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Can We Please Stop Policing Every Single Thing Women Do With Their Faces & Bodies?

Aubrey Plaza, you are prefect. No notes.

Aubrey Plaza as Harper Looking Disgusted White Lotus

It’s award show season, so everyone is enjoying watching their favorite celebrities interacting in the wild. Unfortunately, with every award show, we also get a long critique of what every female celebrity wore, how they looked, and what they did during the entire broadcast. Following the broadcast of the Screen Actors Guild Awards on February 26, the online discourse has shifted to actress Aubrey Plaza, her dress, and her demeanor, and I just can’t tolerate it anymore.

I’m not huge on award shows, but seeing everyone get all fancy and celebrate the work they did over the past year is a nice return to normalcy after the recent quarantine years. At awards shows, we get to see great candid moments, like sad Ben Affleck (I can relate, I don’t like public events either) and an emotional reunion between Sally Field and Andrew Garfield,

We also get the discourse, and while male outfits or actions are called out on occasion, the vast majority of the social dissection centers on women. After the Grammy Awards, the internet and a bunch of new sites weighed in on Madonna’s appearance (people not liking how Madonna looked? Shocking!), and it’s sadly not surprising that another woman is now the target.

No one cares if you think it was unflattering.

Aubrey Plaza is a blessing to the world and is most well known for her deadpan and off-the-wall humor. During the SAG Awards, she had a wonderful moment with Wednesday actress Jenna Ortega, where they matched each other’s morbid humor and made me want to hang out with them. However, there is a running commentary about how “unflattering” Plaza’s sparkly brown Michael Kors dress was. The dress had two straps wrapping around her front, leaving her midriff bare and showing off a bit of underboob with her belly. She looked great, but there has been enough negativity about it that Plaza’s stylist felt like she had to defend the dress and the fact that it fit just like they wanted it to.

Of course, Plaza is not the first woman to have people not like what she wore. There are entire lists and shows that exist to examine and comment on what people wear to award shows. Why do we need to do that? If they like what they have on and feel they look good, what the hell does it matter what other stylists or social media think? Again, sometimes men are the subject of scrutiny, but let’s be honest, the heavy criticisms fall, 99% of the time, on women who were wearing something too revealing, too boring, or too much.

Women can make any faces they want

The policing didn’t stop at Plaza’s outfit, either. As one of the stars of The White Lotus season 2, Plaza joined her fellow cast members onstage to accept the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series. Actor F. Murray Abraham gave the acceptance speech on behalf of the entire cast, while everyone else crowded in behind him. In the background, Plaza struggled to get around the gaggle of men standing right behind Abraham. Once she could be seen, it looked like Jon Gries grabbed Plaza’s arm and told her to fix her dress (that didn’t need fixing). At the end of the speech, Plaza mouthed something that people are interpreting as “Jesus Christ” or “Shit’s fucked.” Yes, this is turning into the new Don’t Worry Darling spit-gate.

Afterward, a bunch of media started spinning this line that Plaza looked “hostile” and “upset” during the speech. I don’t know what exactly transpired between Gries and Plaza, but I have had enough people tell me to “fix” my clothing that her rage would completely justifiable. Gries has since explained that it was all a part of Plaza’s “being funny” and looking angry while not actually being upset.

Here’s the thing: It really doesn’t matter what exactly went down. What matters is how the world seems so concerned with Plaza’s dress placement and her facial expressions being something other than joy or excitement. Does anyone else hear “you’d be prettier if you smiled more” hidden in all this? It all goes back to that misogynistic, patronizing belief that women should always look appealing and content. If she was angry, for any reason, let her be angry. If it was a joke, then let it be a joke. Stop judging and policing every part of a woman’s existence. Otherwise, as Ortega and Plaza said, we might have to curse your bloodline for seven generations.

(featured image: HBO)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. She fangirls over the X-Men, folklore podcasts, and historical fantasy. When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse and offspring.