Co-authored with Susan Schneider
You have probably heard by now that Emma Stone put her boyfriend, Andrew Garfield, on the spot for referring to sewing as a "feminine" activity in a publicity interview for their new movie The Amazing Spider-Man. When a little boy asked how Spider-Man got his costume, Garfield replied: "He sewed it... It's kind of a feminine thing to do, but he really made a very masculine costume." With awesome cool, Emma gently ribbed him: "And how is that a feminine activity?" The exchange drew a lot of media attention simply because it revealed so much about gender stereotypes and how our culture is starting to shift them.
First of all, Emma Stone had the confidence and assertiveness to challenge her boyfriend publicly. She didn't chastise him, only posed a deceptively simple question: "And how is that a feminine activity?" In this way, she was asking him to reflect on and take responsibility for the comment. Women can use this as a teaching moment for themselves, not only in their relationships but in their everyday lives. Don't hesitate to speak up when you hear something that strikes you as sexist. You don't even have to be super-confrontational. You can just ask: "What do you mean?"
What came next is all too familiar. Without skipping a beat, the charming and adorable Andrew Garfield subtly shifts the blame to her: "It's amazing how you take it as an insult, " he says with a smile, leaning toward her to make his point. (Wait a minute, wasn't she asking him to explain himself? And she never said -- or acted like -- she felt insulted.)
Emma didn't get defensive and just calmly repeated her question: "It's not an insult. I am asking how is it feminine." I have watched the video at least 10 times and I believe this comment is the turning point. Emma communicated that she was not going to let Andrew get away with this subtle maneuver to make it her problem.
At that moment, the actor Jamie Foxx, sitting nearby, humorously inserted into the conversation. Claiming he was the macho man, Jamie gave Andrew a moment to recover and get himself out of the hot seat by talking about his mother and the feminine part of all men. Impressively, he did an about face and showed himself to be thoughtful about what Emma had asked and responsive when he needed to explain himself. A great guy!
This video had so many intriguing details -- truly a good representation of a modern couple working out the gender issues in our modern society. I suspect that Emma and Andrew have a deep respect for one another. They appear to be two equals who can challenge each other without hostility, and embrace the values of sensitivity and assertiveness. Emma is an Alpha woman: strong, confident and assertive, who is not afraid to speak up. She can take on casual sexism gracefully and effectively. Brava, Emma!
Dr. Sonya Rhodes and Susan Schneider are authors of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today's Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling available now in bookstores.