Once again, the world’s favourite dapper actor sporting the most charming smile and patrician features, made headlines with his speech at the 2017 Golden Globes.
Ryan Gosling, who received the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his role in La La Land, centred his acceptance speech around his partner, actress Eva Mendes. This tribute speech, intended to display Gosling’s gratitude towards Mendes, still received backlash from some media outlets that claimed it contained sexist sentiments. An article from The Independent writes, “Despite the swooning on social media for his Notebook-esque outpouring, I can’t help but feel that Eva Mendes, an award-winning actor in her own right, took one for the team and provided the emotional labour needed for Gosling to further his own career.”
This was beguiling to me. When I first watched Gosling’s acceptance speech, the first thought that came to me was: this is one of the rare occasions where an award-winning actor has actually dedicated his acceptance speech entirely to his partner, whom he is clearly appreciative of. He is acknowledging the sacrifices, be it emotional or career-related ones, that Mendes has made in order to hold the fort at home by taking on the role as primary caregiver while Gosling was working.
In my opinion, Gosling was making full use of the platform that he was given to cast a spotlight, quite literally, on the underappreciated and frequently unrecognised work of partners taking on the domestic responsibility of caring for their children and families. It is indisputable that Mendes is a great actress in her own right, but simply brushing off her decision to look after her family as “providing the emotional labour needed for Gosling to further his own career” is rather irreverent too. Mendes might have indeed helped Gosling by freeing up his time to pursue other projects when she bore the brunt of their household responsibilities, but there is a profound difference between her making this decision on her own accord, and him being “sexist” or not appreciative enough of the sacrifices she has made. Nowadays, many people are becoming more supportive towards career-driven women who wish to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder. While this is definitely progress for our society, there seems to be a double standard when this kind of support is called for women who wish to stay at home to care for their families, because being a stay-at-home mom is not considered a “proper full-time job”.
The article goes on to elaborate, “Gosling’s appreciation for his partner may be genuine but it plays into structural inequality women face in the workplace, least of all Hollywood”. It then postulates, “Yes, Mendes has agency, and the decision to put her career on the back burner for the sake of her husband’s was hers, but why did she have to make that decision to begin with?”. However, these arguments are predicated on the assumption that the only reason for Mendes’ choice to care for her children while Gosling was working was due to the patriarchy and male supremacy that Hollywood is reeked with. Fortunately, several comments on the site have expressed dissent towards the author’s line of argument, stating that Mendes was not forced to “put her career on the back burner”, but rather decided to compromise, something that couples are expected to do when involved in a serious relationship.
Yes, it is undeniable that there exists a deep-rooted problem of gender inequality around the world, where women are regularly expected to take on the role of primary caregiver in the case where both partners are working parents. Hence, women bear a greater burden in terms of trying to seek work-life balance compared to their male counterparts. Research by the Pew Research Center proves this, as statistics show that “about four-in-ten working mothers say that at some point in their working life, they had reduced their hours in order to care for a child or other family member, while just 28% of working fathers say they had done the same”.
Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that more can be done to acknowledge the sacrifices that working parents, in particular working mothers, make for their families. It is definitely heartening to see panjandrums, such as prominent Hollywood actors, who decide to fully utilise their platforms to raise awareness on issues such as these. However, it is indecorous for mainstream media to spin well-intentioned actions into stories that lack deep evaluation and contextual research.
But then again, we can always trust the ever-handy users of Twitterverse to help set the record straight. After all, if you’re a bird, I’m a bird, and the truth will always set us free.