Game of Thrones sex symbol criticised for comments on sexism

By Charis Chang
News.com.au
May 31, 2016
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HE’S known for playing a sex symbol on mega-hit Game of Thrones but fans have turned on Kit Harrington for his comments on sexism, saying “you know nothing”.

Harrington, who plays brooding soldier Jon Snow, made the comments in a The Sunday Times article on the weekend that suggested he was fed up with the constant questions about his hair, sixpack or love life, and didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a sword-wielding hunk.

“I think there is a double standard,” he said. “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. 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.

“At some points during photoshoots when I’m asked to strip down, I felt that. If I felt I was being employed just for my looks, I’d stop acting.”

His comments sparked criticism online with many pointing out that comparing his experiences to the sexism women face was “naive and silencing”.

While the backlash likely surprised Harrington, Lauren Rosewarne of the University of Melbourne, said handsome white men were generally an unsympathetic group in society.

“They’re generally viewed as perpetrating and benefiting from sexism rather than being victims of it,” the senior lecturer of social and political sciences told news.com.au.

 “There is a popular view that men can’t be victims of objectification because unlike women they are never viewed and valued only on their appearance.”

But Dr Rosewarne believed men could be sexualised and objectified in the media, although the consequences were not as limiting, damaging or as widespread as for women.

“As soon as anyone appears in film or in a photograph they have been turned into an object – they have been objectified,” she said. “I think however, the costs to men and to women of this happening are different.”

Not everyone felt the same, some jumped to Harrington’s defence.

 

Some of the online comments point out that Harrington mistakenly confused objectification with sexism, and Dr Rosewarne agreed that just because a person was being portrayed as sexy or sexualised in an image, did not necessarily mean the depiction was sexist.

“I think lots of actors – Kit Harrington is a good example – want to be viewed as more than just the role that made them famous,” she said.

“Problematically however, alongside his Game of Thrones work, Harrington has features in fashion advertisements – advertising is an industry renowned for turning people into objects.

“Harrington can’t, on one hand, complain about his objectification but perpetuate it himself through the work choices he makes.”

Ultimately Dr Rosewarne said men should be able to complain about sexism and objectification, and while their concerns were not as significant as women’s, people needed to be smart enough to hold more than idea and more than one concern in their heads.