Jon Snow may know nothing — but Kit Harington, the actor who plays him on Game of Thrones, had some thought-provoking insights into the way the media objectifies male actors.
“To always be put on a pedestal as a hunk is slightly demeaning,” Harington told Page Six Monday. “It really is and it’s in the same way as it is for women. When an actor is seen only for her physical beauty, it can be quite offensive.”
“It’s not just men that can be inappropriate sexually; women can as well. I’m in a successful TV show in a kind of leading-man way, and it can sometimes feel like your art is being put to one side for your sex appeal. And I don’t like that,” Harington continued. “In this position, you get asked a lot, ‘Do you like being a heartthrob? Do you like being a hunk?’ Well, my answer is, ‘That’s not what I got into it for.'”
Harington has a point. Because we often think of sexism as something that only impacts female actors, a double standard exists in Hollywood. It would be a faux pas for a journalist to ask a woman how she feels about being a sex object — one that sadly some still commit. But some male actors are constantly asked what it’s like to be a heartthrob or — slightly more subtly — what it’s like to have thousands of young teen girls as fans. The implication here is, “You are famous because people want to have sex with you.”
This question is posed to stars like Benedict Cumberbatch, Channing Tatum and Taylor Kitsch on a regular basis, and it’s a difficult one because I suspect these men cannot answer honestly without angering their fan base. (Cumberbatch is the master of artfully dodging that question by refocusing the conversation on how the term “Cumberbitch” is demeaning.)
There’s no question that women face egregious sexism on a daily basis, from the wage gap to reporters asking female actors about their dresses rather than their work on the red carpet. Compared with these issues, Harington’s complaint might seem trivial. And of course, part of the job description of being a movie star is being beautiful. Objectification comes with the territory, and it’s hard to muster sympathy for someone who seems to have it all.
But journalists who interview Harington, and the people who read those articles, can hear his request, think about it and try to respect it. As the most common victims of sexism, women ought to know better than anyone how terrible it feels. And though it’s tempting to even the scales by caring as little about men’s feelings as misogynists care about women’s feelings, that attitude doesn’t help to stop misogyny or advance feminism.
Gender equality is about pulling everyone up, not pushing others down. So it’s worth remembering that it feels terrible to have your work ignored because of your looks — no matter your gender.