Kit Harington, the actor who plays Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, isn’t happy about sexism against men in Hollywood. To be fair, he isn’t happy about sexism against women, either. But in a recent interview with The Sunday Times, Harington lobbed a pointed critique at what he sees as a “double standard” in Hollywood.
“I think there is a double standard. If you said to a girl, ‘Do you like being called a babe?’ and she said, ‘No, not really,’ she’d be absolutely right. I like to think of myself as more than a head of hair or a set of looks,” Harington said. “It’s demeaning. Yes, in some ways you could argue I’ve been employed for a look I have. But there’s a sexism that happens towards men. There’s definitely a sexism in our industry that happens towards women, and there is towards men as well.”
This isn’t the first time Harington has spoken out on the subject. Last year, in an interview with Page Six, he complained about his “art being put to one side” by his sex appeal.
He’s not wrong. No person, regardless of gender, deserves to have their body objectified. Victims and perpetrators of this incredibly common cultural phenomenon come from all genders.
What is concerning, however, is how long it took Harington to realize that the objectification of women occurs all around him all the time–not just on his own show, but in Hollywood generally. More to the point, Harington’s female co-stars know quite a bit about what it means to have their bodies used as props and plot devices.
Harington has been a star cast member on Game of Thrones since its premiere in 2011, a five-year period that happens to coincide with what can only be described as an enormous resurgence of feminist discourse in popular culture. From mainstream artists like Beyoncé and Emma Watson to activists like Malala Yousafzai to organizations like The Everyday Sexism Project to the countless feminist writers and bloggers who have made their voices heard around the globe, gender equality has been one of the most prominent and influential cultural forces of this decade.
Meanwhile, Game of Thrones has sparked widespread debate due to its constant objectification of female bodies, not to mention brutal rape scenes. The sexual assault of Sansa Stark last season, for example–a scene that departed from the book in an apparent attempt to garner a male character greater sympathy–was widely panned by feminist critics.
Dedicated viewers have noticed that violence against women, particularly of the sexual variety, is a constant presence in the show and often drives the narrative. In fact, last year, a Tumblr user named Tafkar did an analysis of the instances of rape that have occurred in the show. Tafkar’s total, 50 as of May 2015, is a conservative estimate. Unsurprisingly, female characters are featured in the bulk of Game of Thrones nude scenes as well.
Harington appears to understand the basics of sexism and has a passing awareness of feminist values. Yet there is no record of him speaking out about the constant presence of rape or the objectification of women in the show. It’s as though Harington woke up last year and suddenly figured out that men sometimes have to deal with a problem women have struggled with for decades.
Of course men are entitled to the same respect as their female colleagues. But Harington’s limited focus makes his critique seem, at best, rather tone-deaf, and at worst, deeply hypocritical. One wonders what his female co-stars think of such a revelation.
The vast majority of women in the entertainment industry have to contend with ageism, income inequality, and roles that tend on average to be more exploitative and less nuanced than those available to their male peers. That is a future Harington and many of his male colleagues are unlikely to suffer.
Inequality happens behind the camera, too. A study conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that among the top 250 highest-grossing domestic films in 2015, women made up just 9% of directors, 26% of producers, 22% of editors, 6% of cinematographers, and 11% of writers. One can safely assume that the crew of Game of Thrones doesn’t fare much better.
It’s good that Harington is speaking out about sexism in Hollywood, but it’s too bad he waited so long. Women have been talking about this topic for years, and male validation shouldn’t be a prerequisite for their concerns to be acknowledged. You know nothing, Jon Snow—that is, until you’ve checked out some bell hooks. Get on it.