"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When "Sexism" is a Dirty Word

I've called out the big film blog SlashFilm before for their sexist and male-centered reporting before, but I've been surprised how, lately, they've been taking baby steps in the direction of calling attention to issues of race, gender, and sexuality in movies. Even though they tend to not take a strong stance on calling out oppression, I think it's great that they aren't totally ignoring issues that affect people other than straight, white men.

Their commenters, however, are a different story. When SlashFilm posted today about how top earning actresses make way less money than top earning actors, their readers came out in droves to dismiss the possibility of sexism in some interesting (and sometimes comical) ways. Some examples:

The "men are just better" argument:
Its not that Hollywood is sexist, there are probably only a few people in the world that would rather watch this list of actresses do their job opposed to the highest paying actors list, and this, of course, is with the exception of Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet (Meryl Streep is a great actress, but the movies she picks aren't the type that ask for big paydays). None of these women were in any blockbuster movies, or movies with huge budgets last year (unlike the men on the highest paid actors list), with the exception of Jolie, who is, coincidentally, the highest paid actress. When these women start doing the same jobs as the highest paid men then you can throw a fit that Hollywood is 'sexist.' Johny Depp rightfully deserves to be paid more than any woman on this list. Although I do not think that Mike Meyer's should be on the highest paid actors list I would rather watch him DO ANYTHING than sit through a Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Drew Barrymore, Renee Zellweger, or Halle Berry Movie (they all have their one or two could movies, but look at what they are making now!), and be honest, would you?

The "Women Choose to be Nothing More than Sex Objects" argument:
I feel like there are far less quality actresses than actors in Hollywood. When Julia Roberts was making decent films, she was topping both sexes with few exceptions. It is such a majority of films that have males for the lead roles and more male dependent in films that they will get paid more for a long time. It is easier to find a decent actress than a great male lead.

Here is a question, what actors and actresses would be on a top 100 list? How many males vs. females would be on the list? Not many females bring much to a film outside of sex appeal... and that is the choice of the actress. Transformers 2 films Fox bent over too many times, and how many lines does she have in the film? Female leads are rare, giving Jolie a couple but none of which are great films by any standard. If Jolie wanted double pay to match some of the male actors, she wouldn't be cast.

And the "Stop being so P.C.!" argument:
I think Slashfilm is on a political tyraid just for the hell of it.

And that's just from the first 15 or so. I'm sure plenty more will be rolling in.

I applaud SlashFilm for taking on this issue at all when they have such neanderthal readers, but if you prefer to get your film news in a friendlier space, I suggest Women & Hollywood and Bitch Flicks.


May said...

Thanks for the links! I'll add those to my reader list

plumpdumpling said...

There's no tyraid I hate more than a political tyraid.

But the best part is "Not many females bring much to a film outside of sex appeal... and that is the choice of the actress." Because we all know that actors and actresses are actually the ones writing the scripts and directing the scenes.

Tracey said...

I know, right? I also hate it when people call women "females". These guys are classy all around.

Smirking Cat said...

I partially agree that actresses choose their roles, and being stronger in their desires to not depict sexual objects would be nice to see. I cringe at what female characters say/do in movies and often wonder if it ever occurred to them to voice their protest. Nothing changes so long as we go along with it.

Tracey said...

Yeah, I agree that it would be nice if they took a stand more often, but even if a few actresses had stronger scruples, I'm sure the studios would have no problem replacing them with someone else with no problem being objectified. A paycheck is a paycheck.

M.Dot. said...

Don't even trip.

As a Black Feminist who writes about gender and hip hop, I get the same responses.

~No one is telling them to be video ho's.

~But Black kids buy rap music too.

~It's the parents jobs to raise the kids, not the rappers

There is a complete unwillingness to accept/acknowledge that fact that
sexism in media is a tool used to maintain both capitalism and patriarchy.

Blar. Blar. Blar.

Tracey said...

Good call. There could probably be a whole bingo card devoted to these types of dismissals of sexism.