Gone Girl—both the book and film—have in part become phenomenons because they (spoiler alert!) feature a female protagonist of shocking depravity. This narrative, which has left people both appalled and riveted, is a reminder of a fact society has long had a hard time grasping: Women are just as capable of being evil as men.
A historically popular argument holds that women are inherently more moral than men, and more delicate (though it’s not clear to me why those two attributes should be connected, apparently to many they are). It’s funny how an argument about how good women are is used to justify how unsuited for life they are. This logic was used to argue against women’s suffrage, against the Equal Rights Amendment, against women in combat, and continues to be used to justify why parenting should predominantly fall on women.
Earlier this year, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said female political candidates should be treated with a “sense of pedestal.” And he didn't stop there:
"[F]or those of us who have some chivalry left, there’s a level of respect. You treat some things as a special treasure; you treat other things as common."
Here’s the thing: everyone appreciates politeness and civility, but female candidates don’t need to be treated like Scarlett O’Hara (speaking of amoral bitches . . .) to function in the political arena.
Men aren’t exclusively to blame here: Plenty of women tap into pedestal mentalities for their own purposes. A flagrant example: The musical Chicago was inspired by actual Jazz Age events wherein a series of attractive young women were acquitted from murdering men in what should have been slam-dunk prosecutorial cases . . . apparently because they were attractive young women. Juries had a hard time believing sweet lil’ women could do such things, and the defendants and their lawyers played into these stereotypes full throttle. It may shock some people’s notions of gender, but we really shouldn’t let murderers go scot-free because they have vaginas.
Also: Nazi fraulein murderers. Yikes.
From where I stand, feminism is about acknowledging that women are equal to men. Following this simple equation, holding women up as morally superior is not equal—and more importantly, isn’t true. If men have exhibited worse behavior than their female counterparts throughout history—I’ll go ahead and wager that they have—it’s because they’ve had more power and socialized sense of entitlement, not less of an inherent conscience.
Putting women on a higher pedestal is patronizing and limiting for women, and unfair for men.