Meryl Streep was the biggest winner at last night’s Golden Globe Awards last night—and we’re not talking about the Cecil B. DeMille trophy she collected for her contribution to the world of entertainment. The press has been awash with reports of her moving acceptance speech and her powerful words which spoke out against Donald Trump and everything his government stands for. By the time she wrapped things up with a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But there was another speech just as compelling that night. And what it lacked in political significance, it made up for in raw emotion.
When Ryan Gosling won the award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, he took to the stage to thank his ‘La La Land’ co-stars, Emma Stone and Damien Chazelle, joking that he wished he could cut the prize into three pieces.
Then he moved on to thank the one person he truly couldn’t have done it without. His wife, Eva Mendes.
Not because he loves her (although it’s patently clear that he does, very much). Not because he felt it was expected of him, in a grandiose diatribe that listed every member of the production team, dog walker, and second cousin, twice removed.
He did it because he quite literally could not have been there to act, sing and dance in the movie, had Mendes not been there to look after their daughters and hold the fort while he had “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on a film”.
Ryan confessed that “You don’t get to be up here without standing on the shoulders of a mountain of people.” Though he may have meant it in the context of Hollywood, what better description could so neatly sum up parenting?
They say that it takes a village to raise a kid. Others argue that it takes a village to raise a mother. The truth is that being a parent often involves being at the bottom of a human pyramid, providing support, out of view, without the expectation of praise.
One publication proclaimed the speech sexist, viewing it as yet another example of a woman who put her career on the backburner for the sake of her husband’s. Eva Mendes “took one for the team and provided the emotional labour needed for Gosling to further his own career,” read the article from The Telegraph. But did she really?
We can’t know for sure if the decision to stay at home and raise their daughters is one she made begrudgingly or happily. We can only guess. What we do know, is that acknowledging parenting and motherhood as work (and a valuable work at that) is a rarity. By recognizing her role as stay-at-home mother as a job and not merely a responsibility, Gosling made an empowering and feminist statement.
Ryan Gosling didn’t turn on the charm offensive to set social media hearts aflutter. Nor did he answer the question of whether it is right or wrong to be a SAHM once and for all. He simply gave credit where credit was due to a mother who was working behind the scenes to provide for her family.
Eva Mendes hasn’t starred in a movie since she became a mother. She didn’t win an award for a standout performance because there are no prizes for parenting. However, by acknowledging her role in his success, Ryan Gosling showed that while his wife personally may not be able to ‘have it all’, as a family unit, it is possible.
I’m reminded of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s wise words, “You can’t have it all, all at once.”
The phrase itself can be a dangerous one to throw around. Ryan Gosling may appear to have everything he could want. But isn’t he missing out on life with his young family, while filming long hours and promoting his movie? Eva Mendes can’t have it all right now, but who knows? In two years time, maybe she’ll be collecting a Golden Globe or Academy Award while Ryan Gosling is watching from a TV at home with Esmeralda and Amada.