“You can’t let the animals die in a movie… only the women”.
—Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths
A few months ago, a blogger published a controversial post about pay equity. The young woman took an unpopular stance on gender income difference and the concept of equal pay for work of equal value: it didn’t matter if a woman earned less than a man, she should be happy just to be working. It created a wave of angry comments, in which the blogger failed to defend her opinion. Ultimately, the post was deleted.
In 1999, I sat down with the Human Resource Representative of a Telecom giant to talk about potential employment. Among the perks, the company’s competitive employee benefit program: it offered group insurance, paid and unpaid vacation, funding of education, and pay equity. Just the fact that women got paid the same amount as men was touted as a laudable manifestation of progressive values. Sadly, the company was ahead of the curve.
Today, in Canada, men still earn more than their female counterparts, and Western pop culture enjoys celebrating and reinforcing women’s second-class citizenship.
“THE EX” TACTICAL MANNEQUIN
To discriminate against Women by not having them represented in our product selection would be just plain sexist. —Zombie Industries
With the pervasive meme of the impending zombie apocalypse, it’s only natural that zombies would make an appearance in target practice. Zombie Industries is advertising The Ex, a life-sized bleeding mannequin target. The gimmick is simple: these ex-girlfriend mannequins are manufactured to desensitize the zombie apocalypse survivors, so that when faced with a loved one turned into a flesh-eating monster, they will be emotionally prepared to shoot them.
“The Zombie virus does not discriminate and neither does Zombie Industries”. Are they really promoting emotional detachment for the sake of survival? These mannequins are not modeled after a sibling, a friend, or a parent—a father faces a horrible decision if confronted with his infected 3-yr old, but Zombie Industries doesn’t provide models of kids, dogs, or grandparents. What they are promoting is misogynistic hate and violence: thanks to this half-naked, big-breasted ex-girlfriend stand-in, a man will have no problem shooting his former female counterpart, given the opportunity. A thousand times, if needed.
A HAUNTED HOUSE
A Haunted House is a spoof film, centered around a couple who lives in a haunted house. It stars Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins. The whole movie revolves around how the presence of the female character will decrease his quality of life. The horror isn’t in the poltergeist, the demonic possession, or the ghost sightings. The terrifying entity is a farting woman without a stitch of makeup—that is the ugly, the gross, the truly scary.
And then there are rape jokes, perpetuating rape culture and gender stereotypes. Both characters are sexually assaulted by the ghost while they are sleeping. The physical and psychological impact of the attack is traumatic for Marlon Wayan’s character. For the female protagonist, the assault is celebrated as the most pleasurable two hours of her life.
During an exorcism scene, a demon-possessed Essence Atkins is violently beaten by five men, apparently in an attempt to get the evil presence out of her body:
The humour isn’t in the act of casting the spirit out—it’s an excuse to laugh at the act of brutally assaulting a woman. The possession is the setup; five grown men attacking a woman is the punchline. A male demon has taken over the woman’s body. Yet, a naked man shouts, “You fucking bitch, take that“ as he hits her.
THE AVENGERS T-SHIRTS
It’s not surprising that Marvel’s clothes for kids reflects the company’s sexist brand of superheroes: men who save the universe, and damsels in distress (or at best, women as part of a heroic team). The message to our girls is they need men to improve their lives, and they cannot save themselves. Equally troubling, if Marvel were offering Be a Hero t-shirts for girls, they would undoubtedly be selling the image of hypersexualized superheroines, à la Jean Grey, or Psylocke, essentially conveying the idea that even powerful, competent women must still be sexually attractive and available. And what is that telling our boys? They must be protectors, saviours, hypermasculine and macho, creating an unbalanced gender hierarchy.
It’s only a joke! Misogyny is never innocent. Western pop culture hasn’t stopped perpetuating gender stereotypes: women are usually relegated to being the side-kick, the love interest, the home-wrecker; they are often vain or focused on physical appearance. Movies and music promote the idea that women are the lowest common denominator. Violence against women is continually normalized. We continue to create a gap between sexes and genders. We continue to make it a man’s world. Whether out of indifference, ignorance, or active participation, we ensure that a woman’s place is last.
ADDENDUM: Disney removed “I Need a Hero” shirts. Read more.
- Detachable Boobies: Make Me a Sammich;
- Life Lessons and Gendered Observations: King of States;
- The Stupid, it burns: Superhero shirts are sexist edition: Grant Laflèche;
- Damsel in Distress (Part 1) Tropes vs Women: Feminist Frequency;
- Jon Hamm Hates Being A Sex Object: BroadBlogs;
- Fuck off with your misogyny: Meizac;
- Sexist ‘Avengers’ T Shirts Tell Boys To Be Heroes And Girls To Need A Hero: The Huffington Post.
Covert art inspired by a banned Burger King advertisement for an exclusive Singapore promotion.
The title is from a 1951 Van Heusen tie ad.
The Ex Zombie and the Alexa Zombie images are from Zombie Industries.
The Avengers Be a Hero T-shirt image is from Disney.
The Avengers I Need a Hero T-shirt image is from SuperHero Stuff.