On March 3, The New York Times ran an excellent article by Anna Holmes about actor Charlie Sheen and the media's longstanding indifference toward his abuse of women. Holmes blames, in part, our current reality TV culture, which normalizes the exploitation and humiliation of women often thought of as "gold diggers" or "sluts." Jennifer Pozner has written a book about this trend, called "Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty-Pleasure TV," wherein she identifies the stereotyping and misogyny at work in these seemingly harmless shows.
The insightful points made by Holmes and Pozner got me thinking about why certain aspects of the Sheen circus are so infuriating. The very next day, The Washington Post published a piece by Ruth Marcus, who noted that when ABC's 20/20 asked Sheen what his daughters might think of him, he replied: "They'll wake up one day and realize how cool dad is. And you know, he signs all the checks on the front, not the back." Clearly, this insult is directed at the mother of his children. Sheen wants his kids to view him as the "cool" parent because he pays child support.
Now, we're talking about the same person who claims his "tiger blood" makes him special, so we could be excused from taking him too seriously. But Sheen is not alone in his attitude toward women. Remember Mel Gibson's outbursts of rage toward the mother of his child? Kanye West recently tweeted that "b*tches" are trying to get pregnant by wealthy men so they can soak them for thousands of dollars per abortion. These particular men might seem unhinged in general, but the hostility they express toward women is instructive because it's shared by far too many others.
Let's take a look at the situation: First of all, it's safe to assume in our society that a rich and famous man will have no trouble finding a date or a mate, and chances are good she'll look like a supermodel. Of those men who can, many take advantage of this setup -- yet they call the very women they date gold diggers.