Antagonizing Women: A Feminist Perspective

the-antagonistThroughout The Antagonist by Lynn Coady, the main character, Gordon Rankin, evolves in many ways; however, his negative sexualisation of women doesn’t fully change. At the beginning of the book, he’s critical of the physical appearance of women and even negatively judges his women friends. As he develops as a character, however, he starts to protect women. By the end of the novel, even though Rankin is able to have a pleasant conversation with a woman, he presents a false image of himself to try to have a sexual relationship.

At the start of the book, Rankin doesn’t respect women. For example, he’s critical of them and determines their value by their physical attractiveness. When Rankin and Adam are at the bar watching the dance floor, they discuss their friend Tina who “has put on some pounds” (4). At this stage of the story, Rankin explains that when women gain weight, “guys aren’t sniffing and circling the way they used to” (5). Also, he thinks how Tina “just looks fat and silly” (5) and reveals that he and his friends have taken up meanly calling her Tiny (5). Rankin doesn’t treat women with respect and how he values them based on their physical appearance is apparent when he claims “She’s working it out there! She’ll be back to baseline hotness in no time” (5).

Later in the book, Rankin’s view of women seems to change, as he begins to defend them. For instance, when Rankin describes the confrontation that Rankin and Adam had with Kyle, the catalyst of the situation is Kyle’s treatment of Tina. When Kyle outlines everything that he considers “bullshit” (200), he includes “Hot chicks who get fat.”(201). Kyle argues that “You fuck em when they’re thin, and then they still want you to fuck em after they get fat” (201). When Kyle includes Tina on this list (201), the woman that Rankin previously demeaned and criticized because of her weight gain, Rankin loses it and challenges Kyle to a fight. This is much different Rankin than I saw at the beginning of the story; now he wants to protect women, not just insult them.

The end of story finds Rankin able to be in a comfortable and civil conversation with a woman without commenting on her weight. During his friendly conversation Emily, however, it’s quickly apparent that Rankin’s sexualisation of women continues. He “decides to see if he can make her smile for real” (309). To do this, he fakes an interest in Impressionist art (309) to impress her and then acts offended when she admits she “wouldn’t have pegged [him] for an art lover” (309). Needing to manipulate Emily and play with her emotions, while thinking how “her wild face and shimmery hair . . . is actually pretty hot” (310), shows that even though Rankin may be protective of women, he’s still sexualizing them and considers them more of a conquest than an equal. book

Works Cited

Coady, Lynn. The Antagonist. House of Anansi Inc., 2011.


6 thoughts on “Antagonizing Women: A Feminist Perspective

  1. Great work! I really enjoyed reading about your book in your blog post. This novel seems to be a prime example for the feminist literary criticism to be applied. As you mentioned above, Rankin is extremely judgemental of others’ appearances, and if he only treats women like this, it also makes him sexist. This truly is unacceptable behaviour, and I hope that Rankin continues to reform himself. From what you’ve described of “The Antagonist,” it seems that this author typically portrays women as sexual objects, and men as dominant individuals. Again, this promotes and establishes sexism within this novel. Would you agree?


  2. Reading about Rankin and how he treated women made me frustrated! Although, your piece is very well written. Do you think that Rankin is a representation of how men view women in today’s society? By this I mean do you think that they base their attractiveness on appearance being fat or skinny? Personally, I do believe this is true. Not only for the way men view women but vice-vera too. This is a huge flaw that is in society and I am very happy you pointed it out in your blog post!


  3. Good work Michael! Gordon seems like a man who lacks in self confidence himself, so he enjoys making rude comments about women to boost his own self confidence. Do you think that men in our society do this as well? Do you think they change and mature into men who do not classify women by their looks just like Gordon did? This was a very good analysis and I look forward to your response.


  4. Hi Michael, interesting take of your novel through a feminist perspective. I have not heard much about your novel prior to reading this blog. Did you enjoy the novel? Would you recommend it?

    I liked how you analyzed how the main characters perspective of women changed from beginning to end of the novel. Based on the information presented I think it would be fairly easy to identify the degrading of women throughout the text. I agree that Rankin shows improvements throughout the novel. Although Rankin still states unethical comments at the novel the end, he seems more considerate towards the opposite sex.

    Were there any other characters that discriminated against women throughout the novel? How did Rankin’s vocabulary affect the way you responded to him and the women? It seems to me that Rankin only views women as a sex object whose only purpose is physical appearance. I believe this because of the way he talks about their weight and how he would still sleep with them even though they are fat.


  5. Hey Michael, I thought that you did a really good job talking about feminism in your story. I liked how you compared your character at the beginning of your story to the end. When talking with Emily, he seemed to be more considerate towards her but it is still clear that he does not see women as equals. It is evident that he did not change much throughout the novel. I have not heard much about this novel, would you recommend it?


  6. Hey michael! I really liked reading your blog post, and found that you were able to explain your thinking and quotes in great depth. My question is, why do you think Rankin’s views of women changed so much throughout the book? In your opinion why do you think Rankin started to “defend them” as you mentioned in your post? Overall, great job Michael!


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