You know, a strange thing happened yesterday to #JaredLeto.
Now... admittedly, I am a longtime fan of the Oscar winner. While he most recently became buzzworthy as #TheJoker in #SuicideSquad, he has managed to obtain a rather large fanbase (known as the Echelon) with his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, since the early 2000s. Along with his Hollywood and musical success, he even has multiple startup companies of his own, including an interactive website called VyRT, where you can chat with fellow fans and your favorite artists.
But what started off as a normal chat event yesterday on VyRT quickly became something else.
While Leto was interacting with fans about ideas for the future — what events we wanted to see on the website, what excited us about 2017, and much more — the chat exploded with a rather large amount of sexually explicit comments towards Leto. The comments weren't limited to his body, either. Comments from users included rape fantasies, demands for nude photos, begging for sex and what seemed like an endless display of disrespect towards him as a human being.
While most users were chatting normally (and respectfully), things got so hectic that Leto and his website administrator had to pause the chat to ban users from the service, and the chat was ended shortly after.
It's No Longer Okay To Objectify Women, But When Did It Become Okay To Objectify Men?
My experience on VyRT brings up an issue that is more serious than I think people realize. As a society, we have fought hard to bring the subject of sexual harassment out of the darkness and expose it for what it is in regards to women. I completely agree that women have a history of getting the short end of the stick and progress must be made, but have men gotten lost in the mix?
Specifically regarding Hollywood, recent calls from actresses and moviegoers to give women equal pay for lead roles — and to not just objectify them for their bodies — has led to a huge conversation. It's paved the way for more prominent women in the #MarvelCinematicUniverse and #DCEU: Jessica Jones, Wonder Woman, the Gotham City Sirens and Captain Marvel.
Basically, people want women in film to be powerful, strong and to not just be running around scantily clad while spewing corny dialogue. However, it's suddenly acceptable to turn the tables and begin objectifying the men in Hollywood for their bodies. Is this acceptance the reason for the blatant sexual harassment that male actors now suffer at the hands of fans?
It's all well and good for us to fight for strong female characters (especially within the superhero franchises), but it seems like the tradeoff has been to blatantly objectify male celebrities and subject them to high amounts of sexual harassment online. Think about it: when the main allure of #Aquaman for the DCEU is what Jason Momoa looks like without a shirt on, there might be a problem.
If you think it's wrong to watch the original Baywatch for Pamela Anderson in her swimsuit, will you hold yourself to the same standard for the reboot with the Rock and Zac Efron?
Let's Face It: We've Created A Double Standard
Look, I get it. At the end of the day, we are fans of celebrities who are in pretty great shape, and sometimes we have nothing better to do than google them and look at pictures for an hour. Nonetheless, that isn't an open invitation for us to say and do whatever we please just because social media is so readily available.
Going back to my experience on VyRT, if what happened to Jared Leto had happened to a female celebrity, there would have been a social outcry and it would be all over the internet about how sexist and horrible people can be. Whether it's a swimsuit photo or a nude scene in a movie, it seems like everyone is always ready to complain about how women are treated or used — so why is it empowering for us to drool over shirtless photos of Chris Hemsworth, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Chris Evans or Ryan Gosling?
Why is it that we can't comfortably appreciate a woman's body anymore for her shape, but we can endlessly make comments about the rumored size of Jon Hamm's penis?
Hamm had this to say in regards to the talk surrounding his genitals:
"Most of it's tongue-in-cheek. But it is a little rude. It just speaks to a broader freedom that people feel like they have — a prurience. They're called 'privates' for a reason. I'm wearing pants, for fuck's sake. Lay off.
"I mean, it's not like I'm a fucking lead miner. There are harder jobs in the world. But when people feel the freedom to create Tumblr accounts about my cock, I feel like that wasn't part of the deal."
Chris Pratt was endlessly teased for being overweight and went through a ridiculous amount of training to get fit for his role in Guardians of the Galaxy. His progress was so celebrated, he pretty much became an overnight sex symbol. But when a woman is told she has to lose weight for a role, people talk about how studios shouldn't be "body shaming" actresses in Hollywood. Sorry, but a double standard that works in our favor is still a double standard.
At the end of the day, there is no reasonable or acceptable excuse for sexual harassment — even when it's directed at the rich and famous, female or male.
I do believe the conversations about supporting women's rights and progress in Hollywood (and the world in general) need to continue, and there is still a lot of work to be done on the subject. But, I don't think flipping the cards over and treating men the way that women have fought to eradicate towards themselves is the right path.
There needs to be a balance, and I honestly have faith that we as a society and culture can find it. We just need to recognize the double standard that we have created and take steps to fix it.
It makes no sense to complain that Margot Robbie's shorts were too short in Suicide Squad, but turn around and make degrading comments about Henry Cavill or Jared Leto. Maybe we just need to take a step backwards and think, "If this happened to me, would I be upset about it?"
What do you think? Is there a new double standard for objectification or is this just evening the playing field? Share your thoughts in the comments below!