Don’t get me wrong, I love third wave feminism, but like every movement, it has its ups and downs. Take for example the case of young, attractive male Hollywood actor, Ryan Gosling. It’s not often you hear Hollywood heart throbs, especially of the male persuasion, utter the words ‘It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self.’ This alone should be celebrated, and it is.
Gosling was speaking out in response to the Motion Picture Assosication of America, the organisation responsible for rating US films, branding his new film Blue Valentine an x rated NC-17. The MPAA have made this decision because of a scene that depicts Gosling performing oral sex on the film’s female lead, Michelle Williams. The couple in the film are in a relationship, and the sex act is consensual. This rating, from the same organisation that has given less adult themed ratings to films that include women being raped by mutants and lizard men, as well as suffering sexual harassment and violence.
In regards to this, Gosling hits the nail on the head:
‘You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.’
In theory, I should be happy- and I am to an extent, I think it’s brilliant that he’s highlighted the issue. But in practice, I’m annoyed- and not just because I’m a fun hating feminazi.
I’m annoyed because Michelle Williams said almost exactly the same thing, and the media didn’t see fit to mention this.
The just as astute Williams said:
‘Mainstream films often depict sex and violence in a manner that is disturbing and very far from reality. Yet, the MPAA regularly awards these films with a more audience friendly rating, enabling our culture’s desensitization to violence, rape, torture and brutality. Our film does not depict any of these attributes. It’s simply a candid look at the difficulties couples face in sustaining their relationships over time. Blue Valentine opens a door for couples to have a dialogue about the everyday realities of many relationships.’
Irritatingly, Williams’ quote is often far down in any related article, shovelled in under a headline that only mentions Gosling’s objection, therefore implying that the sentiment holds more credibility if uttered by a man.
This is annoying.
In reaction to Gosling’s words, straight feminists across the blogosphere appeared to melt in pro-feminist man themed arousal. One comment on Jezebel’s article actually read ‘I want him so hard right now. We could re-enact that scene.’
Regardless of whether that comment was a joke or not, it isn’t cool. There’s a danger of undermining the message if we reduce our response to his words into ‘OMGGG I WANT HIM SO BAD’. Not to mention that feminism is about rejecting excessive objectification. I think Gosling is a great actor, and I respect him even more so for expressing a distaste for blatant inequality, but just because we share the same views doesn’t mean I want him in my pants.
I’ll bet you anything that if Gosling’s words were uttered by a lesser liked, female Hollywood star such as Katherine Heigl (who’s comments on gender inequality in the past have earned her the title of the most hated woman in Hollywood), they would have been ignored or dismissed.
I couldn’t possibly say there’s a problem with pro-feminist men. In fact, the title of this post may seem a bit loaded. The problem is the media’s reaction to their opinions. If anything, we should be welcoming everyone into third wave feminism, regardless of gender. But we should be careful not to spark unwarranted hero-worship to these men who, are in actual fact, pointing out inequality and talking common sense. If we do, we’re at risk of leaving the women, like Michelle Williams, who are saying the exact same thing, by the wayside.