Renner and Evans call Black Widow a “slut” and YES it’s a problem

So you guys have heard about this, yes? In an interview, Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans were asked how they felt about fans shipping Black Widow with multiple Avengers characters. “She’s a slut” and a “complete whore” were their responses, much to their own amusement.

I saw this on Twitter and I instantly was hoping that it wasn’t true. But nope, there it was. Right on camera. Renner calling Black Widow a slut and Evans’ huge burst of laughter. So let’s start with the fact that calling someone a slut is NEVER okay. Not in any situation. I don’t have any respect for people who have these words in their day-to-day vocabulary. Of course, men came out of the wood works to yell “It was just a joke!” It’s not a joke. It’s never funny. Slut-shaming is not okay. They could have said that Black Widow doesn’t need a man or romantic storyline. They could have danced around the question and left that to the fans and their shipping. Almost anything they could have said would have been better than this. For men thinking that this is no big deal – you have no idea how much my heart sank at the news of this. You haven’t experienced the double-standards that women have to deal with when it comes to their sex lives, and how hurtful any comment like this can be. I will never be able to see them in a movie and not think that this is how these actors feel about women, and how disappointing that is.

I was keeping my fingers crossed that they would both apologize, without making excuses or rationalizing it. Chris Evans managed that. He said it was juvenile, offensive, that fans were RIGHTFULLY upset, and apologized. Jeremy Renner, not so much – he used the joke excuse, the “it’s just a fictional character” excuse, blamed it on being tired, and said that he was sorry it offended anyone – but didn’t actually apologize for saying the bad thing. This is hugely problematic. That he not only didn’t apologize, but that he tried to actually mock the people he offended by throwing in the “fictional character” line. Fuck Jeremy Renner. (And thank you Chris Evans. I have a lot of respect for someone who can own up to the fact that they screwed up.)

I think we can all agree that comics are seeing a huge surge in popularity lately. I’m not 100% sure when it started – maybe with the Iron Man movies? The Avengers? But people are loving the awesome movies and shows that have been coming out. Comic book sales have been growing. I don’t have any data that shows the gender of the people buying the comics and movie tickets, but I’m willing to bet that part of the uptrend is due to women. I myself only started getting really into comics last summer, when I heard fellow bloggers talking about Ms. Marvel and Rat Queens. Since then, the number of women I’ve seen start to wade into comics has exploded. Part of it is that comic book publishers have been making an effort to be more diverse and inclusive, which benefits everyone. I love reading backlist stuff of some of the long-running characters, but I also love that there are comics that are catering directly to the ladies now.

But there’s still a feeling that comics are for boys only. There are still women nervous to go into comic shops. And bullshit like this is NOT making us feel any more welcome. Those women who are really into the Avengers movies and who have been thinking about getting into comics – you just alienated the shit out of them. Hell, I almost decided to refuse to go see Age of Ultron in the theaters. Because what the fuck. Once they apologized (well, once Evans apologized and Renner kinda sorta acknowledged the incident), I felt like I could at least go without feeling completely disgusted.

Men that are in the comic book industry – I hope you’ll think about this, and talk about it, and don’t just stay silent about it. If you don’t understand why it’s so upsetting – ask some people. Chat. Inquire. And then be a part of the solution. Don’t tolerate or condone this behavior.

I’m going to go drown my feelings in some Mexican food now.

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7 comments

    1. Fictional characters are important. How they are represented is important – it’s why we see movies and connect with characters. Calling a character a derogatory name is no more acceptable than calling a woman in real life a derogatory name.

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  1. I don’t know if there is much point responding to your comment; you clearly did not read Sarah’s article, or if you did, you are willfully closing your mind to anything you don’t want to hear. Maybe you genuinely don’t understand the problem, in which case you won’t understand anything I have to say either, I expect. But I’ll add my few cents just in case someone has come to this page genuinely confused about why people are getting upset that a couple of actors insulted someone who doesn’t really exist. This is not about being precious about Natasha. This is about protesting the continued existence of the idea of the “slut” – that women should be simultaneously defined and degraded by the very perception of them as sexual beings – that if “slut” is a concept at the top of your consciousness to be easily grabbed as a cheap joke at the expense of a fictional character, then it is a concept ready-made to use against real people too. Perhaps not maliciously, perhaps just in thoughtless acceptance of a culture full of such cheap jokes and damaging ideas. But the damage is done and it spreads and keeps on spreading unless people pick up on it and say “Hey, this is a problem. Don’t do it.” Which is what we’re saying here.

    For my part, I was disappointed to hear that Evans and Renner had made these comments. That being said, we are all human, we all say thoughtless things, make jokes that hurt other people and don’t always understand why people get upset. I’m sure I am just as guilty of this in different ways, though I am not a film star. How you respond to having your wrongdoings pointed out makes a huge difference. The difference in Evans’ and Renner’s apologies is like a compare-and-contrast exercise. Evans acknowledged where he screwed up, expressed remorse, and we can hope will be very careful not to do it again. It doesn’t make it all okay again, but I’m not going to hate him forever. Renner, I think doesn’t get it. He seems to think we’re angry on Natasha’s behalf, and his response seems to be that he didn’t want to upset anyone but doesn’t quite understand why we were upset in the first place. This doesn’t go down so well. It reads as a reluctant apology. And I suppose (because I am only human) I offer him a more reluctant forgiveness.

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    1. Katie, just KUDOS and thank you for this awesome bombshell of a comment. Did you happen to go to that guy’s Twitter?? (That’s what account he posted with.) It’s disgusting.

      And I am 100% with you on the differences in their response. I’m disappointed in Evans, but people say dumb things sometimes, and he owned up on it, and I can be okay with that. Renner, on the other hand – I think I am even more pissed off by his apology. He took a bad thing and made it ten times worse.

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  2. Completely agree with you Sarah. I know they’re on a press junkett and probably completely over the same questions being asked over and over, but why not twist the question back at her (because it’s a garbage question which was baiting for this kind of answer) and say something along the lines of “why is BW defined by her relationships anyway?” “BW is more than just a side kick who flirts with people”. It’s bad enough that BW is being left out of most of the merch and isn’t considered important enough for her own film, but to completely reduce her character to a slut with a “prosthetic leg” (which, what? Why is that something to even mention) is really disappointing.

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    1. Yeah, I’m not really enthused with the questions being asked either. I’m not sure what kind of answer she was looking for there, but it was a lazy question. And WTF with prosthetic leg thing?? Just… what??

      I would really love it if Scarlett Johanssen came out with some sort of comment in response about how her character is being represented and treated… but I’m guessing we probably won’t see that.

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      1. It especially bothered me that they responded this way instead of in one of the ways Kayleigh suggests because the Avengers actors have in the past called attention to the gendered differences in the questions they get asked vs. the questions Scarlett Johanssen gets asked. And they’ve said, Give Black Widow a movie, and stuff like that, and I just — do that instead, guys! Or talk about how disappointed the Science Bros shippers are! Anything but this!

        Plus, as a number of people have said on Twitter, our response to this specific interview moment is heavily colored by how often we’ve heard this kind of idiot joke before, and how tired of it we are.

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