The Male/Female Double-Standard in Entertainment Journalism Needs To Stop

This week was a super exciting time to be a geek, but it was even more exciting for feminist geeks. While unveiling plans for their next five years of movies at a live event in New York City, Marvel revealed not just their first superhero movie led by a person of color (Black Panther, which will star 42‘s Chadwick Boseman) but their first female-led movie, Captain Marvel. While the title role of Carol Danvers has yet to be cast, there’s still a lot of room for speculation as Captain Marvel currently has a release date of July 6, 2018. This gives entertainment journalists plenty of time to learn how to do their fucking jobs.

Now, I was only an entertainment editor for a short time, but while I was, I made the naive assumption that the same journalistic standards apply to both genders — if a male actor is acting in a movie, I ask about the movie; if a female actor is acting in a movie, I ask about the movie.

Apparently, this is not the case. At least according to married Hollywood actors Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, who happen to be promoting their current respective projects simultaneously. Seeing the opportunity for an enlightening social experiment, they started comparing notes about the questions they were being asked during junkets and came up with some really annoying results. Garner’s report:

“…I told him every single person who interviewed me, I mean every single one, and this is true of the red carpet here tonight at Elle [ed. note: the people she was addressing directly], asked me, ‘How do you balance work and family?’ And he said the only thing that people asked him repeatedly was about the tits on the ‘Blurred Lines’ girl…

“As for work-life balance, he said no one asked him about it that day. As a matter of fact, no one had ever asked him about it. And we do share the same family. Isn’t it time to kinda change that conversation?”

First of all, I can’t stand that actors have to talk about their personal lives at all. Their job is to act in movies and television. That’s what they should be asked about by trade reporters for trade outlets. Leave the fluffy lifestyle shit for the lifestyle outlets and let the subjects volunteer that kind of shit. Because it’s boring. But I get it. It’s how we create the delusion that we plebs somehow know these famous people.

But as Garner pointed out, men and women are being asked different sets of fluffy questions which is really bad for women and men. Using Garner’s and Affleck’s example, the woman is being questioned about how she budgets her time between caretaking and working. She’s a working parent, so that’s not really out-of-left-field to ask. But what about the man who is married to her? You know, the one who got her pregnant with all those kids? He’s also a working parent, but instead, he’s being asked about another woman’s tits. Neither of these people is a hero for being working parents, but in this situation, Garner looks like the harried, hapless housewife (“How does she do it all???”) who is sacrificing her time when she should be home cleaning the bathroom and Affleck looks like a neglectful, wandering douchebag. That’s not fair to either one of these people.

In another example, when The Avengers came out two years ago, Scarlett Johansson was being asked about her diet and her underwear while Robert Downey Jr., in the same interview, while sitting next to her, was being asked about the complexities of Tony Stark. Anne Hathaway fielded similar questions during publicity for The Dark Knight Rises, questions that were unrelated to her Catwoman character and were more related to Anne Hathaway’s personal fitness. While Tom Hardy may have gotten a few questions about his mountainous Bane traps and Chris Evans about his All-American ass, they still get plenty of questions about the characters they play more than their female counterparts. Maybe because they get better roles, more frequently, plus a lot more screen time.

Back to my point: All actors get in serious shape to play superheroes and get naked on-screen. But when you turn to a male actor and ask about the movie then turn to the woman next to him and ask her about how much kale she eats, what she’s wearing, or her mom problems, what the fuck is your job, anyway? That’s only doing half your job, dear entertainment reporter. And that is a failing grade. Just ask Kevin Spacey.

And this Garner-Affleck example? Even worse. Garner wasn’t being asked about the movie she worked on and neither was Affleck. She was asked about her family, because that’s “Mom’s domain.” Affleck was being asked about another woman, which isn’t even “Dad’s domain” but rather is “penis’s domain” (unless you believe the real-life fan fiction in gossip rags), and all of it is shitty journalism and shitty marketing.

What these “journalists” are doing is tantamount to “dumb man commercials” that paint men as helpless doofuses (doofi?) and women as happily unpaid maids. It’s bad for everyone. Everyone loses in that scenario. It sucks enough that there’s a dearth of decent roles for women, but to constantly “put women in their place” on and off the screen is perpetuating the crappy gender roles that people in a position of responsibility (for example, journalists) can actually change.

Let me do some journalism for you, the bare bones minimum: Here is some information about Captain Marvel. Start writing your questions now so you don’t have to resort to questions about kale.