Pop Culture

Kristen Stewart's Red Carpet Behavior at Cannes Film Festival Isn't Revolutionary

I googled "takes shoes off on red carpet" and was greeted by no less than three full pages of articles celebrating Kristen Stewart for now infamously opting out of heels at Cannes Music Festival, an occasion with an allegedly strict "heels-only" jurisdiction for women. 

The rule became a source for severe criticism in 2015 when women were reportedly not allowed into Cannes' viewing of Carol in flats. Stewart allegedly said "fuck this" to the heels-only rule in 2018, removing her Louboutins before ascending the famously red-carpeted flight of stairs at the festival, and immediately received heaping amounts of praise from the Social Media Jury for opposing the patriarchy and perhaps even boycotting Cannes, even if the poor girl's feet just hurt. Stewart, however, wasn't really given a choice in her new role as crowned Queen of Defying All Men and All Rules for simply removing her shoes even though she has had a long history of swapping out her heels for Converse, or even going totally barefoot, as soon as the red carpet photo shoots are over and done.

Why have we become so obsessed with women removing their footwear at celebrity-laden functions? Other A-list actresses have openly complained about the "heels rule" at Cannes, an edict the Director of the festival, Thierry Fremaux, has kept notoriously ambiguous, tweeting from a since-deleted account, "There is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s."  I can only guess he means 1-inch heeled loafers are a qualifier. And yet, the rule itself remains entirely unwritten. 

But what did Stewart actually do? She remained in heels for the photographers like any other rule-abiding celebrity would, but it was wet, raining and uncomfortable all-around for probably everyone in participation. Literally, the only barefoot photos I can find of her, are of her beginning to trudge up the narrow red-carpeted staircase and then her, looking accomplished—if not weather-beaten from the ascent—at the top as if she’s just reached the peak of Everest. 

From one photo I've mentally entitled The Climb, I counted 20 stairs at least and not the kind architects build for us now. These stairs absolutely look like the typical old-European style stairs that would lead to a creaky, old turret in the tippy top of a grand monastery. (Maybe 7-inches in width, if you're lucky, because everyone living in Medieval Europe was malnourished and diminutive.) Anyone scaling those stairs would need either a literal or figurative mental push to go forward. So while she took her shoes off, is there any evidence she kept them off once she got to the top?  

It is also worth noting that every man in the photo is actually wearing a 1-2 inch heel and Tom Cruise is nowhere in sight. Regardless, I've noticed this type of canonization comes easily for white female celebrities doing the absolute bare minimum in 2018. Is this the new feminism we adopted when Jennifer Lawrence proclaimed her love of fries in an interview as if she was something special? Or was it when Lawrence photobombed Beyonce, Sarah Jessica Parker, Emma Stone, Conan O’Brien, Taylor Swift and Natalie Dormer but also ended up kissing her instead. This kind of celebrity praise truly begs the question: Why are we settling for Bare Minimum Feminism? Why are endless media outlets using adverbs to describe her shoe-removal with actions like "defies," "rebels," "resists," "protests"? Marie Claire even called Stewart an “icon" for her actions. It's been three days and she's been sainted as a "rule breaker." Is this meme-ification of feminism really what we're subscribing to now? How many times do I have to say it? She took off her red-bottoms to walk up a flight of wet stairs.

When Cardi B removed her own Louboutins at a show in Miami in November 2017, it hardly made headlines and certainly wasn't seen as any type of protest. She was simply uncomfortable. When Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph, both black women, removed their heels at The Oscars this year—which undoubtedly also has an unspoken rule about celebrity dress—it's not like everybody slept on it, but people thought of it as more "shtick" than a rallying cry. 

When women in comedy—a genre black women are routinely pigeon-holed in—make a statement, the world laughs along with them, viewing it as nothing but trivial. Haddish, for example, traded in her heels for Uggs and stood on stage with a barefoot Rudolph, co-presenting The Oscars with the entire world looking on, holding their own in front of an audience of thousands. This, to me, feels braver than a woman—a privileged white woman—removing her Louboutins to climb up what looks like a pretty-difficult-to-ascend set of stairs, yet I'm having trouble finding headlines dedicated to their shoe removal. When I google "maya rudolph tiffany haddish remove shoes" the first three results with stiletto-ditching based headlines are either from shoe news websites or AOL. And social media may have had their fun over Haddish and Rudolph forsaking their heels at The Oscars, but the media did not see it or choose to portray it as a demonstration. While “relatable,” it was merely more comedy, from black women expected to bring it on every occasion.  

In contrast, when Jennifer Lawrence fell on another pretty-difficult-to-ascend set of stairs at The Oscars in 2013, the white-washed world of bare-minimum feminism screamed: "QUEEN! Literally me!" She is charming, sure, but what did Lawrence actually do? Every white feminist on Twitter shouts to the high-heavens "Yas Queen! I would have done the same thing!" when a white woman does the bare minimum. But when it's Cardi, Haddish, or Rudolph, it's more of a "good for them," pat on the back. Relatability, unfortunately, isn't feminism. But how can we move forward with an educated, true version of feminism when the media pushes watered-down feminism, led by a fictional celebrity narrative, without actual answers or—god forbid—solutions to our ongoing, uphill battle?

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