I am not very "into" the Oscars, and this year's #oscarssowhite didn't really do anything to get me more excited about them. I halfheartedly watched the the first hour, more so I could know what the internet would be talking about the next morning than out of any real interest, then gave up, drank some wine, and drew a bath.
Honestly, I wish I had persevered, because Lady Gaga's performance of her Oscar-nominated song "'Til It Happens to You" was the most powerful and important thing to happen on that stage. (I've since watched it online, but it would have been cool to see it as it was happening.)
The performance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, who took the opportunity to promote the White House's "It's On Us" campaign and share these words:
"We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man, like the survivors you will see tonight, never have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?' They did nothing wrong."
I'm not going to lie: hearing the Vice President of the United States utter that last sentence so emphatically sent chills down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. It felt like a real blow to rape culture and, though we still have far to go, made me feel like maybe everything isn't hopeless bullshit, and maybe we do have hope of changing things.
After Biden left the stage, Gaga launched into a powerful, piano-fueled rendition of the song that Diane Warren had written for the sexual assault documentary, The Hunting Ground. As the song reached a fever pitch, sexual abuse survivors (men and women) flooded the stage, with messages like "SURVIVOR" and "NOT YOUR FAULT" written on their arms. It was extremely powerful and brave and beautiful and many of those in the audience (and at home, I'm assuming) were moved to tears.
Gaga's message didn't begin and end with that single performance. Earlier in the evening, Gaga dedicated most of her time on the red carpet to share some statistics and her personal experience with rape and sexual assault.
It’s such an important song to me. One in five women will be raped before they finished college. One in twenty men will be raped before the time they finish their schooling at their university. It’s something that is deeply connected to my heart, I am myself a survivor. Diane Warren is herself a survivor of sexual violence, and we are here tonight. I’m very grateful to the Academy for giving us this world stage to reward survivors for being brave and coming forward. I’m really happy to be here.
She also took a moment to once again express her support for fellow performer Kesha who, as we all know, is currently embroiled in a battle to free herself from a man she says abused her for a decade.
After the show, she shared a photo of herself with the survivors on Instagram, thanking them for their bravery and determination.
I've long been a fan of Lady Gaga as a performer, but this made me love her as a person. To see such passionate support of abuse survivors at such a mainstream, broadly-watched event was amazing stuff, and seeing the response has been heartwarming.
Another favorite moment was when Brie Larson (who took home the gold statue for her role in Room, a film that centers around surviving sexual, physical, and mental abuse) jumped up to hug each and every survivor as they left the stage:
Basically, the whole thing rocked and even though "Til It Happens To You" didn't take home the Oscar, Lady Gaga (along with that amazing group of people who joined her on stage) won the night.