Photo by sajbrfem on Flickr used under a Creative Commons License

This clip is making the rounds on my social networks:

It’s part of an interview with actor Dustin Hoffman who is talking about an epiphany he had when preparing to play the title role in 1982’s Tootsie (a movie whose plot is described thusly by IMDb: “An unemployed actor with a reputation for being difficult disguises himself as a woman to get a role in a soap opera.”)

Hoffman recounts how he insisted he undergo makeup tests before proceeding with the film in order to ensure he could pass as a woman as opposed to looking like a man in drag. Once transformed, he’s disappointed that he isn’t more attractive and asks to be made beautiful (his reasoning: “If I was a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible”).

He’s told that how he looks is as beautiful as he’s going to get — a reality that prompts a tearful realization:

I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself onscreen and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out … There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.

The clip is getting passed around as a feelgood sort of thing; a man sharing a powerful “aha moment” of understanding and compassion for others.

And I suppose it’s nice and all. (Also, just so we’re clear, I have nothing against Dustin Hoffman, as either an actor or as a person.)


Am I really supposed to be impressed that a man realizes sexist beauty standards exist? Because that doesn’t impress me — especially when it takes LITERALLY DRESSING UP AS A WOMAN in order for him to realize this fact.

Like, welcome dude to something women have been talking about SINCE FOREVER. Nice that you can finally find it in your heart to believe what we have been telling you — about a concept so basic it can be conveniently encapsulated in this clip’s very title: “Dustin Hoffman Breaks Down Crying Explaining Something That Every Woman Sadly Already Experienced.”

Thank God for Dustin Hoffman and his manly powers of explanation, am I right? I mean, without him breaking it down, how could anyone other than EVERY WOMAN understand what it’s like to be judged (and rejected) solely on one’s looks?

Note, too, how he struggles to articulate his understanding of sexist double standards before going with: “There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”

Allow to me paraphrase that statement. What he’s saying is that he did not have the experience of “knowing” many women — talking to them, hanging out with them, being friends with them, maybe even dating them — because he actively chose not to. Because, in his estimation, they weren’t fuckable enough.

Put that way, his epiphany is somewhat less tear inducing, yes?

I don’t mean to pick on Dustin Hoffman. In fact, this phenomenon — whereby men refuse to take women’s words about our own experiences at face value and as truth — happens ALL THE DAMN TIME.

And so we get men “discovering” that labour pains really do hurt.

And men “realizing” that high heels are uncomfortable (“‘My feet are killing me,’ said first-place winner, [Trevor] Wickersham, the following day.” NO SHIT. YOU DON’T SAY.)

And men “learning” that street harassment is a real thing that happens when women go out in public, regardless of what they wear.

Seriously, what’s this about? Like, I don’t have balls, but when guys tell me it really, really hurts to get kicked in the balls, I believe them. I don’t need to be hooked up to some fake ball-pain simulator to buy into the concept.

Going forward, you know what would be far less difficult, less time-consuming and less offensive? If men occasionally believed what women tell them.

We’re not making shit up, guys. We honestly, seriously know things. Really, we do.