Between “Headless Women” and Lara Croft’s boobs, Hollywood’s sexism problem just won’t go away

It’s been a good-ish year for Hollywood when it comes to representation and diversity (so far). With films like Black Panther and Wrinkle in Time taking over the box office simultaneously right now and 2017 movies like Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, and Ladybird love during award season, it feels like a time when people are finally understanding the importance of representation. When you throw in the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, it might even seem like something close to “progress” is happening. But some people still just don’t get it — especially men on the internet. Between two viral moments this week — Marcia Belsky re-upping her “Headless Women Of Hollywood” and all of the discussion about whether the new Lara Croft’s boobs are big enough — it seems like Hollywood’s gender problem just might never go away.

Just in case you aren’t trolling the internet all day like we are, Belsky launched the “Headless Women Of Hollywood” back in 2016 on Tumblr, where she gathers all the movie, TV, and book advertisements where women are “decapitated.” Not like in a Seven way, but a when all the movie poster shows is a woman’s legs or the back of her head, or when a series of posters celebrating an ensemble cast literally leaves the woman out kind of way. This week, she celebrated the anniversary of one of her faves.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Seriously, Belsky is a genius for collecting these.

Like, really, this movie was ABOUT WOMEN.

However, men were quick to point out that these weren’t that “offensive.”

Men being vocal on the internet are obviously not representative of all men everywhere, but their refusal (by these particular men, at least) to acknowledge this dangerous trope of “decapitating” women on movie posters and what it says about the male gaze is scary. It’s indicative of how Hollywood shouldn’t be so quick to pat itself on the back for letting celebs talk about sexual assault and harassment, the gender pay gap, or inclusion riders on its red carpets or press junkets for films. Hollywood, you’re not off the hook — you still have work to do. Belsky explains on her Tumblr:

"By decapitating the woman, or fragmenting her body into decontextualized sexual parts, she becomes an unquestionably passive object to the male gaze. The question of her consent is removed completely alongside her head, and her purpose becomes solely that of being looked at by men obediently. Her value is that only of her sexual appeal to men, and not of her personhood."

She adds, “These images, used as an advertisement trope for years, teach our minds to be signified that a woman’s separated and sexualized parts are one and the same thing as a sexual woman herself.”

And when we don’t decapitate the women — like for example, on the new poster for the new Tomb Raider movie with Alicia Vikander playing Lara Croft — some men become disappointed because her boobs aren’t as big as they used to be in the Angelina Jolie version or the video games. Yes, really, we’re talking about actual grown men who refuse to be better.

Back in the day, Croft’s breast size was one of the draws for male gamers, despite the fact that they were literally shaped like pyramids. (In later iterations of the game, which this new movie is based on, Croft’s breasts aren’t as prominent, not like that should matter.) Not only is Vikander getting dragged on the internet for her appearance, she was also reportedly harassed on the set of the movie, which only compounds the ick-factor of this entire conversation on Twitter. Men treat women like sexual objects even when they’re the stars of their own movies, and it’s demeaning and dangerous. Full stop.

But don’t tell that to this guy:

This comment by user amazingatheist sparked a huge debate on Twitter about how it wasn’t that men (and some women) were objectifying Lara Croft. It’s just that they wanted more boobs in the movie to excite them. Since the whole point of a female action hero is to ensure that she turns them on. It’s an actual thing, with men writing bad reviews of the movie on Rotten Tomatoes complaining about Vikander’s chest.

What’s so interesting to us about both of the responses to these Twitter moments — that women only have legs and that the success of Tomb Raider relies on Vikander’s boobs — is not that men are upset. They get upset all the time when women call out the lack of representation in Hollywood, getting their boxers in a bunch over all-female reboots of Ghostbusters or Ocean’s 8. 

It’s that instead of acknowledging that a sexist trope exists or making a good argument about how it is kind of odd that we have to remake classic action movies instead of giving a female writer, director, and cast a chance to come up with something fresh and original (which is a thing we should talk about), these guys really don’t understand the depths of their own misogyny. In fact, they’ll do anything to insist that they’re not sexist and instead it’s just how things are supposed to be. 

It gets really depressing and scary the more you think about it. It’s scary because no matter how many Wrinkle In Times or Girls’ Nights or Black Panthers rule the box office, way too many men in the real world are still refusing to examine their predatory ways. 

It’s hard to know where to begin and fix the problem. In some way, it does feel like studios are paying more attention to how women are portrayed in their movies and the roles they can play in making them. (We’re still working on that payment thing, though.)

Like, the marketing team for Ocean’s 8 could have easily decapitated the characters and probably would have if the movie was made in 1998. This summer, we have inspiring women and women of color and LGBTQ-identifying women in lead roles and behind the scenes in Hollywood, and that’s something to be excited about. It’s probably best to just ignore the sexist trolls who refuse to “get” why The Graduate film poster is terrible or who plan on boycotting theaters in the name of Lara Croft’s boobs. All the rest of us will be there to support the movies and celebrate them, as we’ve been doing all along. But we’re not at the finish line yet, which means we can’t let the moment we’re in right now convince us that sexism in Hollywood is over. Men in Hollywood owe us a lot more heads and body types on screen before that happens.