It shouldn’t have worked. Award shows are stage-managed, prettified, self-justifying, emotionally incoherent affairs at which, occasionally, something meaningful or surprising happens. The Golden Globes are the wackiest of the bunch, mostly because everyone gets to drink. And the red carpet is where the pageantry is at its most superficial. Yet last night it was the launch pad for a decisive feminist takeover that lasted until the final envelope was opened. Women, collectively and defiantly, ruled.

You’d have to go back to the aids ribbons of the mid-nineties to find a red-carpet political fashion statement half as effective as the black gowns (and tuxedos) that flooded the entrance to the Beverly Hilton, many affixed with “Time’s Up” pins. Naturally, the stunt had its detractors before it even took place. Was coördinated couture really the best response to an outpouring of sexual-assault horror stories? Would it look funereal? Were the activist plus-ones being reduced to accessories? As it turned out, the celebrities were, by and large, focussed and on message. “This is not a moment. It’s a movement,” Eva Longoria told Carson Daly. But the take-no-prisoners mood was set by Debra Messing, who told a reporter from the network E!, “I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts.” How wonderfully bad-mannered.

Not that the red carpet was a roaring triumph. The atmosphere was, by turns, awkward, inspiring, jittery, kick-ass, and wince-inducing. On NBC, Matt Lauer’s former co-workers from the “Today” show tried to balance the gravity of the moment with the usual red-carpet chitchat. “The movie ‘Greatest Showman’ is all about diversity!” Al Roker said, pivoting to Hugh Jackman, shortly before Natalie Morales introduced Billie Jean King as “the O.G. of gender inequality.” Most of the actresses were asked about #MeToo, but too few of the men—even the ones who wore Time’s Up pins on their lapels, among them Armie Hammer, Liev Schreiber, and Alexander Skarsgård, who played a domestic abuser on “Big Little Lies.” When Al Roker told Kerry Washington, “There is a real sense of celebration here,” I got the sinking feeling that everyone would just try to make nice.

Hell, no. “Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen,” the host, Seth Meyers, said in his opening monologue. Meyers had a weird job, and he knew it: his mere presence was off message. Comparing himself to the first dog to be sent into space, he told zingers both crowd-pleasing and oddly crowd-scandalizing. (We can’t make fun of Kevin Spacey’s Southern accent?) Then he made himself scarce, which was probably the best approach: better to cede the floor to the cavalcade of women eager to make themselves heard. “I do believe, and I hope, we can elicit change through the stories we tell and the way we tell them,” Nicole Kidman said, accepting an award for “Big Little Lies.” Elisabeth Moss, winning for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” quoted a line from the Margaret Atwood novel—“We lived in the gaps between the stories”—and countered, “We no longer live in the gaps between the stories. We are the story in print, and we are writing the story ourselves.” Barbra Streisand was introduced as the only woman to win a Golden Globe for directing, to which she responded, “That was thirty-four years ago. Folks! Time’s up!” The only “time’s up” message that failed to get across belonged to the conductor, who was filibustered by the director Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”).