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Arm Candy and Trophy Wives

Blatant sexism in the The Hollywood Reporter

07.14.15
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Modern journalism is a challenging field. As we become increasingly glued to our iPhones consuming content at an impatient rate, even major publications have to churn out fluffy pieces and eye-catching headlines to stay ahead. Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself when idiotic trend pieces like Merle Ginsberg’s article, “Hollywood Moguls’ Arm Candy Du Jour: Goodbye Asians, Hello Yoga Instructors,” make it to print.

Published in the June 19th edition of The Hollywood Reporter, the article, as the title suggests, revolves around Ginsberg’s own observation that more and more “major industry players” are dating yoga instructors. Clearly, this needs some investigating, and Ginsberg does so, beginning with a brief history lesson about the dating predilections of powerful men past. Yoga teachers have not always been all the rage, according to Ginsberg — before that, it was Asian women (1990s), high-end retail workers or “Shop Girls” (1980s) and before that, white non-Jews or “shiksas” (1950s).

The move to yoga instructors is explained by Ginsberg’s handy “relationship experts,” Dr. Jeremy Nicholson and Dr. Pat Allen, who explain that both Asian women and yoga instructors have the qualities men desire most in women: “attractive, pleasant, feminine.” Allen takes it a step further, noting that important men don’t just desire these traits in women — they need them. “[Men] build, they create. Women receive. …Alpha men do better with beta women: sensitive, empathetic and kind. Who epitomizes beta better than a yoga teacher?”

It’s hard to know where to begin in highlighting the offensive material in Ginsberg’s piece. You could point to the vocabulary she relies on: how men are referred to as “the Hollywood business elite,” “alpha” and “powerful,” whereas the women they date are referred to as “arm candy,” “bimbo[s]” and “desirable mogul mates.” There’s no nod to powerful women’s desire for an attractive mate, and it goes without saying that there is no mention of same sex relationships.

Or you could point to the racism. When Ginsberg lists examples of Asian women who married powerful men — Wendi Deng, Julie Chen, Jennifer Chun, Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen, a businesswoman, news anchor/producer, violinist and pianist, respectively — she implies they were desirable and attractive not because of their career success, but simply because of their ethnicity, as if Asian women were a new type of cigar on the market for which powerful men have a craving.

For those of you not familiar with The Hollywood Reporter, it is a major publication to which most people working in the entertainment industry have subscriptions. The magazine features everything from weekly roundups of box office grosses to interviews with executives and filmmakers. Just last month, the magazine featured a roundtable discussion of female comedians and actors where the likes of Amy Schumer, Ellie Kemper and Tracee Ellis Ross talked about, in THR’s own words, “sexism, sex scenes… and why women need to stop apologizing.” That’s more like it.

The Hollywood Reporter is reputable, and it is read. I consume it to remain informed in the hopes of furthering my career, so not only do I not want to see sexist trend pieces when I open its pages, I don’t want the entire industry seeing them, either. As overtly ridiculous as this article is, words have power. Publishing such a piece — regardless of “clicks” — implicitly validates the sexism it propounds.

Modern journalism is a challenging field, yes. But it is the responsibility of journalists and editors at publications like The Hollywood Reporter to flag sexist, dated material like this and put it where it deserves to be: the trash.

Photograph via Allure Magazine. Carousel Photograph via MC2. Follow Margaret Boykin on Twitter.

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  • L.A. Lady

    The idea of an “advantageous marriage” is thousands of years old and what Ginsberg is describing is nothing new. What she fails to mention is that these relationships are merely business transactions: a mutually beneficial arrangement. These men don’t want someone to share their life with, and I’m assuming that these women feel similarly (if they’re expecting something more, they’re in for a world of disappointment). I think Ginsberg has gulped down the Hollywood Kool-aid in thinking these are actual marriages between two adults looking for a life partner. Ginsberg’s only redeeming quality is a journalist is producing click bait and I sort of though the Hollywood Reporter was at least a step above. Guess not.

  • toni

    wow , I can’t believe that article exists.

  • “As overtly ridiculous as this article is, words have power.”

    Yes, especially when it comes down to journalism, where an article’s power solely stems from words and photos. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our language constructs our reality–the way we perceive things.

    THR article you mentioned does nothing more than position women as an interchangeable commodity. One season it was the Celine Luggage Tote, next the Saint Laurent Sac de Jour, and now we’re on to the Chloe Drew / First it was shop girls, then Asians, now Yoga Instructors.

    In the same vein, I actually wrote an article about the sexist language following L’Wren Scott’s suicide last year. You might find it interesting: http://www.madame-ostrich.com/2014/03/18/name-lwren-scott/

  • One season it was the Celine Luggage Tote, next the Saint Laurent Sac
    de Jour, and now we’re on to the Chloe Drew / First it was shop girls,
    then Asians, now Yoga Instructors. IB World Academy

  • Thank you for pointing this out, and in a very well-written piece nonetheless. It really is a shame that there continues to be this cycle of sexism and racism being reinforced, especially in journalism.

    I’m so sick of having to continually see women, particularly women of color, become stereotyped and fetishized. I am not a phase or a fetish or a purse or a category of clickbait. Do publications still have to write about what old, white, cisgendered men want?

    Modern Journalism also allows for people to respond and critique what is being said, especially in a widely read publication and mainstream environment. We also get the chance to speak about it, and realize that our words have just as much power.

    • Right! And I think your point about fetishization is so important. Women who are not white, when they are in the public eye, are spoken about as if they are odd and delicate in way that is downright offensive, quite frankly. All of this begins to operate outside of the womens’ merit, and perpetuates the whole realm of allowing the more dominant type of woman or man a platform to “boast” about how accepting and progressive they are, if that makes sense.

      • TOTALLY makes sense, I just wish other people realized this too. Women of color want and need to be reflected in culture and entertainment. Then when they are, pieces like that in THR downplay the fact that they are women…with careers, as Margaret points out.

  • leonela
  • Greer

    YAS such a needed, eloquent and on point response, so glad you wrote this. Thank you Margaret

  • Vanessa

    Excellent response to the article. I would share this except I don’t want anymore people to read that Hollywood Reporter article. I want it to be deemed a disappointment to the magazine due to the lack of clicks it received. I want it to die a silent death.