A bird’s eye view of misogyny

Jeremy Renner, Hawkeye and Matt Damon’s temporary Bourne replacement, has a history of saying problematic things, issuing a half-sincere apology, and then moving past the incident. In April 2015, he and Chris Evans got in trouble when asked how they felt about Black Widow’s relationship with the Hulk in the movie they were promoting, Age of Ultron. Renner said, “She’s a slut.” Evans laughed, saying “I was going to say something along that line. She’s a complete whore.” After the outcry, Evans apologized by issuing a statement saying, “Yesterday we were asked about the rumors that Black Widow wanted to be in a relationship with both Hawkeye and Captain America. We answered in a very juvenile and offensive way that rightfully angered some fans. I regret it and sincerely apologize.” I wouldn’t say this apology wiped away my disappointment in someone I had really liked before the interview, but it did seem like someone who had realized what he said was offensive. Renner, in contrast, released a statement saying “I am sorry that this tasteless joke about a fictional character offended anyone. It was not meant to be serious in any way. Just poking fun during an exhausting and tedious press tour.” This apology does not seem sincere to me in any way—it’s not “What I said was offensive, and I’m sorry I said it.” It’s “I’m sorry you were offended by my light-hearted joke that no one should have taken seriously.” Renner clearly doesn’t believe that jokes like this perpetuate the idea that men have a right to talk about women who are uninterested in dating them, even if the woman (and situation) is fictional in this case. Renner is uninterested in thinking beyond his present moment and specific situation. And this inability to see beyond his own experience has come up again.

On October 13, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay called “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” in Lena Dunham’s feminist newsletter, Lenny. This essay discussed the revelation from the Sony Hack that uncovered that Lawrence and Amy Adams received significantly lower paychecks than their male counterparts, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper in American Hustle. Lawrence examined her fear of being seen as “spoiled” or “difficult” by asking for a higher paycheck. Lawrence discussed the common fear women share: that by asking for the same treatment as their male counterparts or asking in the same way their male counterparts might ask, they will be seen as difficult. Beyond this, it’s rare for a celebrity to negotiate their salary personally. Normally it is done by agents or a team, with little active involvement of the talent. But Lawrence highlighted how an actor can be involved in negotiations to make a change. Bradley Cooper joined her after a few days, pledging to Reuters to join his future female costars in negotiating for equal salaries. He said that it was something that he saw that he could do to help.

Business Insider asked Renner if he would consider making a similar pledge, as one of the three male stars who received disproportionately larger salaries compared to Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. In answer, Renner said, “That’s not my job. I don’t know contracts and money and all that sort of stuff.” Renner did say that he supports equal pay for his female co-stars, but, “I’m a performer and I know human behavior. When it comes to that sort of stuff I let other people deal with that. I do what I’m good at, that’s what I focus on.”
I do not want to suggest that because one actor made a pledge towards fixing the wage gap, all actors who do not immediately make a similar step are misogynists or evil. But Renner makes a consistent pattern of inaction or insult, refusing to see the further consequences of his actions. He does not see how a joke might reinforce the acceptance of insulting a woman who is uninterested in a person romantically. He does not see how his action might help change a skewed wage gap. He has never needed this help, as a member of group that is on the privileged side of the wage gap, so it’s not his problem. He doesn’t have to think about anything that does not directly affect him. And, pardon me for this terrible joke—this Hawkeye seems to enjoy his bird’s eye view of society, which insulates him from any real need to change. And when he is certainly not part of the solution, because of his pattern of inaction and insult, he is part of the problem.