As I watched Andrew Garfield at a Yahoo Kids’ Q&A for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I was not prepared for what he was about to say. I have always admired Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield’s on-set and off-set relationship and have been allured by their palpable chemistry. However, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed when I heard Spiderman’s unexpected sexist comment.
After a young boy asked Andrew how Spiderman got his costume, Andrew responded: “He made it. He made it with his bare hands. He sewed it, he took some sewing classes and some needlework. It’s kind of a feminine thing to do, he really kind of made a masculine costume out of a very feminine…”
Emma awesomely interjected to ask, “It’s feminine, how?”
Clearly caught off guard, Andrew defensively replied, “It’s amazing how you took that as an insult,” and proceeded to explain why sewing is feminine: “It’s feminine because I would say that femininity is more about delicacy and precision and detailed work and craftsmanship. Like my mother, she’s an amazing craftsman. She in fact made my first Spider-Man costume when I was 3 so I use it as a compliment, not just in complimenting women but in men as well. We all have feminine in us, young men.”
While I applaud Emma for her willingness to challenge Andrew and stand up for her own beliefs, I am still trying to register the implications of Andrew’s comments. If I were able to add to this conversation, here are some questions I might ask.
“It’s a kind of feminine thing to do” – Are girls solely responsible for sewing tasks? How would Andrew describe other now feminine roles, such as being a secretary or a schoolteacher? Are the tasks, roles, and behaviors that we deem ‘feminine’ solely relegated to women?
“He made a masculine costume out of a very feminine…” – Why did Andrew need to justify Spiderman’s masculinity in spite of sewing his own costume? He seems pretty set on the idea that sewing is for girls only and that Spiderman, a manly man’s hero, is an exception.
“Femininity is more about delicacy and precision and detailed work and craftsmanship” – These are sweeping generalizations. How would Andrew describe a girl or a woman who does not portray these crafty characteristics?
“I use it as a compliment” – What does he even mean when he says this? I would not feel flattered to be labeled as feminine for any potential sewing skills.
“We all have feminine in us” – Is this supposed to be reassuring? Why does being feminine need to be explained away or “okayed”?
Andrew’s mansplaining underscores just how deeply embedded sexism is in everyday thoughts and speech — and how much words matter. What might seem like a harmless remark to some is actually a buttress to gender stereotypes. The biggest lesson from Andrew’s and Emma’s exchange? We all need to embrace and emulate Emma’s comfort in calling out of everyday sexism. Otherwise, it’s totally here to stay.