Hey, Girl: The hypocritical Internet response to sexism at the Oscars
Last night, Seth MacFarlane, creator of shows like ‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ and writer of crude but hilarious movies like ‘Ted’, hosted the 85th Academy Awards, in what I assume was an attempt to reach a younger audience for a telecast that normally skews slightly older. And despite knowing of MacFarlane’s penchant for crude humor, viewers of the telecast were shocked and angered by said humor as if this isn’t the same guy who hosts the Comedy Central Roasts.
People across the country took to the Internet immediately to call Seth MacFarlane’s jokes sexist and him misogynistic, going out of their way to explain Why This Matters. And I wanted nothing more than to shake these people and explain to them that by putting so much emphasis on what celebrities do and say, we’re part of the problem. I had an entire post drafted about how we as a society place too much importance on an Oscars monologue and jokes that no one will remember in three years. But then another thought came to me after Buzzfeed posted 9 Sexist Things That Happened At the Oscars and I realized that’s not our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is a huge double standard in what we deem acceptable humor.
Last month when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes to spectacular reviews, they made several crude jokes at the expense of several of their female peers, and all were met with laughter and not one critic felt it necessary to point out how these jokes were degrading to women.
A joke in their opening monologue about the controversy of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ was, “When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.” The joke was met with uproarious laughter, but is at its very foundation crude and offensive and implies horrible things, but because it was made by Amy and Tina, two women adored by seemingly everyone, no one cried foul. If those words had been in the mouth of Seth MacFarlane I have no doubt it would have be on that Buzzfeed list, right under number six which says, “He Also Said “Zero Dark Thirty” Was Evidence That Women Are Difficult” because it was evidence of “a woman’s innate ability to never let anything go.”
Guys, we do have a problem letting things go. You know how I know? Because of the multitude of posts on the Internet today about how we can’t let these very jokes go. I think we all need to open our eyes to a harsh reality about ourselves and that is that we remember every single time someone has slighted us. Remember that girl in fourth grade who called you Four Eyes because you wore glasses? Of course you do. Remember that time in college when your roommate ate your Doritos and you still bring it up when you get together? Admit it, you do! These are signs of Never Letting Things Go. We joke about them now, of course, but it’s true. Women were offended by this joke because it’s true. But I would also like to point out that my 28-year-old brother still brings up the fact my mom lost his Superman cape when he was a toddler, so men aren’t really innocent either. It’s just that men seem to have a relaxed attitude about these things. Men don’t seem to let things bother them as much as women do, and it’s a product of a society in which women are judged more harshly than their male counterparts. And newsflash, we’re also more emotional. Accept this so we can move on.
Amy and Tina’s monologue goes on to include a joke about Anne Hathaway, who stated it was uncomfortable to have a camera so close up in her face for her most harrowing scene, and Amy quips that she’ll never make it in porn. Again, a joke that played well because it came from the mouths of America’s sweethearts, but might have been met with trepidation and uncomfortable laughter had a male said it.
Directly following the porn joke Tina said, “‘The Hunger Games’ was one of the biggest films of the year – and also what I call the six weeks it took me to get into this dress!” Amy responded, “Ang Lee’s been nominated for best director for ‘Life of Pi’ – which is what I’m gonna call the six weeks after I take this dress off.”
In last night’s Oscar telecast MacFarlane joked about women getting the flu before the Oscars as a form of dieting and it was called sexist by nearly everyone, but Amy and Tina received a free pass for insulting women because they are women? I’m sorry, but shame on every person who didn’t question Amy and Tina, but who were quick to point fingers at their male counterpart.
If we’re going to shame people as a society, we should be equal opportunity haters. Feminism is about being treated equally, but most women only want to treat women as equals when it’s favorable to them. That’s not equality folks. If a woman does or says something crude and offensive, we should not let it slide because she’s a woman. As a female, I want to be held to the same standards we hold men to. If we expect men to treat women properly and not make jokes that are allegedly offensive to women, then we can’t make those jokes ourselves.
Amy and Tina shouldn’t be allowed to say degrading things about their own gender because they’re women. Because men might think it’s OK to do the same. And don’t even give me that bullshit about how this is anti-feminist. The truth of the matter is that we are partly to blame. If we don’t respect ourselves enough that we don’t make jokes at our own expense, then no, our male counterparts won’t respect us. It’s true that we are part of the problem. And we need to stop being part of the problem, stop allowing our female counterparts to shame us or attack us in the name of humor if we expect men to stop doing it as well.
And as long as I’m calling out the hypocrisy of my own gender, I would also like to point out another flaw. When discussing this debate with my best friend, she brought up the idea that so much of this is based on preconceived notions about who these people are. Many people know Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humor and dislike it, and so they went in with a sour disposition and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. They went in expecting to find fault in his jokes and they did. But Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are so highly regarded by the world over, loved and adored by people as being Women Who Are Funny, that they went in expecting to love it and so they did.
What if instead of Seth MacFarlane the show had been hosted by Neil Patrick Harris? Harris is genuinely adored and is Hollywood’s Golden Boy. So if he’d been the man to make the same jokes, do you think we’d have had a different reaction? Would we have let the jokes slide because he’s a gay man? Our notions about what is acceptable and what is not vary widely on the mouth doing the talking. What if it had been Ryan Gosling, the man who stops street fights and saves women from getting hit by cars? Would we have thrown around the word misogyny so lightly? It’s all about perspective folks, and I wish the world could get some.
A couple of years ago, Robert Downey Jr was a presenter at the Golden Globes and said that he didn’t think a woman could do her best work until he’d slept with her. He goes on to make comments about the five women nominated and everyone in the entire room laughs, as if this isn’t crudely offensive. Everyone generally seems to love Downey because he’s self-deprecating and he doesn’t hide his former transgressions as a drug addict, but are we really going to let this type of comment go because he’s Robert Downey Jr? Because if we’re going to tar and feather Seth MacFarlane, then we need to retroactively do the same to Downey, no matter how handsome and talented he may be.
This is the same reason people dislike Kristen Stewart and adore Jennifer Lawrence. Granted Kristen doesn’t make it easy to like her when she shows up to big Hollywood events looking like every second there is crushing her soul and that being a rich and wealthy woman in her early 20s is a burden, but we’ve come to view her as a pain in the ass as a society, and so that’s what we see her as no matter what. If it had been her to fall up the stairs last night, I don’t think we’d all have been, “OH MY GOD, SHE IS PRECIOUS!” like we were with Jennifer. No, the Internet would be flooded with GIFs of her falling and we’d all laugh like Doctor Evil and somewhere someone would yell out “KARMA!” and that’s not OK. We have this idea that it’s OK to shame and hate on others, but then we allow women whom we deem adorable to get a free pass.
I’m not saying there’s any reason to dislike Jennifer Lawrence, because she comes across as genuinely enthusiastic about being a celebrity and about her successes. She smiles and laughs and comes across as humble and capable of expressing human emotion, something us common folks can understand. But the difference in how we react to and treat our female counterparts is hypocritical.
Lastly, Buzzfeed lists as number four on its list, “Jennifer Aniston Got Called a Stripper.” I’m sorry, but no, I don’t accept this as a being sexist in the slightest. I see this truly as a joke that just happened to be made by a man. And if you’ll watch the accompanying video, Seth never actually calls her a stripper. In his introduction he says, “Of our next two presenters, at least one is honest about being a former exotic dancer.” Guys, stop reaching. Because it’s getting painful to watch and you’re making other women look bad.
Also, how many times since ‘Magic Mike’ was released, have you seen women objectify Channing Tatum? Last night several women on Twitter jokingly complained that Tatum was wearing too many clothes when he danced. If it’s not OK to objectify women, then we shouldn’t objectify men the same way. This is another example of a double standard. And if the women of the world are truly offended by a joke as tame as the Aniston one above, then they really have no business watching any media of any kind. They should never leave the house, because the real world – the world outside of Hollywood’s egotistical awards season – is far more crude and sexist than anything Seth MacFarlane said last night.