Cannes Film Festival: 'Rhinestone flats' or heels — what a woman wears on her feet is between her and her Achilles tendon

Women are having their bodies policed on the red carpet

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The Independent Online

Cannes Film Festival is meant to be a celebration of an industry that’s tolerant of all colours, shapes and sizes. Mad Max: Fury Road has powered onto the screens with a badass Charlize Theron in a fiery feminist spectacle to rapturous audiences, and the Queer Palm Award for LGBT films at Cannes is six-years-old now. It’s so important that the film industry is representative of what its audiences want, what they are, and what they aspire to.

Except it’s not. And what is there to prove it? An apparent dress code that supersedes a woman’s ability to actually go view a screening. At a showing of Carol last night, several women were turned away for wearing what Screen reports were ‘rhinestone flats’ because they didn’t meet the obligatory requirement to wear heels on the carpet. It’s not like women showed up to the French Riviera shows in flip flops or scuffed up Nike Air Max 10s.

In the same weeks that sees the first woman in 28 years opening the festival, Emmanuelle Bercot, women are having their bodies policed because they don’t want to spend their nights in something they’re not comfortable wearing. And for this to be called out on a night of Carol, a film about a lesbian fighting societal norms, is bitterly ironic. It was also reported a woman with a medical condition that means she can’t wear high heels was turned away. Conflating standards of dress with what is essentially ableism is horrific, and only serves to illustrate the event as one for a very specific type of Cannes-goer. 

Guidelines for how men and women dress at red carpet events are always murky. Men are neatly boxed into the category of ‘suit and shoes’ as the sideshows, whereas women find themselves- wanted or not - centre stage, under intense scrutiny for whatever dress/bag/shoes/hairpiece combo they’ve dared to turn up in. Made a multi-award winning film that’s premiered in five different countries? Ew, your shoes are like, so matronly.

Women should be able to wear what they want, if it’s a pair of fish tanks attached to the balls of their feet or not, who should really care but your Achilles tendon after a long night of photo ops and press calls? 

As an industry, diversity should be a priority right now; for women, disabled people, people of colour and each intersection. Women are a force to be reckoned with within film, but as Salma Hayek says, Hollywood doesn’t ‘see [women] as a powerful economic force, which is an incredible ignorance’. The director of Cannes, Thierry Fremaux, admitted he doesn’t think there are enough female directors in the world. But maybe there are, and Cannes is just willing to ignorantly skim over them the same way those rhinestone flats skim over laughable and oppressive standards of appearance. 

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