that, according to the National Women's Law Center, “women in the U.S. who work full time are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men — and for women of color, the wage gap is even larger.”
The center estimates that, because of the wage gap, women lose roughly $10,000 a year compared to a man’s earnings.
As of Jan. 1, 2018, Iceland became the first country in the world to require that all companies with 25 or more employees compensate all workers — male and female — equally. According to USA Today, women in Iceland earned up to 19 percent less than male workers. It’s too soon to say when we might see equal pay become the law in America, but if the momentum of 2017 and the 75th Golden Globes ceremony (ahem, Oprah!) is enough to keep propelling us forward, hope is on the horizon because it’s clear that #TimesUp.