As you may have assessed by now if you’re an avid reader of this column, I am a man. Therefore, I am well aware how difficult it would be to write on the current treatment and portrayal of women in the media, especially since I do not possess the right components – shall we say – to provide a proper, feminine perspective.
Well, I’ve accidentally offended women in the past. So, if I do it here, 1) I’m sorry and 2) it’s not the first time it’s happened.
As of late, it seems like when male writers and male-driven outlets try to show women some love, their pieces end up being condescending and just plain sexist. Esquire got some major backlash when the magazine printed an article praising 42-year-old women in last month’s issue (which featured a barely-clothed, now-42-since-last-weekend Cameron Diaz on the cover).
“Let’s face it, there used to be something tragic about even the most beautiful forty-two-year-old woman,” is how writer Tom Junod began the piece, before name-checking such middle-aged lovelies as Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Garner and Amy Poehler. Needless to say, a number of female commentators didn’t appreciate the sentiment.
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“I thought the article was a piece of sexist tripe,” wrote the New Republic’s Rebecca Traister, “celebrating a handful of Pilates-toned, famous, white-plus-Maya Rudolph women as having improved on the apparently dismal aesthetics of previous generations.”
Esquire wasn’t the only men’s magazine getting in trouble for unintentional sexism. Film critic Tom Carson got women riled up when he panned the movie “Third Person” on the GQ.com website. In the review, he said he couldn’t buy actress Olivia Wilde in the role of an author, especially in a scene where she scampered through a hotel corridor naked. “With that tush,” Carson wrote, “who’d need to be literate? Who’d want to?” Carson apologized for the crack (pardon the pun), while the actress responded to the whole thing with this tweet: “HA. Kiss my smart a--, GQ.”
You can hardly blame female writers and female-friendly blogs for getting upset. It appears that the fairer sex has been under attack in more ways than one recently. From the Isla Vista killings in California in May, where bitter gunman Elliot Rodger recorded a video of himself ranting about all the women who rejected him before opening fire on, among other places, a sorority house, to the leaked nude photos of such stars as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton (just two of the many ladies who make up a “master list” of leaked celebrity nudes) that made the news last Sunday, women have every reason to keep their guard up.
Of course, when it comes to frequent attacks on women, look no further than on the World Wide Web, where misogyny roams free all over the comments sections. That’s what women’s interest blog Jezebel had to deal with last month. The site posted an open letter to Gawker Media, its parent company, pleading with them to do something about the violent rape GIFs that were appearing in their comments.
Sexist Internet trolls seem to be in abundance, striking with such bilious vigor that some women decide to delete their online presence when they get attacked. Zelda Williams, daughter of the late comedian Robin Williams, did that shortly after her father’s suicide last month. After receiving several graphic images and insults from trolls, she deleted her Twitter account. (However, she returned to Twitter on Labor Day.)
While these cowardly bullies hide behind laptops, sexist comments can still be unfortunately dispensed to women right to their faces. While promoting her new book, “Off the Sidelines,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York recalled the fat-shaming she would get from fellow Senate members. In a New York Post interview, she remembered the time a Southern congressman took her by the arm and said, “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.” Gillibrand kept her cool: “I believed his intentions were sweet,” she told the paper, “even if he was being an idiot.”
Yes, there are a lot of idiot men out there, making it hard for women to go through the day without being accosted or harassed. As I said earlier, I know my past is littered with various instances where I’ve said or done some ill-timed, inappropriate things in front of a female. But I’ve learned from my mistakes, something that many men, unfortunately, have yet to do. Perhaps I can do my part to bring awareness to this by starting a Twitter hashtag called “#iamanidiotladies,” where men can collectively tweet about the times they’ve said or done ill-timed, inappropriate things in front of a female. At least this can show to the opposite sex that there are men who are well aware how ridiculous other men can be to women – because we were those idiots once.