For women who attended the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, there seems to be a whole lot of ‘can we just not?’ From the festival’s the lack of female directors chosen to show their films to its restricting (and not to mention gendered) dress code, it’s clear Cannes is still breeding a sexist environment.
So we can’t say we were shocked when 82 women — including Ava DuVernay, Salma Hayek, Cate Blanchett, and Kristen Stewart — locked arms, walking in silence arm-in-arm, stopping in the middle on the stairs leading to the festival’s events in a form of protest on Saturday. But that’s not where Stewart's act of defiance stopped. The Chanel ambassador, clan in an archive dress from Karl Lagerfeld’s fall 2013 haute couture collection, took a second on the red carpet to make a statement of her own. On her way into the premiere of Spike Lee’s film Blackkklansman, she stopped on the red carpet and removed her Christian Louboutin heels. It was a move some called “relatable,” but one we're calling a silent act of protest against Cannes’ rather dated idea that female attendees must wear heels — not flats — to its events.
In the past, Stewart hasn’t been shy about the fact that she strongly disagrees with Cannes’ rigid style requirements. Last April, she told The Hollywood Reporter, “There’s definitely a distinct dress code. People get very upset at you if you don’t wear heels or whatever.” Except the festival has done more than “get upset:” In 2015, several women were turned away for wearing flats to the premiere of Carol. Stewart wasn’t the only actress to call out “flatgate,” as it was then referred, either: Emily Blunt openly criticised the rule, while Julia Roberts chose to go barefoot at the 2016 festival as a subtle act of rebellion.
“I feel like you can’t ask people that anymore,” Stewart said of requiring female guests to wear heels. “It’s just a given. If you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, then you can’t ask me either.” Stewart says that four years ago, the mandate even called for women to wear dresses, though it is currently unconfirmed whether that is true.
Either way, she’s right. It’s 2018, and there is more than one way to dress like a woman — ways that don’t necessarily include six-inch stilettos or a haute couture gown. And whether the dress code is official or unspoken, it’s time Cannes finally caught up with the times. Because if women deserve the right to have their films represented at the festival, they deserve to wear whatever they want while doing so, too.