Emilia Clarke on dealing with everyday sexism: ‘It’s like dealing with racism’

Duchess of Cambridge holding Princess Charlotte of Cambridge

I think Emilia Clarke is so pretty, but as a brunette, she looks like at least ten other actresses, right? Very pretty, but almost prettily nondescript. Anyway, we’re weeks away from Dragon Time, also known as the seventh season premiere of Game of Thrones. We can expect lots of interviews and magazine covers from all the stars. I’m hoping for at least one interview from Kit Harington where he comes across as a sad-faced, self-pitying dude who can’t stop feeling like he’s being terribly maligned as a “hunk.” As for Emilia, I have a feeling that some of her comments to Rolling Stone will not go over too well. You can read the Rolling Stone piece here, and here are some highlights:

The crap-pile that was 2016: She’s lived through Brexit and the ascendency of Trump, or, as she puts it, “ ’16. The f–king year where everything sh-t happened.”

On political activism: “You can’t expect everyone to just stop doing their jobs and march every day of their lives. But we’ve got to be in this sh-t for the long game.” And for Clarke, being “in this sh-t” means not being OK with a lot of what goes on around her – a realization that grew and amplified “in a [post-Brexit] era where you suddenly go, ‘What do you mean my views are so vastly different from my neighbor?’ ”

Her feelings on dealing with sexism every day: “I feel so naive for saying it, but it’s like dealing with racism. You’re aware of it, and you’re aware of it, but one day, you go, ‘Oh, my God, it’s everywhere!’ Like you suddenly wake up to it and you go, ‘Wait a f–king second, are you . . . are you treating me different because I’ve got a pair of t-ts? Is that actually happening?’ It took me a really long time to see that I do get treated differently. But I look around, and that’s my daily life.”

Being a pretty woman & being a feminist: “It doesn’t stop me from being a feminist. Like, guess what? Yes, I’ve got mascara on, and I also have a high IQ, so those two things can be one and the same. Women have been great rulers. And then for that to be a character that I’m known to play? That’s so f–king lucky. Anyone who seems to think that it’s not needed need only look at the political environment we’re all living in to be like, ‘Oh, no, it’s needed. It is needed.’ ”

[From Rolling Stone]

It’s the comparison of sexism and racism that has garnered the most headlines. I was prepared to write another “this isn’t the Aggrieved Olympics, a white woman doesn’t know what a person of color goes through,” but I think her quote could probably interpreted a few different ways. In context, as she’s talking about Brexit and being vastly different from her neighbor, I took it as more “wow, we were told the world was post-racial and it’s really not, racism is still here every day, as is sexism.” 2016 was a hell of a year – I previously believed that we, as a society, were riding that arc bending towards justice and a more equal and less biased society. But then it all blew up in everybody’s faces and it was eye-opening, especially for white people who want to consider themselves allies. I think that’s what she’s trying to say. Or maybe she’s saying that racism and sexism are the same, who knows?

68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Photos courtesy of WENN, cover courtesy of Rolling Stone.

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66 Responses to “Emilia Clarke on dealing with everyday sexism: ‘It’s like dealing with racism’”

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  1. Pumpkin Pie says:

    No it’s not like dealing with racism !!!!!

    • Aims says:

      Absolutely ! ! I don’t get stopped by cops for no reason and being shot at for being a woman .

      • fiorucci says:

        It’s totally different for sure. but men killing women is a much bigger number than all the people cops kill.

      • Aims says:

        Right . Women die at the hands of their partners all the time, sadly. Violence against women is a serious problem . However , when I go out in the world I’m not discriminated against due to my gender . People don’t have a bias against me or are suspicious of me . So I have a problem with the comparison .

      • fiorucci says:

        Not trying to argue or criticise you, but besides partner violence against women, stranger violence against women is also pretty big. I think it’s bigger than police violence. There is no country without it. Not the same thing I know, since the police take an oath to serve and protect, but it is a threat when you “go out” as a woman.

      • Anna says:

        By far I get more discrimination for being black than I do for being a woman.

    • Mgsota says:

      I don’t think that’s what she is saying. IMO, she is saying that you know something is out there, but you don’t realize how big the issue really is until it’s in your face.
      People really thought/think racism is a thing of the past, which is bullsh*t. And sexism, I’m more of aware of it now too. She’s not comparing the two. That’s how I took it.

      • mar_time says:

        Same @mgsota that’s literally what she’s saying and people still take it out of context. She’s not saying she’s being discriminated like a person of color but rather that sexism and racism are still very prevalent, that it’s everywhere, which is true. I didn’t see her comparing her life to that of a POC, that would be verrrrrrrrrrry wrong and deserving of the backlash

  2. Odette says:

    “Wow, we were told the world was post-racial and it’s really not, racism is still here every day, as is sexism.”

    That’s how I took it.

    • Missy says:

      Agreed.

    • Fran says:

      100% – that’s what she meant. she definitely is NOT saying racism and sexism is the same.

    • Pineapple says:

      Absolutely how I read it. It’s too bad people make everything into a contest – “Who Has It Tougher”. Gays, Asians, Women, Transgender? White men now jumped on the wagon too with their woes.
      We need to stay together instead. Stay together and work on creating a more equal world starting with ourselves.

    • Snazzy says:

      Yup, I read it that way too

    • Snowflake says:

      That’s how I took it as well, once I read the rest of her state. She is not saying they are equal

    • Kitten says:

      How I took it as well.
      Poorly-worded but eh.

    • Wilma says:

      I think she is trying to say that, but until she clarifies I’m not going to defend her. Either be precise or don’t say it.

  3. Missy says:

    I was prepared to hate her from the headline, but reading her comment in context made me breathe a sigh of relief. I think we can put down our pitchforks.

    She wasnt saying that sexism is like racism per se. She was comparing the sudden, horrifying awareness of them. We were led to believe that society had progressed – we had a black President! we were going to have a female president! – but then *bam*! Trump. Brexit. Etc. We’re left with the terrifying realization that society is not as progressive as we thought.

    • Littlestar says:

      I agree. I think in context she meant that like racism you think sexism is gone but come to realize you’re swimming in it.

  4. Lucy says:

    I was getting sad over Her Dragoness saying dumb stuff, but now that I’ve read the phrase in context, it makes sense. And she’s absolutely right. I’m glad she’s speaking out on this.

    • Aiobhan Targaryen says:

      Yeah, IA. After reading the snippet it seems as if she starts off with one thought and then moves on to sexism and then keeps going on talking about sexism. It is unclear what she could have meant about the comparison because the interviewer did not follow up with a question about her analogy nor did she try to explain things further on her own. She could have meant the mythical “reverse racism” or she could have meant ” damn, I just realized that my white family members, neighbors, and friends are kind of racist and sexist trash. It’s all around me and I didn’t even know.”

      The interview comes off as more off the cuff than experienced speaker on serious issues like race and sexism.

      This is awkwardly worded but I am not going to pull out my flamethrower just yet. Let’s see what she has to say when she eventually has to come out and clear up what she said.

  5. Sarah says:

    Eh, I think she has a point – she’s not saying that racism and sexism are entirely the same thing, more that both are so woven into the framework of society that its difficult to really comprehend how much influence they have. Or something of the sort.

  6. Tiffany says:

    No. No. No. No. No.

    White people, stop comparing you slight plight to racism. Just. Stop.

    • CorruptLobbyist says:

      I’m not comparing racism and sexism. Apples and oranges. But let’s be clear that neither is a “slight plight”.

    • Vesuvia says:

      Tiffany, while I think her comparison was ill advised, I think your dismissal of sexism as “a slight plight” reveals an equal, if not greater, level of ignorance.

      FYI, you might want to look into theories of intersectionality – which emphasize mutual and interlocking forms of power and oppression. An awareness of the powerful and pervasive workings of sexism doesn’t detract from an awareness of the powerful and pervasive workings of racism — quite the opposite. They are both forms of systemic oppression, and they often combine.

      And as for the person above who said women don’t get shot by the police because they’re a woman – no, but many women have been hunted down alleyways and dark streets — and raped and killed — because of their sex. Many female infants have been killed because of their sex. And so on.

      If you dismiss sexism as a real problem in the world, you show yourself so ignorant that I’m not going to listen to anything you have to say about any other societal issue.

      • Tiffany says:

        So you want to lecture on intersectionality. I have read and know about it and I stick with what I wrote. You want to know how I read what you wrote, you want support no matter what and should get it and POC issues we will get to later. It is amazing how white privilege has made people so bold and thinking they are smarter than they really are.

      • Wilma says:

        @vesuvia Don’t lecture black women on intersectionality. A black woman lives intersectionality. You obviously don’t understand the concept when you say that ‘but many women have been hunted down alleyways and dark streets — and raped and killed — because of their sex. Many female infants have been killed because of their sex. And so on’ but don’t seem to acknowledge that black women experience these things even more so than white women.

      • Vesuvia says:

        Wilma, it’s telling and disturbing to me that you think the word “women” doesn’t include black women. It does.

        Intersectionality is about acknowledging the multiple axes through which systemic power works to oppress. The misreading here – that I was advocating for elevating sexism over racism as a cause for concern – itself suggests a misunderstanding of the theories of intersectionality to which I’m referring, which insist that we analyze these various oppressive systems as relational rather than isolated or hierarchical.

        That said, the way “intersectionality” appears to be understood above seems increasingly commonplace among people who first learned of the term through the internet and social media. At this point, I actually think a new theory of intersectionality is developing online that has little relationship to the academic literature, but which is proving durable and coherent — hence, perhaps, the tension in engagements such as these.

        With that said, I’m going to bow out now, because 1) I regret how sharp my initial comment sounds, and 2) it isn’t my intention to upset people with ideas they find hurtful or harmful, and perhaps that’s all that’s being accomplished here with my comments.

      • Wilma says:

        @vesuvia Actually, you’re the one doing that. Don’t gaslight me here.
        And don’t patronize me with your academic literature. I have a friggin’ PhD in this subject matter. You assume too much and ask too little.

    • T.Fanty says:

      The bottom line is that it is only a comparison if one assumes that sexism only happens to white women. Women of color are COMPLETELY erased in this example. It was a dumb thing to say. There is no way around that.

  7. SharkBait says:

    Eh, I think people are aware of racism from the get go. Racism is racism and sexism is sexism. No need to compare. Think about what women of color go through dealing with both.

  8. lucy2 says:

    I’m not sure, but she’s possibly talking about how everything is sort of amplified right now, with bigots, MRAs, and the like suddenly feeling more free to express their disgusting views.
    If she is trying to equate them though, that is a mistake.

  9. Louise says:

    Dracarys!

  10. Mikaila says:

    I didn’t have a problem with it as I began to read what she was saying. It does speak to the idea of awareness. But then she applied it to herself and being treated differently because she has breasts. So, from that quote she is trying to speak from her personal experience with it. And that’s where she lost me because she obviously can’t speak to her personal experience with racism. If her awareness has to do with her personal experience then she needs to just stop.

    As a woman of color, I hate these types of comparisons. Just talk about sexism. You don’t know anything about racism from experience so just shut up.

  11. Alp says:

    Whilst I understand what she means, as she is a white woman who has not experienced racism, I am side-eying this. If she wasn’t directing it to her personal experiences of sexism but to the systemic racism and sexism everywhere, I wouldn’t be but she said, “are you treating me different because I’ve got a pair of t-ts?”, she can’t compare it because no one has been racist to her.

  12. Mia4s says:

    I get what she’s saying but it is very poorly phrased. I think “poorly phrased good intentions” is probably a win from her as she strikes me as very nice but not terribly interesting or intelligent. Not necessary for her job I suppose. Such a mediocre actress though. So so mediocre. Without the blond wig I can’t separate her from a dozen other pretty faces. Totally unremarkable.

    • third ginger says:

      Did not intend to echo your comment. Funny how we get the same impression.

      • Mia4s says:

        Great minds think alike! 😉

        I really don’t see her amounting to anything big after GOT ends (her or Harrington). They’ll work sure, but both lucked into defining roles out of the gate. I know she’s in the Han Solo movie but that’s unlikely to give her any further boost. A Star Wars movie can make you world famous and boost your profile…but she’s already world famous on GOT so the roles she was offered before Han Solo will be the roles she’s offered after. So…what?

  13. third ginger says:

    Despite her “high IQ” she did not phrase this well. I love GOT, but I always think she and Harrington are lucky to have jobs. I also think celebrities, unless they have wisdom and life experience [like Viola Davis, Streep] would always do better not to make these issues about themselves.

  14. Brittney B. says:

    She had me until she included this in her comparison: “It took me a really long time to see that I do get treated differently.”

    People of color never get to operate under the illusion of equality. She isn’t equating the two, just comparing them in our current cultural context, but it really minimizes the comparison — and the violence of sexism, actually — to say it just crept up on her.

    • godwina says:

      She’s lucky sexism “crept on her.” I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of how I was being treated differently/being shamed/harassed–from elementary teachers not going out of their way to help me with my math issues because “she’s a girl” and being told by a guidance counsellor that I should “be a secretary” when I grew up (who BTW work effin hard, though I went in other directions professionally)–to having older male relatives creepily laughing at my “bee stings” when I was hitting puberty. And let’s not get started on street harassment.

      I’m definitely not alone. Hell, even as 13-year-olds, my female friends and I were talking about it. And it was being talked about in our media and literature and movies. So… huh.

  15. Snowflake says:

    When I read the headline, I thought she was saying sexism is equal to racism and I thought, heck no. Stupid comparison. But reading the context around it, she doesn’t seem to be saying that. So I’m ok with what she said, personally​. I just want to say one thing, as a white person. I knew there was racism, but I didn’t realize the extent until I started dating my mixed husband. What I’ve seen him have to deal with is just unreal. Some White people will deny racism exists to the max, and there are other people who did not fully realize the extent of what minorities have to go through.

    • Ksenia says:

      Snowflake: Same. I was aware of racism, disgusted and dismayed by it, but I never had to live it first hand. But after I met my husband, who is black, I began seeing it everywhere, through his eyes, began to see how unavoidable it is for him. It’s there every day, or its potential to be is. He has taught and shown me a lot about the prevalence of racism. It has alarmed and saddened me all the more.

  16. Alicatz says:

    She said “like dealing with racism” which doesn’t mean its worse or the same – both are forms of discrimination.
    I have had an instance where I was blatantly confronted with sexism by a manager at work and it was like a bus hit me…then of course I called him out on it, then cried and blamed it on that time of the month because it was easier then explaining why what he said was hurtful.

  17. Shijel says:

    My only big problem with this is that she has not experienced racism and therefore she can’t compare. When someone brings racism and sexism into a same context, I feel the voice of a woman of colour would have much more weight.

    I agree with the essence of the message though. It’s sobering and crushing to realise how differently you’re treated.

    Came out of the closet as bisexual not a very long time ago and opened my eyes. Things I didn’t care to look into, or didn’t dare to notice, they’re everywhere. It’s brutal and suffocating. And that’s it for you. There’s no running from it. That is your life. That is your reality. It was a shock for me. Hell, it still is, every day it’s a new shock, seeing how cruel the world can be for something this harmless and inconsequential as being not white, not male, not straight, the list goes on.

  18. Marty says:

    Yikes…look what she said wasn’t horrible in context, but if she’s going to talk about sensitive/complex issues, she might want to choose her words more carefully next time. Because now her whole point gets pushed aside for one sentence.

  19. Dragons sakura says:

    As a woman I will say this, yes, I’ve experienced sexism. I’ve been ignored and talked down to by some men, who think they know better. And I’ve always stood up for myself and put them in their place. Racism is a whole Different level. Sexism isn’t white folks locking their car doors as I take my morning jog. Sexism isn’t following me around a store because you think I might steal. Sexism isnt driving a nice car that you don’t think I can afford and probably stole it so you pull me over. And sexism isn’t calling someone a digusting epithet when you want to try to win an argument. Not the same at all.

    • aang says:

      but sexism leads to me locking my car door when a man of any race approaches, or being afraid to be alone with a man I don’t know well, or looking behind me when I’m walking the dog and a man is walking on the same block. It is not a contest. And I am a WOC. but brown, not black so I know I can’t understand what black people go through.

    • Horsforth says:

      Sexism means that I earn 13% less than my male colleague who does exactly the same job as me, just less well.

      It means having my views ignored in meetings. It means being asked where my husband is to sign contracts or pay for expensive goods.

      It means being turned down for jobs, it means being told I would rather be a man because I’m sassy confident and smart

      It means being viewed as a sex object first and as a person second.

      Really, are we at a point where we’re saying one form of discrimination is better or worse than the other. All discrimination is shameful and limits the lives of others. Why do we really need to say that one form is worse or better. Women have and are mutilated, raped and murdered today because of their gender.

      • eto says:

        It’s just hard not to be completely frustrated as a WOC who is adversely and violently affected by both racism and sexism. Personally, I do think that racism, historically, has been more damaging to women like me than sexism.

  20. Flufff says:

    The irony of opening an article about an actress talking about sexism with the complaint that she’s only generically pretty. How pretty do you need to be before you’re allowed to stand up to sexism?

    • Lucy says:

      Right? As much as I enjoy visiting this site and interacting with most commenters here, I can’t help but notice that it’s (sadly) pretty common to easily dismiss certain female celebs because they are “generically pretty”. This applies to women of all ethnicities. And I’m not referring to those cases in which the “I’ve been told I’m too pretty for this” card is pulled.

  21. Triedmetday says:

    I read it like,WOW THE MAN ABUSES EVERYBODY,but now it’s affecting me personally. More Becky tears!! When you become a #tag lemme know, until then? Several seats!!

    • Ksenia says:

      B/c dismissing the concerns, sadness, fears and frustrations of white women who must cope w sexism too is SO unifying, right? Dismissing white women as crying mere “Becky tears” is not harmful and derogatory? It does not mock or completely dismiss the experiences of other women? Since it DOES do exactly that, how are you any better than the white feminists you rage at for not including women of color? I’m confused by that, and by your concept of unification and progress. Do you not want ALL women to stand up for their lives/rights together? More of us can only make us stronger.

  22. Margo S. says:

    I don’t think she meant that sexism and racism are the same. I think she meant that both are very much around and some of us were naive in thinking that those things were gone for the most part.

  23. Tanya says:

    Imagine dealing with both, and not being able to breathe because there’s no mutual exclusivity.

  24. Hannah says:

    Why do all these famous white feminist women forget there are women who are also black? They always speak from only a white persons POV.

  25. crazydaisy says:

    Can we talk about her potty mouth? Sheesh! Also, I agree with you, Kaiser, on the brunette thing. Emilia is unrecognizable on that Rolling Stone cover.

    Can’t wait for 7/16 !!!!

  26. Mory says:

    How tone deaf can you be? Yes, the problems of a millionaire rich, young and pretty white woman can indeed be compared to racism. SMH.

    I’m a feminist and I’m white but white feminism has become a problem for me.