By Clare Maceira | Celebrity | January 11, 2017 |
By Clare Maceira | Celebrity | January 11, 2017 |
On Sunday, Ryan Gosling, one of the internet’s boyfriends and subject of the “Hey, girl” meme, won a Golden Globe for his performance in the magical musical La La Land. Instead of the typical speech where the actor thanks his agents, gives a stock shout out to his spouse and then get the hell off the stage, Gosling did something … surprising.
After the usual dry humor we expect from Gosling towards Ryan Reynolds and his La La Land collaborators, he directed a soft, emotional, almost shaken acknowledgement towards his partner of five years and counting and mother of his two daughters, the equally low key and private actress Eva Mendes, who managed to hide both of her pregnancies from the media, that’s how private she is. Gosling said in part:
“You don’t get to be up here without standing on the shoulders of a mountain of people. While I was singing and dancing and playing piano and having one of the best experiences I ever had on a film, my lady was raising our daughter, pregnant with our second, and trying to help her brother fight his battle with cancer. If she hadn’t have taken all that on so that I could have this experience, there would surely be someone else up here other than me today. So, sweetheart, thank you.”
The last sentence was said while staring into the camera and boy, did the internet swoon. The internet’s boyfriend became the internet’s husband and many women surely turned to their partners at home on the couch, wondering out loud why they didn’t get thank yous like that. It was a beautiful, genuine speech from a man to his partner (wife? Who knows with these two). That was it, right?
Oh, no. Not when the internet is afoot.
A piece in the Independent suggested Gosling’s comments about and to Mendes at the Golden Globes was in fact sexist, saying Gosling actually fell into the archaic belief that a woman should be the caregiver while the man works. We couldn’t proclaim Gosling a feminist while his wife stayed at home with the children!
So, as an annoying, super totally militant feminist myself, a rebuttal.
Feminism is to allow women to decide for themselves what they want to do with their lives, to have one’s own agency. To disregard and criticize Eva Mendes’ choice to be a caregiver and Gosling’s choice to work in the name of feminism is ultimately harmful and full of unnecessary judgement for a situation and relationship we know nothing about. Mendes has publicly stated she chooses to be there full time for her children while they’re young, and Gosling has made similar comments. Priorities shift and change due to our own desires and unexpected and unavoidable real life issues, and the Gosling/Mendes family has adjusted like many everyday families do. They didn’t make the wrong decision, they made the decision that was best for their family.
And in trying to sculpt a negative spin on Gosling’s words, there’s also the disregard of not only Mendes’ choices but also her very successful fashion, makeup and fragrance lines for New York & Company, which she does along with her titles of wife and mother. It’s a line so successful Instagram is full of women of all sizes modeling her clothes, her partner proudly tells the Ellen audience her sister is wearing her line, and her own social media is full of prints, models and celebrities in her clothes. Yes, Eva Mendes is a wife and mother, but she’s also a businesswoman, and a successful one at that. She, like so many women before and after her, has the capability to be all of the above.
And on the flip side, perhaps the more harsh criticism of the Independent piece was that Mendes “provided the emotional labour needed for Gosling to further his own career.” Which is…ouch, right? One could definitely take that as the implication that Gosling used his partner’s emotional distress as her brother passed on for his career which is just uncalled for, and perhaps cruel to imply about a person and couple we know nearly nothing about. It was a lovely moment of gratitude from Gosling to Mendes, acknowledging her strength and private struggles and none of us will ever truly know what Mendes was going through beyond Gosling’s shaken, brief mention on stage. It was a rare display of personal emotion from Gosling, allowing us a glimpse of the bond he obviously holds incredibly close, refusing to let any of us in (he and Mendes have rarely been photographed together in public in five years). An emotional confirmation of Mendes’ strength in a hurricane of grief and the unavoidable isn’t the place to argue about gender roles and what Mendes should and shouldn’t do with their private lives and family. It’s a disrespectful intrusion of an opinion neither asked for.
Yes, Gosling took the moment to put Mendes on a pedestal and push the “behind every successful man is a strong woman” dance, but in a world where women are undervalued and situations such as what Mendes went through in 2016, taking control behind the scenes, being a mother, wife and caregiver and staying strong in the face of it all, is a tale known by many women and one which is so rarely acknowledged. It was a choice Mendes made perhaps out of love for her children, her husband, and her brother, and Gosling’s acknowledgement of it was also a gesture of love, his quiet, private love for his partner made public for a moment because as he noted backstage, he felt it needed to be said. Yes, Mendes made sacrifices which are often expected of women, but it was a choice she made, and they made together for their family, and she and her partner shouldn’t be criticized for it.
While there are the badass women kicking ass out in the workforce and making history, there are also the badass women kicking ass at home, choosing to hold down the fort and shape the future and be their partner’s support systems. My mother was one of them, and she continues to be the best role model and strongest person I know. There are many kinds of badass women and yes, the caregivers and mothers and wives are a part of that brilliantly strong mob. There’s no shame in wanting to play a traditional role, it is not a disservice to the feminist movement, just a different side of it.
So on Sunday, with Ryan Gosling quietly and emotionally explaining what his partner Eva went through in 2016 as he filmed the movie which is currently sweeping all the awards, I saw a man almost at a loss for words of how strong his partner was in the face of stress and death, and I saw the love she had for him in taking it on so he could do that movie, and the respect, admiration and love he clearly had for her as he thanked her. Theirs is a visibly solid relationship and partnership where he acknowledges that she is the reason he is able to do what he does. And, unfortunately, since that gratitude is so often missing in those thank yous, it was nice seeing it expressed publicly. Judging by the nods of agreement by Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer as Gosling talked, they seem to agree.
As we admire and cheer on the badasses and literal asskickers in media and real life, it was nice to see the internet’s boyfriend show a genuine appreciation for the badass he loves holding it down while he did his thing. And Mendes and all the other women rocking it behind the scenes have earned those accolades. We all know at least one, and they absolutely deserve to be acknowledged and loved for their work. Strong women aren’t just the corporate money makers and ass kickers, it’s the women who nurture and love. We can’t forget or shame them and the partners that support them, they are warriors, leaders and heroes like the rest of us trying to make our marks.