The “Tootsie” discussion

clip of Dustin Huffman’s emotionally charged recounting of a decades-ago epiphany that cross-dressing for his role in ‘Tootsie’ forced him to recognize how men are brainwashed to value women based on their beauty above all else recently inspired rampant, viral support.images

In FBomb Julie Z writes, “Some intrepid voices, however, were thoroughly unimpressed. Mansi Kathuria of wrote, “Yesterday, I was cat-called on the streets of Chicago three times within a couple of hours, and Hillary Clinton’s new haircut made several news articles. Meanwhile, millions of people continued to share and watch a video of Dustin Hoffman realizing that society has taught him to value women only for their physical appearance.” Tyler Coates of Flavorwire mused, “isn’t there something a little uncomfortable in the notion that it takes being transformed into an unattractive woman to force a man to think, ‘Hey, I want to be taken seriously no matter how I look, too!’”

“These are valid reactions to a video of a very privileged, famous, white man’s discovery of an issue against which plenty of women have spent decades ardently fighting. These are reactions with which I even agree. But, these criticisms, as well as the responses embracing Hoffman as a veritable feminist activist on the basis of a few sentences, miss the bigger picture. This clip provides a model – imperfect though it admittedly is — for how to include men in a discussion about an issue that, though it affects them and requires their involvement to be solved, is currently dominated by women. Furthermore, the fact that this clip went viral indicates that we may actually be ready to embrace such discussions fully.

“The criticism of Hoffman for speaking about this issue as a privileged white man, for being lauded for restating what women have been saying for years, is certainly valid. As Tyler Coates of Flavorwire aptly noted, “When men come to great conclusions about how sexism exists (usually too late and with great amounts of self-satisfaction), they’re granted hero status; when a woman does it, she’s bitter, sensitive, angry, man-hating, etc.” Truly, the sexism evident in our society’s willingness to listen to a man speak about this issue over women is deeply problematic.

“But at the same time, is it not equally if not more damaging to condemn men who try to speak about the way they are brainwashed into these beliefs, encouraging them to forever remain silent and complacent? So often — because we do live in a sexist society that has brainwashed men into ignoring women who fail to meet unattainable beauty standards – conversations about this strand of sexism do largely occur amongst women. Whether justified or not, this can often lead men to conclude that they have been categorized as the enemy rather than invited to be allies.”

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