Hollywood celebrities

Hollywood celebrities say they support the women of Texas. They don’t.

Thousands of protesters took to major cities in Texas over the weekend to protest the state’s dramatically restrictive new abortion law, known as Senate Bill 8. The law effectively bans abortions after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant, but chances are you are reading this story, you already know that.

Along with the protesters, a number of celebrities spoke out against the restrictive measures, including Billie Eilish, who was performing in Austin at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and Excellent chef stars Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons, who led a march to Houston city hall to protest the law.

The stars, who are in H-town to film the final season of the award-winning Bravo show, also used the march to call on Governor Greg Abbott, who has championed the law as a benefit for women in Texas (while being an advantage for his 2022 re-election campaign). Standing on the steps of downtown Houston City Hall, Lakshmi shared her own very personal stories of abortion and sexual assault, as Chron’s Ariana Garcia reported.

Simmons, however, used his time to approach Excellent chefthe decision to continue filming in Texas, despite calls to leave the state.

“I know Houston is a deeply diverse and vibrant place,” Simmons said. “I know my beloved restaurant industry, not to mention the women of Houston and all of Texas, needs our support more than ever and that I personally choose to support that not coming here would only hurt the local people and local economies that I have undertaken in my career to raise and support.

What the stars haven’t addressed, however, is Excellent chefthe own tenuous story of rises and stands behind the women. Earlier this year, Austin chef Gabe Erales won season 18 of the show, becoming the second Austin chef to win it after… Paul Qui, who was later charged with domestic violence. (Kristen Kish moved after his win, so technically the capital is home to three winners.) By December 2020, months before the show aired and he was crowned the winner, Erales had been fired from Comedor, an award-winning Mexican town. . -a restaurant inspired by downtown Austin for “repeated violations of our policies and behavior in conflict with our values”.

The real reason he left was one of Austin’s less well-kept secrets, but the (good) media can’t publish rumors, so it wasn’t until July that the story broke: harassment an employee, according to to the American statesman from Austin. The Statesman also dropped the bomb which Excellent chef the producers knew the chef had been fired and let the season pass without comment.

Hours after the story was posted by the Statesman, Lakshmi addressed the incident on Twitter, saying:

In Lakshmi’s case, being the face of a franchise can make you an accomplice, especially in the court of public opinion, but it doesn’t necessarily give you the power to change much. Still, it’s hard to reconcile the show’s checkered past as a platform to “uplift and support” women when only five of the top 18 chefs were women.

It also illustrates the fact that a woman’s constitutional rights are repeatedly attacked, with like-minded celebrities often using their platforms to show their support, a sort of progressive version of “thoughts and prayers.” But where is the real action? Why isn’t Top Chef moving production from Houston? Why is Ben Affleck filming in central Texas? Why is Billie Eilish threatening not to perform at ACL Fest in ACL internship?

Earlier this year, Georgia passed a 98-page voting bill so restrictive that mega-corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta were forced to comment publicly. Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in protest. Major Hollywood productions, like that of Will Smith Emancipation, chose not to film in the state, citing restrictive law.

Where is that kind of response in Texas? Do people hate taxes so much that they are willing to send “thoughts and prayers” to the women of Texas while keeping their productions in the Lone Star State? Or does it boil down to the fact that this bill is about women’s rights and therefore unworthy of losing business? My guess, unfortunately, is simply: both.

There is another great irony in this story and that is that it is deeply unfair for a woman to call out to women who are trying to support women. But it is also a simplistic view. Texas politicians (mostly GOP men) don’t care about women, they care about the economy and the faction of voters who vote only on abortion, thus securing the next electoral cycle. Shouting in the social media echo chamber isn’t going to change a voter on one topic, so why not use your immense power to focus on what you can change.

And it can be changed. Money changes everything. Relocate productions like Excellent chef hits the wallet and the state’s prestige, the two things Texas loves most. Fair enough with thoughts and prayers. It’s time to act. If you want to help women then don’t mess with Texas.