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