Emmys remind us that women are only 'compelling' when on display

I tuned into the Emmys tonight just in time to catch Sofia Vergara rotating on a platform.

Twenty four hours ago we saw the word “FEMINIST” on the MTV Video Music Awards and tonight we have the highest-paid actress on TV spinning on a stage like, you know, an object.

Beyonce performs her song, "Flawless" at the MTV Video Music Awards
Beyonce performs her song, “Flawless” at the MTV Video Music Awards

While Beyonce’s representation of feminism may well be problematic for a number of reasons, I have to admit to having been more than a little bit thrilled at seeing one of my favorite words lit up in all caps in what can generally be said to be a pretty sexist space, historically. Not only that, but watching her husband take the back seat, minding the babe, was a nice image to see as well. (No cookies for dads being parents, but I’m still feeling these gradual moves towards a more egalitarian future…) I’m unsure as to the actual impact of this “FEMINIST” statement and whether it will or could translate into more human rights for women and less male violence against them, but I’m honestly feeling a little weary of the Beyonce/feminism debate at the moment, so I’ll leave the Bey portion of my commentary at this for now: feminism on MTV; Jay Z sits down, watches child while partner rules the world.

But lest you get too excited about our movement’s shining MTV moment, hold up because this is one of those “half a step forward, about eight steps back” kinda situations. Again.

The Modern Family actress came on stage to introduce the CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Bruce Rosenblum, who said “This has been a terrific year for American television and our shows continue to have a meaningful impact around the world,” before asking Vergara to demonstrate this by getting onto a revolving platform. Rosenblum goes on with his speech as Vergara spins. The audience cheers when they get to her ass-side.

Jay Z and Blue Ivy watching Beyonce's performance at the MTV Video Music Awards
Jay Z and Blue Ivy watching Beyonce’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards

Rosenblum concludes his speech by saying: “What truly matters is that we never forget that our success is based on always giving the viewer something compelling to watch.” Get it?? Objectified women is what audiences like to watch. HA.

Vergara reportedly responded to critics afterwards, saying the stunt wasn’t sexist but rather “It means that somebody can be hot and also be funny and make fun of herself. I think it’s ridiculous that somebody started this… who has no sense of humor [and should] lighten up a little bit.”

Ok well maybe we’ll all “lighten up” a bit when women are permitted to be successful without having to be literally on display for the male gaze while the real, full humans get to talk about serious, important things.




Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • Meh

    This is how ‘feminism’ is depicted these days. It’s all about ‘choosing’ to beautify yourself. Choosey, choosey, choosey!! It’s all about our choices! We’re so lucky, aren’t we?!

    I’d get more excited about Beyonce standing in front of a huge lit up ‘feminist’ sign if there wasn’t a crowd of misogynistic assholes sitting in the audience clapping because they think feminism is about sucking their cocks.

    Vergara seems to be complicit to the sexist bullshit around her. I heard her say in an interview that prostitution was empowering, because the women are attractive and making money. I mean, what could possibly be disempowering about that?

    Next year they should parade the men around and get them to spin like rotisserie chickens while wearing foot-disabling, skin-tight outfits that make them look like fucking idiots. I’ll tune in to watch that shit.

  • Given men constantly claim ‘Feminism is about equality’ when will a male celebrity stand on a podium wearing tight butt hugging trousers and a jacket deliberately short so that his genital areas are well displayed. He will then spin around slowly so that the audience can view his body from every angle. It won’t happen because men know they aren’t dehumanised sexualised objects whereas women are just mens’ disposable sexual service stations!

    This is why female celebrity spun around for the male audience’s sexual entertainment and no it wasn’t ‘fun’ it was misogynistic which is why the men applauded when they saw the female celebrity’s rear!

  • SadyMcSadface

    Yes, Sofia. Clearly this was about how someone can be hot and funny. That’s why you were only put on display as an *object* of comedy and not as an active participant- because people think you’re sooo comedically talented. *eyeroll*

    • Meghan Murphy

      And, like, obviously people can be ‘hot’ and ‘funny’ at the same time… But so what. Like, is that supposed to be revolutionary?

  • martin dufresne

    It’s the classic one-two series of punches. First, they make her look ridiculous. Then, they have her put down feminists who acknowledge that.
    After a decade of being reminded by male smirkers of that defining moment of her career, she will probably say different.

  • “(No cookies for dads being parents, but I’m still feeling these gradual moves towards a more egalitarian future…)”

    No, we saw those moves in the 60s. So we’re just going around and around in circles.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah true. I liked what it kinda represented but who knows how significant it actually is. I mean, I certainly see changes in terms of egalitarian parenting in my own life, in terms of my male friends with kids and whatnot, but we still have a ways to go…

      • Missfit

        That is surely another topic altogether, worth exploring, but I’m telling you, from my experience and 99% of my friends, egalitarian parenting is non-existent.

        • andeväsen

          I concur. Very few fathers of my acquaintance walk the walk when it comes to child care. Of course there are those who do and are great, but they are still seen as exceptional and praised – and I guess to be fair, relative to their peers, it is sadly praiseworthy – for not referring to taking care their own spawn as ‘babysitting’.

          And ptittle is right – my parents’ generation were hoping for egalitarian child rearing. It’s tragic that it seems novel in 2014 to see a father minding his child while mum is at work.

          Child care is the second pillar of patriarchy, as it were, along with VAW. It’s wheeled out as an excuse for the pay gap: “oh but women choose to get pregnant and then they shouldn’t complain about earning less than men or men being hired in preference to them”. Financial dependence ensues. Being poor, being dependent on another person makes women individually and as a demographic at risk of abuse.

          Another emulation-worthy Swedish model is their parental leave system, gradually developed and modified over years, which incentivises fathers taking paternity leave so that it is not seen as abnormal for dads to rear kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz5FJkqWhbQ

          (You’re right…this is a whole other topic).

  • Deb

    Abigail Bray points out this “laughter” in her book Misogyny Re-Loaded. “The sexual degradation of women has long been accompanied by laughter. If misogyny has a soundtrack it is canned laughter.” (pg 76) We must stop letting people get away with this mindset that we all just have to stop being so serious and laugh at ourselves! argggggg

    • Meh

      A fantastic book! Disturbing to read though (had to skip over heaps of parts).

      Yes, it’s all about the lulz. If you tell someone to “take a joke” you’re essentially minimizing their feelings.