A friend of mine posted this link on Facebook, “How Emma Stone Handles Andrew Garfield’s Sexism Will Make You Smile.” Spoiler, it didn’t make me smile; it made me cringe. Things like Emma Stone’s reaction to Andrew Garfield’s use of the word “feminism” are why feminists get called “feminazi” and are then ignored by us sane folk with real-life concerns.
And the line about “anyone who thinks men and women should have equal rights is a feminist” is a worn out cliché that really should just lie down and die quietly. People who feel men and women should be treated equally don’t get all passive-aggressive whenever a man uses the word “feminine” to describe something. I would say that people who do that think women should get special treatment at the expense of men, but I won’t, since I have quite enough material for one post already.
But I get ahead of myself.
In an interview, Andrew Garfield (who plays Spiderman in the latest Spiderman reboot, in case you don’t follow superhero movies), is asked how he got his Spiderman costume.
Honestly, the real answer to this question is “he just does.” Does it make any real sense for a teenage boy to be able to sew a costume like that? I mean, sure, his local fabric store might have red spandex, but how exactly did he create all the blue spider-webbing embroidery? Who taught him how to sew? How is he so good that he made a skin-tight bodysuit without a pattern? How did he use Aunt May’s sewing machine for such an extensive project without her getting suspicious? If Peter Parker really is so good at sewing, which is extremely unusual in a teenage boy, how come this isn’t mentioned earlier or ever again?
If we’re really being honest with ourselves, we admit that Peter Parker’s homemade Spiderman costume is a huge plot hole the movies gloss over that we just accept because we think Spiderman is cool.
But, anyway, in the interview, Garfield says: “He made it. He made it with his bare hands. He took some sewing classes and some needlework. [Aside – what that before or after being bitten by a radioactive spider?] It was kind of a feminine thing to do, but he really made a very masculine costume out of a very feminine -”
At which point he is cut off by Emma Stone, who says, “It’s feminine how?” (Emma Stone, by the way, plays Spiderman’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy.)
First I would like to interrupt by saying the Spiderman costume is not particularly masculine. Of all the superheroes, I would have to say that Spiderman is one of the girlier ones, with his cutesy smack talk, flexibility, and, of course, mad sewing skills.
But apparently it is not permissible for a man to call a thing “feminine,” which brings us back to the dialogue.
Garfield responds with “I can’t believe you took that as an insult.” I found her reaction quite predictable, it’s still a pretty silly thing to be offended by.
Stone answers, “I’m not taking offense; I’m asking how it’s feminine.” She also says it with a pretty catty expression on her face, so I’m not sure how we can interpret this as anything but passive-aggressive.
It seems quite clear to me how it is feminine, but I’ll spell it out anyway: a teenage boy is sewing a costume. How many teenage boys do you know who sew? I for one can’t think of any who can do more than sew on a button, if that. Sewing, while done by men, is done far more frequently by women. Since more women than men sew, sewing can be safely classified as “feminine.”
Garfield is not making a value judgement. He is stating the obvious. Stone is making a value judgement by assuming he is trying to be insulting. She is assuming that it is a bad thing to be feminine.
Have you ever noticed the size of the women’s department in a department store? It’s huge! The men’s and children’s departments can both fit inside, with room to spare.
Notice how I didn’t make a value judgement? I made an objective statement. You can interpret it however you want. You can make a negative interpretation, assuming that women are more shallow and self-obsessed than men are. Or, you can make a positive interpretation, assuming that women are more conscientious about how they present themselves.
Garfield doesn’t miss a beat. He has a thoughtful response that I find very endearing: “I would say that femininity is more about delicacy and precision, detail work, craftsmanship. My mother made my first Spiderman costume when I was three, so use it as a compliment…the feminine not just in women but in men as well…we all have feminine in us, young men.”
The author of the article, Jancy Richardson, comments at the end, “Good save, Garfield!” Really? Good save? How do you know he didn’t mean it that way all along? Can you read his mind? Good thing we have Richardson here to be the thought police. She goes on to say, “Seriously, though – his kind of everyday sexism is the kind that needs to be called out…”
Seriously, though – are we going to take offense whenever a man uses the word “feminine?” Garfield associates femininity with things like delicacy, precision, craftsmanship, and the love of a mother. Is that really so objectionable? What’s really sad is that those associations may change for Garfield the more he is attacked for thinking positively of femininity.
I, personally, am not a very girly person. (My husband and I were just talking about this a couple days ago, and he says I’m a 6 on a 1-10 scale of girliness, and I rather concur.) However, I happen to like being feminine. I like to wear cute skirts, my favorite color is pink, and I appreciate chivalry.
There is nothing inherently “bad” in being feminine (or masculine, for that matter). The assumption that “feminine” is a sexist insult is the real insult.