EVEN STEVENSON: Why Bennett Miller was being sexist at the Letterman lecture


Samantha Stevenson is a sophomore journalism magazine media major and writes 'Even Stevenson' for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Samantha at slstevenson2@bsu.edu.

Samantha Stevenson

I couldn’t have been more excited for David Letterman to come to Ball State. He’s that alum that you brag about to your friends who picked the school that your entire high school went to. “Oh, yeah?  Well, I go to the school David Letterman went to.” Sitting in John R. Emens Auditorium last Monday, this bragging right was real, onstage and doing the thing I looked up to him for: interviewing. I couldn’t wait to see just how easy it is for him to make the conversation flow. But when Letterman asked his guests about sexism, I was surprised by how quickly the conversation stopped.

Did you think Miller's comments were OK? Read the other side of the argument.

I can’t say I knew much about his guests, Bennett Miller and Spike Jonze. Sure, I had heard their names and seen their movies, but I couldn’t have picked them off of the street. I was excited nonetheless; these were real professionals who had gone after what they wanted and won. These gentlemen were idols to a lot of men and women in that auditorium. They inspired their audience to go out there and "do" and "create." There was banter, jokes, quick-wit on Letterman’s side more than theirs, and then there was that long awkward silence.

Letterman asked the question that seemed to have both directors looking for the exit: sexism in the film industry. Stumbling over his words, Miller spoke the most and, frankly, too much. Letterman pushed, and Miller responded in his position of power he found it “patronizing” and that the “film industry is a jungle.” I sat there dumbfounded. My giddy grin of being in the same room as such talented artists was replaced with a scowl of “did he really just say that?” Not only did he say it, but he said it to an audience of college students and, yeah, women. Women who want to be as successful as he is, perhaps even in the same field. I was disgusted.

I mean, I know directors have the stereotype of being awkward in the name of their art, but shouldn’t they know what not to say to a generation of women who sat in this audience to be inspired by them? I don’t find it patronizing if you realize that you have found success in an industry that caters to you.

I remember looking around the audience as Miller did his best to correct himself. Everyone was silent, almost grimacing. He begged with us all that he honestly didn’t know the answer and that he hated the question. As if his foot wasn’t already in his mouth, he then referenced an article that explains that men are just more aggressive, mentioning the high statistic of men that would murder over women.

I got what he was saying. So, because men are so angry, this is synonymous with being driven? Yeah, men will murder you. Men go after what they want. That’s why they have success. They’re ruthless in the jungle.

Bennett Miller, you have apparently not met enough women. Bragging that your gender would murder someone before another does not compensate for your failure to see Letterman’s point. Women are not represented because men like you, in power, like other men like you. Maybe you should run that idea by the women producers you had to tell the audience you hire as a cop-out for the sexism that escaped your mouth during your “not all men” speech.

Sure, I could have let this go, and I remember walking to my car with the crowd after the event feeling completely aggravated. My friends said, “You can’t be upset, you can tell he knew he messed up. That’s why he kept going back to it.” I’ll give you that. You realized you messed up, but far too late. Maybe a woman should help you articulate your words next time.


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