feminism

Response to Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans’ Black Widow “Slut” Gaffe

In context of my recent posts about gender inequality, I’d like to take a slightly different tack about the recent interview where Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) called Black Widow a slut.

I disagree with the negative comments on this front, from a few perspectives.

First of all, I think that Jeremy and Chris were using the “slut” and “whore” language as a sort of glimpse into the subconscious of their characters. While Cappy would never think about a woman that way for anything beyond a tenth of a second, actors occupy their characters without judgment, and we as men have to be honest about the fact that sometimes when a (particularly beautiful) woman may leave us, it makes us feel used and hurt. That’s human. Cappy and Hawkeye would both move on rapidly because they’re good people and they really love Natasha as a friend and comrade, but they can be a little hurt.

Second, I really feel that Jeremy and Chris were mocking the whole focus on the idea and were being sarcastic. I think they were mocking those people who WOULD call someone a slut for doing that. The sarcasm in their tones is so apparent, and Jeremy and Chris are both so good-natured about it.

But, see, that’s sort of the point.

I don’t detect malice from them. That could be because I’m a man and, as much as it can actually be hurtful to be called a man-slut (as I often have been), the onerousness of that idea of promiscuity is just not as big for me. That could be because I generally see the best in people. It could be because I like Chris and Jeremy as actors and people, based on what I’ve seen.

See, every time we have to react to something like the Michael Richards rant (which by now is probably long forgotten due to you damn millennials with your iPhones and your baggy pants) or a celebrity gaffe in public, we collectively are being asked to test our instincts and intuitions about people and their motives. We do that with limited information.

On the one hand, we should be careful on these issues and not let momentary hurt or anger distract us.

On the other hand, we should also hold people accountable.

I think it’s quite justifiable for me not to see malice in these two men’s reactions. But I think it’s quite justifiable for plenty of women to. They don’t need to be less thin-skinned and I don’t need to be more judgmental and mistrusting. We can be different people and have different estimations. Women are justified in having less trust for things like this because trusting has hurt them before.

Where Jeremy and Chris went wrong was not in making a joke but in then not clarifying that joke and expressing something more sensitive. It would have been appropriate to actually discuss how their characters would react, and make clear that they were joking.

That’s because people’s feelings matter.

A lot of men are going to claim that they shouldn’t apologize because they shouldn’t give in to the offended PC crowd.

I hope we can all see how utterly and completely devoid of merit and sensitivity that reaction is.

If you hurt someone’s feelings, you should apologize. Even if it wasn’t your intention. Even if you couldn’t have anticipated it. Because apologizing might make them feel better, and might also make you more sensitive in the future.

White men want to have the privilege not only to make jokes, but to not have to listen to the negative feedback about those jokes or to be held accountable about the content thereof or to not have to assuage hurt feelings.

So, yes, I think Chris and Jeremy should clarify what they meant and apologize for hurt feelings, and perhaps even discuss slut-shaming as a problem. They should do this not just for PR reasons but also for human reasons. There’s no problem we have that more dialog can’t help get at least a little better. Talking is the solution, not silence.

After all, Cappy would despise slut shaming as being dishonorable, rude, and un-American. And shouldn’t we want to be like Cappy?

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