I have been with my fiancé "Ben" for about five years (engaged for one year). Overall, we have a happy relationship, but there's this recurring issue: he's low-key sexist, but totally in denial. Example: We saw the newest Marvel movie, "Black Widow." After, I mentioned how cool it was to see a movie with almost all women. He responded that yes, it was cool, because it didn't "feel" like a movie about women, because those movies are inherently misandrist, I guess?
I don't know how to make him see that this is insulting and patronizing. I tried to point out how presumptive he was being with his statements, and he just got angry. This isn't an issue in practice; I don't feel that I'm treated as lesser for being a woman. But in principle, this is a tendency that has become upsettingly frequent, and I can't bring it up without becoming the bad guy. I don't think this is near enough to call off an upcoming wedding, but it's so frustrating! Help!
I got this letter and texted Ty Burr, our film critic, who happens to be leaving the Globe; his last day is today. (He will move on to a new venture. It is exciting.)
He has long been a great supporter of Love Letters (this was a great ep), so it seemed fitting that this letter arrived in my inbox when I'd been thinking about how much weird (and terrible) feedback Ty hears about films, especially those that center women.
We got on a call, and I asked Ty if someone's sexist feedback about a Marvel movie – or any movie, for the matter – represents a greater problem, something that could kill a marriage. His first question, after hearing the issue, was basically, "Um, Has this guy seen 'Little Women'?"
Basically, we decided that yes, this is a big issue. Not because your fiancé thinks "Black Widow" didn't feel like a movie about women (for those who haven't seen, it very much is!), but because of the anger he puts out into the world when you try to make a point.
Ty and I agreed that it might take someone some time to realize why so many films that center women might make men look bad (it's not misandry, by the way; that’s an acknowledgement of misogyny as a villain in everyone's daily lives). He suggested that the next time this comes up, you ask him why he feels the way he does. "Why do you think these films say these things about men?" The conversation could be revealing if posed as a question. It's about unpacking the reasoning – and yours – instead of telling each other what you think is right.
If he can't have that kind of low-stakes talk and an open mind, it makes me (and Ty) wonder what else this man might refuse to discuss. If the issue is becoming more frequent, this is a real thing.
For the record, Ty does recommend that the two of you watch "Little Women." We also talked about "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," which is all about women. The evils those characters face are absolutely tied to misogyny, but you never even see many men. Might be a nice film to talk about.
Good luck – and listen to your gut on this one. If the problem is growing, it won't magically get better. You want to be with someone who asks questions and listens.
Readers? Is this evidence of a greater problem? Also, all thoughts on "Black Widow" can be discussed here. For the record, Ty had mixed feelings.