A Dutch newspaper, Het Parool, published a piece on June 17th about the growing objectification of men in visual media such as film and television. Dutchies can read the article here. I have an opinion on the matter, and I decided to share it with you.
In the article, famous actors are quoted as complaining about being objectified by their audience. One of them is Kit Harington, Jon Snow on Game Of Thrones. The other is our newest Superman, Henry Cavill. Cavill cites an incident where he was catcalled on the street and made profoundly uncomfortable. He argues that lots of women feel uncomfortable when they are the subject of catcalling, and therefore catcalling men is equally unacceptable.
Cavill is right. Catcalling is not okay. Catcalling is never okay.
Although, of course, I am sympathetic to the plight of everyone who is sexually objectified, there are some ways in which Henry Cavill and Kit Harington are missing the point when they complain about it; sex appeal is what earns them a living. Besides, even though sexual objectification of men on television and in film appears to be on the rise, the problem of women being objectified in the media is much older and much larger. And I have never heard either Cavill or Harington complain about it before it concerned them personally.
There is something else to consider here. Below is a picture of a woman in a bathing suit around 1910. The suit isn’t exactly what I would call revealing, but I bet this woman got her fair share of ogling at the beach. What we find appealing is very culturally determined, and nudity, for whatever reason, is in. On a show like Game Of Thrones, where you can’t look at the screen for five minutes without facing a boob, wouldn’t it be fair to show Kit Harington at least partly unclothed sometimes? Pretty please?
Have any of the times you’ve seen Daenerys Targareyen naked diminished her power? I think not. Her character is incredibly strong-willed and powerful, and the fact that she is unabashed about her body only adds to that power. Conversely, a character like Ramsay Bolton is made to look entirely despicable and (SPOILER) even weak in the most recent episode, without ever showing us any skin. Nudity is not synonymous with weakness.
A quick question for those of you who feel sexually attracted to men:
Note that the picture on the right was taken without Mr Cavill’s permission. The same goes for the second picture of Mr Harington. I do not usually support the spread of photographs unauthorized by the subject, but this time I choose making my point over my principles. Sorry gentlemen.
Which of these two pictures of Henry Cavill do you find sexiest? Call me crazy, but I’m voting for the fully clothed one on the right. First of all, because it doesn’t look artificial. All the traits conventionally considered attractive in men are still present: broad shoulders and chest, square jaw, narrow hips and strong arms. But what cinches it for me is the atmosphere of the casual picture; Cavill looks approachable. A bit tired perhaps, and still physically intimidating, but kind. I would love to get a hug from that guy.
Another question: do you prefer rainsoaked, tanned, half naked Kit above or casually rumpled glasses-wearing Kit below? This is an unfair comparison, because my personal fondness for men with glasses is known the world over, but still I would argue that glasses-Kit wins. Again, he looks like a nice, approachable guy instead of some paragon of manhood I would be afraid to approach.
What both Kit Harington and Henry Cavill fail to consider when they complain about being objectified, is that lots of women aren’t as oriented towards visuals as men. For me, personally, the sound of a man’s voice plays a huge part in how attractive I find him. For others, it might be the personality of the character they’re portraying, or the elegance of a hand when wielding a sword. Regardless, part of the use of entertainment is to excite you, and it is only logical that sexual excitement comes into play when filmmakers try to achieve that goal.
Obviously, everybody deserves to be treated with respect. Both men and women, no matter how attractive you find them, must be treated as human beings. Try, please, not to say crude things about celebrities on the internet. Definitely don’t say crude things to their face. Treat celebrities with the same respect you treat your loved ones with, and we should all be fine.