As a leading cast member of a hit TV series, Kit Harington is likely to spend his career trying to convince the public that he's not just smoldering Jon Snow. It’s a challenge for many actors who try to break-away from the imprint they’ve made on the small screen. Breakfast hosts now know better than to mention the name ‘Angel Parish’ to Melissa George and Jennifer Aniston knows not to follow an introduction from Ricky Gervais, who introduced her as “Rachel from Friends” at the 2010 Golden Globe awards.
But Kit wants people to know that he’s more than the character in the furry armor, and more than the “babe” that directors cast to play a young man with strong features, dark hair and green eyes.
In a recent interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Harington took the very cliché ‘what about me?’ approach and claimed there were two sets of rules when addressing sexism in the film industry.
“I think there’s a double standard,” he told The Sunday Times Magazine. “If you said to a girl, ‘Do you like being called a babe?’ and said, ‘No, not really,’ she’d be absolutely right.
"I like to think of myself as more than a head of hair or a set of looks. It’s demeaning. Yes, in some ways you could argue I’ve been employed for a look I have. But there’s a sexism that happens towards men. There’s definitely a sexism in our industry that happens towards women, and there is towards men as well...
At some points during photoshoots when I’m asked to strip down, I felt that. If I felt I was being employed just for my looks, I’d stop acting."
It’s not surprising that someone with a background in speech and drama, rather than gender studies or sociology would present ‘sexism’ incorrectly. But the issue here is that Harington’s popularity and access to a media amphitheater gives him the opportunity to express this misinformation to the public, and influence people that his own personal experience can be used as a case study of sexism in Hollywood.
While celebrities are only human, put their trousers on one leg at a time and slip up like the rest of us do, Kit Harington really hung himself out to dry when he gave the publication several examples of this so called, “double standard” and suggested that he truly sees an injustice served to men, whose problems aren’t addressed in the same way that women’s are.
But what's more strange than having a person disparage an issue that affects so many of their colleagues, is that this person is Kit Harington.
Firstly, having worked on a show that depicts historic representations of physical and sexual violence toward women, Kit should probably be aware that women have been treated differently to men throughout history. To say that there is a ‘double standard’ between men and women never really makes sense, as it suggests that men’s and women’s opportunities and experience is on par. This is obviously impossible, given that our society was built on centuries of female oppression and years of sexist public policy, and consequently, still reflects this social structure.
Secondly, women do not hold political, economic and institutional power like men and until Harington is facing disadvantage because of his biological make-up, he is not the spokesperson for sexism. Sexism, racism and any other form of discrimination that is derived from the oppression of a dominating group onto an othered minority works in regards to who has the power and the priveldge. Cis-gendered men, like Harington, can't experience the the kind of discrimination that stems from oppression (ie: sexism) just from feeling objectified by the opposite gender. A person who has worked five years on a program which illustrates the power imbalance between male and female relationships probably should have clued onto this somewhere in between Games of Thrones’ portraying the patriarchal order of succession or simply, female characters being raped by men.
What Kit has experienced during his opportunities as a powerful player in Hollywood, is objectification and possibly prejudice. To his credit, being treated as an imaginary boyfriend for dozens of hopeful fans is particularly demeaning and not being allowed to cut your trademark hair, as it’s central to your job role, undermines you as an individual. However, it's secondary to say - an awards host performing a song and dance about 'seeing your boobs' to an international audience. And for Harington to have such conversations within a discussion of sexism in an industry which is literally full of sexism, steers away from those making movies and TV shows who are actually facing discrimination because of their gender – like Kit Harington’s co-stars, for example.
It has been reported that Game of Thrones pays their actors in a tier system, which is determined by their character’s long-term value. While Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey share the highest paying 'A-Tier' bracket with male counterparts Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, there are no men in the 'B-Tier' who receive less.
Contradictory to what this suggests, women are not actually killing it in the acting industry, dominating supporting roles and getting a sweet wage that simply reflects their contribution or input. It actually demonstrates the all too familiar gender pay gap problem in which women earn less than men because they do not have the same opportunities to be granted the highest paying role. As our film and television industry continues to have less demand for female characters in main roles, people like Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams will always sit in the B-tier and earn less than people like Harington, because script writers, casting directors, television networks and the audiences that love hit TV shows, want to see men in an ‘A-tier’ role.
So, before Kit Harington wants to make an expert comment on behalf of the industry that he works in, perhaps he should reflect on some of the things that HBO should have taught him about sexism.