Guest post: Misogynist men as cool bros

Originally a comment by Bjarte Foshaug on An ordinary, malignant symptom of systemic sexism.

It’s hardly surprising that Hollywood, or the movie industry in general, should be such a hotspot of misogyny and sexism when you look at some (most?) of the stuff it produces. A while back (inspired by Anita Sarkeesian) I went through my own movie collection (not a vast one, but not exactly tiny either) and tried to identify all the problems (from a feminist perspective) I could find. Unsurprisingly most of my movies failed to pass the Bechdel test. Objectification/sexualization of female characters etc. was obviously a recurring theme. The Damsel in Distress as well as the even darker Woman in Refrigerator trope* were depressingly common. I also identified several instances of what Sarkeesian has called the Evil Demon Seductress trope and a few that, as far as I’m aware, don’t have names at all.

But by far the most common problem I found was sympathetic portrayal of sexist and misogynist men. Whereas overt racists are almost universally (with perhaps one or two exceptions, mostly from some of the older movies) depicted as the scum of the Earth and deserving of nothing but contempt, when it comes to sexism, the general tone seems to be that being a sexist or misogynist in no way makes you a bad person. At best it’s portrayed as a minor flaw or “quirk” that only makes the male character more “human” (and hence likable), and at worst it’s one of the very things we’re supposed to find cool about him **. Sure smells like self-serving bias to me.

* I.e. the one where a female character is killed as a pretext for the male hero to seek revenge and kick some ass.

** We see something similar with rock stars, many of whom who are/were notorious sleazebags. I can no longer listen to some of the rock songs I used to enjoy because the lyrics sound like the stuff that people tweet at Anita Sarkeesian.

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