By Claire
Discharge & Aftercare Coordinator

Last week, millions of people watched the Oscars, and this week newsstands, online magazines, and banner ads are full of “best dressed” and “worst dressed” lists. This year though, the conversation has changed a little bit. People didn’t want to just talk about what people are wearing. They want to talk about why we’re talking about what people are wearing.

RThe hashtag #askhermore, trending worldwide that night, calls for reporters and other people in media to ask women more than the standard question “who are you wearing?” but to go beyond and ask about the films that they are making (which is their ostensible reason for being there), their humanitarian efforts, their families…basically anything that recognizes them as human beings, not mannequins. Stars like Reese Witherspoon, Patricia Arquette, and even Hilary Clinton voiced support for the movement.

I am not a reporter or a movie star. I have never been asked to walk the red carpet. (Which, now that I think about it, is rude. Can someone look into that for me? Thanks.) But I might be a part of the problem too. Let me give you an example: A little while ago, I was at a family dinner. My cousin’s daughter, five years old at the time, came to greet me at the door and said “Oh, I love your shoes, and what a cute dress”, just like an adult.

Adorable, right? But it made me think: what are we teaching her? Is it just that she is a fashion-obsessed person? Of course not. She is a very sensitive and socially-savvy kid. She has picked up from the people around her (including me) that that’s how you greet someone. That’s how women talk to each other. We compliment appearance-oriented things. We describe women (even very young ones) in terms of their appearance first. We had trained this little girl to talk to me about my shoes, when we could be talking about books or school or her baby sister or dinosaurs or her friends or games or anything else in the world.

This is how women converse. This is how women bond. We say “How did you get your hair like that?” and “Those boots are amazing!” and “Have you lost weight?” I know some incredibly smart, problem-solving, creative, driven, well-traveled, funny, capable, insightful, kind, and overall interesting women. Why in the world are we wasting time talking about external things? Why are we subtly reinforcing the idea that whatever else a woman is, she’d better be pretty first? We tell each other “Your appearance isn’t the most important thing about you.” But then the very first thing we talk about, and the first thing we give you positive reinforcement for is…your appearance. No wonder girls are confused.

It’s time to get our message straight. I may not have any say in what Giuliana or Ryan ask celebrities on the red carpet, but I do have a say in what I ask the women around me. So, ladies and gents, let’s decide to personally #askhermore. Let’s decide that we aren’t going to talk about diets, weight, beauty products, makeup, or clothes with each other today. Let’s decide that we are going to compliment people on their work, their humor, their creativity, their generosity, and not their appearance. Let’s be a little bit more real with each other.

What are you going to do today to #askhermore?