The nerd world, and the world in general, exploded yesterday after Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans referred to the comic book character Black Widow as a “slut” and a “whore”. Regardless of the fact that this was all said in jest and that they weren’t actually passing judgement on or questioning Black Widow’s character, fury rained down on them from every corner as angry “feminists” took to their Facebooks, Twitters, and blogs to condemn the actors and their words.
I used quotes there for a reason. Let’s look at a definition, the first of many. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”. So, in essence, what they are searching for is a level playing field. And I’m all for that; real feminism I can get behind. Let’s not forget, though, that the character description for Tony Stark is “a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.”
It’s time for definition number two. Playboy: “a wealthy man who spends his time enjoying himself, especially one who behaves irresponsibly or is sexually promiscuous”. So fans everywhere use this quote on everything from Facebook to T-shirts, and no one bats an eye. Being a playboy is just part of who Tony Stark is. While we never see it in the films, it’s understood that Stark likes to sleep with pretty much any woman he encounters; and not only is everyone fine with it, but they celebrate it.
Now let’s look at Black Widow. The short list of people with whom she’s had a “romantic relationship” is Iron Man, Hawkeye, Daredevil, and Bucky. On top of that, she’s never been above using her sexuality to manipulate men to get what she wants; in fact, her sexuality is as much a part of her arsenal as her martial arts skills are. So let’s go back to the dictionary. “Slut” is defined as “a woman who has many casual sexual partners,” and “whore” is defined as “a prostitute.”
So is Black Widow a slut? Well, given that she’s slept with half of the Avengers as well as some of their friends, I’d be wrong if I said no. In fact, it was this matter that provoked Evans and Renner to say what they did. The interviewer asked them about her being paired with literally every single Avenger, which sounds like “many partners” to me.
Is she also a whore? The above doesn’t necessarily qualify her for this title, after all. However, money isn’t the only thing one can exchange for sex. Black Widow, as mentioned above, has used her sexuality to manipulate people to get what she needs or wants. She’s even done it with Hawkeye in the comics. Say what you will, but exchanging sex for favors sounds an awful lot like prostitution.
So, ignoring the fact that they were being silly during an interview, the fact of the matter is that their descriptors of Black Widow were pretty spot on. They weren’t talking about Scarlett Johansson. They were talking about a fictional comic book character; and if calling Tony Stark a playboy, which he is, isn’t offensive, neither is this. But in this day and age heaven forbid anyone say anything negative about a female character. And let’s not forget that just a few weeks ago Robert Downey Jr. jokingly called a female fan a “bitch” on Jimmy Kimmel, and there wasn’t a single angry story written about it.
Perhaps, though, if people want Black Widow to stop being called a whore then maybe she should stop acting like one – to be fair, though, since she’s a fictional character, that call is the writers’ to make. Or, in the name of entertainment (because that’s why comic books exist, remember?), she should continue the way she has because it makes for good storytelling and character development. Either way, these angry “feminists” need to ease up, especially when actors are being silly and, in truth, not entirely inaccurate.
This article brought to you by James W.
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Interesting article. You do understand that the reason ‘playboy’ is on t-shirts and other merchandise is because it is seen something positive; albeit in a transgressive, rebellious way.
Meanwhile, to call a woman a slut (whilst ostensibly meaning the same thing) is still considered an insult. And a pretty serious and derogatory one at that.
One of the definitions of sexism is prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of gender. So when a man is praised and lionized for sexual promiscuity whilst women are denigrated, that’s sexism.
And whilst I wish we lived in world where women were allowed to sleep with whoever they damn well pleased without their male counterparts feeling the need to judge and comment on it, we don’t. So, until that changes calling a woman a slut or a whore is still a sexist act.
Nothing in your article seeks to undermine or overturn the idea that who a woman sleeps with is her own business and no reflection on her character. Instead, you choose to ‘prove’ that Evans and Renner’s comments were ‘accurate’. Classy move.
People involved in the making of things you love can still make mistakes.
Considering the negative connotations that “slut” and “whore” have, imagine being a girl just getting into the Avengers or the Marvel universe in general via the character Black Widow. Then two dudes come and call her names and your one way into loving this stuff is tainted or delegitimized.
It’s hard to always think of how things are for other people when the world has been handed to us as men, especially white men, and even nerds, despite the oppression that we all think we’ve been subjected to. If any guy could relate to the things women have faced, and obviously continue to face as this story illustrates, I’d think it would a nerd guy. We were also subject to ridicule because we weren’t perceived as masculine beings, but we still got plenty of passes for being guys. We still had representations of ourselves in every movie and comic book available. And TV show. Any form of media, we were there, we were in charge, we were the heroes.
Black Widow is important. The actor who plays her is as connected to the character as Renner or Evans are. What’s the merit in defending them and detracting those who have legitimate feelings about what they said? Of course some nerd guy wouldn’t be affected by it, because this is what dudes do. But it’s what women hear constantly – the double standard of “slut” vs. “playboy,” which isn’t fully appreciated in this article. It’s actually not at all appreciated. It’s grossly misunderstood. The entire understanding of feminism and language is misunderstood here.
And how nerdy is that? To miss the minutiae of a situation? To not understand a story? How can a nerd lord their understanding of anything over anyone when they actually don’t get it at all? And what excuse can justify knowing everything about Black Widow from the comics, but nothing about how people treat other people in reality?