I know this is dumb, but recently I was watching an episode of Scandal with my boyfriend, and like in almost every episode, there was a half-forced makeout session. Those always annoy me, and I said something along the lines of “man, this show really does its best to perpetuate the idea that every woman has rape fantasies.” My boyfriend told me I was overreacting and we got in a big argument about it. He finally conceded that the president comes off as a douche, but he wouldn’t agree with me that the show is, in a lot of ways, anti-feminist. I know, this is a stupid fight about a stupid soap opera, but it made me wonder how he views women. Am I overreacting…twice? Or is my boyfriend a misogynist and he just doesn’t know it?
OK, let’s just get things straight: your boyfriend’s definitely wrong about Scandal. Olivia may be a powerful lady full of very impassioned diatribes, but the fact that she puts up with multiple men who ignore her stated desires and kiss her into submission all the time is, in my point of view, aggressively misogynistic. That’s just there.
But your boyfriend not seeing it doesn’t make him a bad person, or a bad boyfriend. Think of how many other shows depict forceful sex as, well, sexy. Think of how many movies over the decades have done the same. And think about the fact that Scandal is pretty effing ridiculous, so it’s probably hard for most people to take it all that seriously in the first place. All of that combines to mean he might really not have seen why this is problematic. And then you yelled at him about how that makes him a jerk.
It’s fair that you’d prefer your boyfriend was more sensitive to misogyny, especially the kind of subtle, low-thrum misogyny that’s hardest–and most important–to eradicate.
But it’s also important that you learn to pick your battles.
Yelling at someone about how they’re wrong–and not just wrong, but bigoted-wrong–has never once been an effective way to change a mind. And while his reaction sounds dismissive, it might have just been someone not wanting to have a political conversation in the middle of a show with all the artistry of a fluffernutter sandwich.
Taking the opportunity to explain something calmly might have worked, and it’s the tactic I think you should try in the future. For now, apologize to your boyfriend for getting so worked up, explaining that it’s hard for you to swallow how ingrained this is in our culture. Next time you notice an instance of that with him around, try a soft touch.
If he still says you’re overreacting and that you should shut your lady-mouth, yes, he’s unwilling to acknowledge latent misogyny. If that’s something you find problematic, try delivering an Olivia-worthy “GET OUT!” speech.