Ryan Gosling’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was a statement of gratitude to his wife, Eva Mendes. Ryan won the Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical award for his turn in the film La La Land, and thanked his partner for caring for their daughter while pregnant with their second child, and helping her brother through cancer while he was filming.
A columnist for The Independent claims the speech was sexist, suggesting that Ryan is valorising the stereotype of stay-at-home mothers, and that Ryan and others assume and expect women to naturally fall into that role. The writer also suggests that Eva stayed home because there are less employment opportunities available for her in Hollywood. Both points are problematic.
- Suggesting that Eva stayed at home only because Gosling assumed and expected she would, or that she did it for him, undermines her ability to make her own decisions. It gives all the power to Ryan.
- Suggesting that she stayed at home because she couldn’t get work undermines her agency – in fact, it implies that she had no choice.
Neither of these speculated reasons is substantiated by any evidence or comment from Eva herself, who is effectively silenced and disempowered by both suppositions.
3. Feminism is about protecting and valuing women’s agency and autonomy. It’s about respecting choice as a value in itself, rather than promoting some choices over others. In Eva’s case, it’s safe to assume that she could afford childcare if she had wanted to, and thus had the choice to stay at home in a meaningful sense of the word ‘choice’. Assuming that raising children is a less worthy pursuit than acting or any other career is still telling women what to do with their lives. And that sounds an awful lot like sexism.