Twitter Gets It Right: #SmartGirlsAsk

“What are you wearing! Who did your makeup and hair!”—questions we have all heard being asked at red carpet awards shows. While these awards shows are supposed to be about celebrating and rewarding the hard work and dedication of actors, many red carpet events instead end up being focused on the designer of outfits, the amount of time and money spent getting ready, and what insane pre-show diets are the current trend.

Enter a wonderful social media idea brought about by Twitter, the Television Academy and our very own alumnus Amy Poehler. Instead of having female attendees answer the vapid and superficial questions that traditionally dominate awards show interviews, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Organization asked twitter members to tweet out their best questions using the hashtag #SmartGirlsAsk. The best of these questions ranging from, “what is one thing you do when you’re feeling stuck creatively” to “name a charity you are passionate about and explain why it matters to you” were answered by famous celebrities such as Jane Lynch, Amy Schumer and Amy Poehler herself. Their responses were filmed on the red carpet and then live tweeted. The hashtag became so popular that even well known names such as Britney Spears and Hillary Clinton got in on the #SmartGirlsAsk action.

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This event was a great example of the positive effect social media can have on society. Using social media’s ability to be real-time news and crowd-source able, thousands of questions were generated using a distinguishable hashtag. Fans sitting in their homes could now feel like they were a part of the red carpet experience because of social media. In addition, this social media event was beneficial to celebrities too as they could show their intellect and answer meaningful questions rather than be subject to the media’s vicious focus on appearance. Many of these celebrities who are already lauded for being a size zero or having the shiniest hair now could be praised in a much more significant way.

On the business end of the partnership, Twitter and the Television Academy both made a great decision in being a part of this hashtag event. The television industry and the tech industry are both heavily criticized for their lack of female representation. Twitter’s image has been battered in recent months with news of its inhospitable workplace environment revealed in a gender discrimination case. Partnering with an organization that champions educating young girls and making them feel empowered was a great move to improve their image and show that they are supportive of the gender equality fight. Similarly, Hollywood is known for its lack of female presence in directing and lead acting roles. To support the women who make these awards show possible is certainly the least the Television Academy could do to be a part of an important social cause.

Lastly, this was the first time a social media event like this has happened at a red carpet award show so Twitter, the Television Academy and Smart Girls Organization will be viewed as the leaders in this change movement. Perhaps asking more meaningful interview questions will catch on beyond red carpets and become the standard for media integrity. And if this is the case, these three organizations will be able to say they were the ones who made it happen. As we have come to find in many social justice movements, you never want to be on the wrong side of history.

While social media has often been criticized as a platform that encourages negative commentary and cyber bullying, the #SmartGirlsAsk event has proved that this does not have to be the case. I absolutely loved watching this hashtag play out and couldn’t have been happier to know that it was started by none other than a Boston College alumnus! Hopefully #SmartGirlsAsk can serve as a catalyst for even more positive social media campaigns.

9 comments

  1. Awesome blog post! Its fascinating to see how social media can connect people of all sorts of different backgrounds together for a common cause. Traditionally, the media has had the exhaustive ability to determine exactly what viewers would watch, because they were the content creators and streamers, and no matter how much we pleaded at home to view something else they would not hear our calls. Social media is changing this drastically; we are not interested in what diet these actresses had to undertake to get to their current shape, nor are we interested in who tailored their dresses. We care about who they are, what they do to be successful, the challenges and struggles that have gotten them to the red carpet in the first place. Before, our voices were too quiet to be heard. Because of social media, all of our voices are bound together, especially on collective platforms utilizing tools like Twitter’s hashtag (in this case, #SMARTGIRLSASK). And that voice is so loud that the media must acknowledge it, and show what we wish to see before their ratings drop considerably!

  2. The ability to directly communicate with people and organizations that would otherwise be unreachable is probably social media’s most important aspect and most impressive accomplishment. Thirty years ago, who would’ve thought that Average Joe would be able to message any celebrity, politician (up to the President of the United States), athlete, etc? Today we get to contribute in ways never before thought possible and cover a virtually unlimited geographical area and social status, so to speak. The Founding Fathers would have approved of Twitter, I imagine!

  3. Wonderful insights, Rebecca! I love the campaign that Amy Poehler started (and I love that she is a BC grad!). I truly agree that this is an example of social media used toward the betterment of society. Rather than focusing on superficial aspects, why not generate thought-provoking questions that give viewers the opportunity to learn about celebrities and incite thoughtful discussion? Further, it pushes celebs to be more than “just a pretty face.” A-List celebs hold an immense amount of power and maintain a significant reach that should be used for positive purposes.

    I do have to wonder – does this word choice of “girls” versus “women” change the opinion of the hashtag?

  4. Rebecca,
    This post is awesome! I love reading about all of the positive things that social media is doing on our IS6621 blog. I am a huge Amy Poehler fan and think it is awesome that she started that viral hashtag. However, I did not hear about this hashtag until your post, which I find disappointing. When celebrities say or do something negative, it is all over my newsfeed. I wish my newsfeed was filled with the positive impact of Amy Poehler and the other celebrities that participated in this hashtag in the same way. Even when I Google “Amy Poehler Emmys,” the first page is filled with “Why Amy Poehler never really had a shot at winning an Emmy” and “Amy Poehler basically dressed as Damian from Mean Girls.” Not even on the first page of search results on Google do I find Amy Poehler’s #SmartGirlsAsk campaign. Ironically, when I search “#SmartGirlsAsk” on Google, I cannot find an article without Amy Poehler’s name in the title.

    So, although Amy Poehler’s #SmartGirlsAsk campaign was a home run for the people who knew about it, social media still has a long way to go about spreading the word about these monumental, positive social media events. Is negativity more entertaining to most people on social media platforms? I’d be interested to find out if this is a global trend or just something I notice on my personal accounts.

  5. Really great post. I’ll have to think a bit more deeply about this one (mainly because I just commented on a blog noting the negative implications). But, in a sense, this was still a “negative” critique – negative against what was actually happening in the red carpet treatment. Of course, it also opens up the risk of abusive behavior as well. Social Media is a powerful, yet often unpredictable, tool.

  6. ariellebudney · ·

    Great post! I definitely think this is a good campaign because it points out the negative behavior at award shows, and challenges us to think differently about them. Personally, I find the constant questions about what the celebrities are wearing to be tiresome. I do like the fashion, but I think it’s irresponsible to put so much emphasis on physical appearance; it can easily become an opportunity to shame women. The publicity around award shows provides a huge platform for celebrities to talk about important issues, which is why the #smartgirlsask campaign is so important. These are successful and influential women, and we should be asking more substantial questions than, “How long did it take you to get dressed for tonight?” What we should really be asking is why the E! Network thinks a “mani-cam” is necessary? Personally, I’d rather hear what these women have to say than admire their manicures. Hopefully, campaigns like #smartgirlsask will start to change the way the media treats women.

  7. Nice to see some positive development coming out in how red carpet events are broadcast. I wonder how social media has impacted interest in the red carpet. I always felt like that segment of award shows felt a lot like a gossip hour, and I’m wondering whether social media commentary replaces the need for that or rather feeds the beast. Either way, some better questions might encourage me to actually tune into the pre-show coverage.

  8. I’m so glad you decided to write on this topic this week! I am one of those people who love watching the red carpet to see what types of outfits celebrities are wearing, but I appreciated the interview portions of the night so much more when they were asking questions that mattered. The #SmartGirlsAsk may not have been the largest trending topic about the night or before the event, but with social media, more and more people will see it as others share about the campaign in the following weeks. Something that I think ties in well with this campaign was a video Buzzfeed just published about women in the work environment. It featured Carly Fiorina asking men in the workplace questions like “how do you walk in those shoes”, which gets to the gender questions women in business often get unnecessarily asked.

  9. Really neat that Amy Poehler was able to get the ball rolling on this. I think for so long no one even questioned the types of questions being asked on the red carpet. It became habit and normal for everyone, but pointing out the flaws in the system needed to happen. Gender discrimination has obviously improved immensely over the years, but if we allow modern events like this to get by without question, we would not be taking more steps forward and away from discrimination. Overall, awesome post!

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