Learn why Dustin Hoffman says the movie “Tootsie” was never a comedy for him

July 12, 2013

Jane Martinson asks, “If Dustin Hoffman can walk like a woman in “Tootsie,” why can’t all men?” 
On a short video now making its rounds on the Internet, actor Dustin Hoffman is emotionally moved and fights back tears as he describes to an interviewer what he learned about women while playing an unemployed actor who takes a woman’s role in the 1982 movie Tootsie. Writer Jane Martinson of the Guardian points out how well his experience illustrates the old adage about walking in another person’s shoes—in this case, how women are judged and discriminated against and how men are “brainwashed” by society’s sexist attitudes.  Martinson writes, “His story confirms that there’s no substitute for experience. Men can’t imagine the daily tedium of being sized up and judged on their figure, face and general grooming before they’ve even opened their mouths because they don’t have to.”  To further emphasize the awareness and empathy gained by the experience of walking in another’s shoes, she reminds us of  the classic 1985 PBS Frontline film, A Class Divided, about a third grade teacher in Iowa who, in 1968, taught her class of all white children what discrimination feels like by dividing up the children by eye color.  She then declared one group superior and the other inferior, and the respective groups were treated accordingly.  (The status of the two groups was reversed on different days so that all the children experienced being both on top and on the bottom.) Then, fourteen years after third grade, the now adult class members returned for a reunion with their teacher and talked about how the experiment had affected their lives.  If you’ve never seen that Frontline story (or even if you have, and would like to see it again), you can watch it online here.  (And if you haven’t seen Tootsie and wonder how Dustin Hoffman looked in his role as a woman, you can see the trailer here.)

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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