Media coverage of the split between actress Sophie Turner (pictured here) and singer Joe Jonas has shed a light on a far bigger, nastier issue. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)

Even if you’re not a celebrity gossip follower, it’s impossible to avoid news of the impending divorce between singer Joe Jonas and actress Sophie Turner.

It’s also hard to ignore the insidious smear campaign against Turner. Headlines and social media posts on the split center quotes about Jonas caring for their two children “pretty much all of the time” in recent months while Turner, reportedly, “likes to party.” 

This framing is rooted in misogyny – the assumption that Turner, as the mom, should stay home to mind her children, and the insinuation that she’s negligent for not doing so. (Also, for what it’s worth: Turner took a lengthy hiatus to focus on her mental health and family. She and Jonas have even called her a “homebody.” And yes, she’s away in the U.K. now – but for a new role.)

This fallout is the latest in an accidental trend of men showing – sometimes subtly, or unwittingly – the massive sense of entitlement they feel to the women around them.

It’s been a summer full of examples. The most prominent and overt, of course, comes in the form of Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales, who forced Spanish footballer Jennifer Hermoso to kiss him after Spain’s win in the 2023 Women’s World Cup – and then refused to resign in the aftermath. He claimed the kiss was consensual (Hermoso has denied this), and referred to campaigns calling for his ouster as “unjust” and “fake feminism.”

We also saw it in leaked texts between actor Jonah Hill and his ex, professional surfer Sarah Brady, in which he shamed her for, among other things, having male friends and wearing bathing suits in Instagram posts. (Again, she is a professional surfer.) We saw it in a similar situation between actress Keke Palmer and her baby’s father, Darius Jackson – except the latter opted to publicly shame Palmer for wearing a skimpy outfit as a new mother, when she attended an Usher concert.

Jonas, in the narrative his public relations team appears to be pushing, believes that he should be able to tour unencumbered, while Turner forgoes her own social and creative pursuits to care for their children. Rubiales believes he should be able to kiss whomever he likes, including a non-consenting soccer player on his team, and maintain his status and pay. Hill and Jackson believe they should be able to dictate not only their partners’ actions, but also, the definitions of motherhood and womanhood – contorting both into miniscule forms. Easy for holding on to.

It’s all symptomatic of the same broader, age-old disease: sexism.

This societal illness has already corroded nearly every facet of women’s lives. We lose out on professional and economic opportunities due to uncomfortable work environments and lack of career pipeline. We give disproportionately in terms of household labor, childcare labor, emotional labor. Our society and its laws – largely made by men – are structured to deny us the basic right to bodily autonomy

And for some, it’s still not enough. Because some men, the Jonases and Hills and Jacksons of the world, don’t just want that which is ours — they want that which is us. Our sparks. Our wild streaks and sexual sides. Our passions, our whims, our essences. That which makes us unique. That which likely drew them in in the first place.

These types of men, they wish to jar all of it, and lock that away – so that it, too, may be theirs. 

And when they’re denied it, they get mean. They try to sabotage the women who rejected them, professionally and personally. They also get violent. Experts like Tristan Bridges, a sociology professor at the College at Brockport State University of New York, say this happens because “men experience rejection as threatening to their social identity as men.” When access is denied, he added, “they may try to over-demonstrate masculinity in some other way.” 

You don’t have to tell that to Rho Bashe, a Texas woman who went viral recently for chronicling, then uploading the aftermath of a recent assault against her. “This man … grabbed a rock and hit me in my face because I wouldn’t give him my number,” she tearfully reports in one shared video. In another, which shows her visibly injured and in a hospital bed, she adds: “How is this OK?”

It isn’t. Yet these stories are countless, to the point where they start to blend together, the way headlines about mass shootings sometimes do – incidents of gun violence that are, relatedly, often perpetrated by men with histories of violence against women. 

Well, now is the summer of our discontent. 

Because now, these anti-women patterns and narratives are being heavily interrogated, if not outright rejected, and on grand scales. Scores of posts have castigated Jonas, Hill and those who behave like them for, as one X user put it, flagrant displays of “male ego, incel rhetoric and misogyny.” Numerous articles have been published that take men like Rubiales to task for perpetuating toxic work cultures with inappropriate behavior, and that eschew the question of Turner’s activities entirely by defending women’s rights to have fun, even if they are mothers.

The women at the center of these situations are speaking up for themselves, too. Hermoso has plainly labeled the unwanted kiss as sexual assault. Brady leaked those texts from Hill herself. Palmer, in response to Jackson’s posts about her conduct, simply stated, “Do you, new moms.”

A sea change is occurring. As disability advocate and X user Cooper (@Cooperstreaming) pointed out amid the expansive online discourse, a growing number of people are “collectively refusing to accept media spin” that portrays women as selfish, as callous, as inherently bad – for simply being and honoring their damn selves.

She added: “We aren’t taking this crap anymore.” ◼