A lot of people don’t find How I Met Your Mother problematic because they say that Barney’s blatant sexism is over-the-top and therefore won’t be taken seriously by viewers.
I disagree – I find the show, and Neil Patrick Harris’ character in particular quite upsetting. To me, that this kind of TV show, and that this character is so popular is a wonderful example of rape culture.
This clip contains a number of examples of problematic sexism to the extent of misogyny that is a theme in this show.
- “Bros before hos”. You know… because guys (bros) are awesome and women are all prostitutes (hos), and prostitutes are not really human.
- It is a good idea to manipulate and lie to women in order to convince them to have sex with you.
- You can tell if a woman is available for sex based on what she is wearing. Leopard print is basically automatic consent.
- It is unacceptable to have sex with someone’s mother.
- Get women drunk so they will have sex with you.
- Girl fights are sexy – in other words, girls are sex objects without feelings – take pictures!
- College girls who dress a certain way are easy… umm… easily one dimensional and exist purely for the male gaze and for sex?
Barney’s objectification and manipulation of women for sex (or ego) doesn’t seem to be ever contested by the other characters, in fact, the others actively participate with him. That this kind of sexism is acceptable isn’t questioned in the show. The portrayal of the women he interacts with is fairly horrific too – as if almost all women would fall for manipulative pick up lines and tricks performed by a handsome man in a suit and subsequently be super happy jump into bed with him. Women don’t really have personalities (except the main characters), and they are almost never smart enough to tell when someone is blatantly manipulating them. Even the female main characters sometimes participate in the objectification of other women – they are cool because they are dude-like. We identify them with the male characters, rather than with the other female characters who appear. We don’t like them as females, we like them because they are like men.
If that first clip wasn’t enough, here’s another (lying to and manipulating women is funny and acceptable!):
And here is a video by the fabulous Feminist Frequency describing “retro sexism”, and why sexism that is supposed to be “ironic” is still sexist: