Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Joss Whedon and the Nature of Equality

A few days ago Joss Whedon made a speech at an Equality Now event. And the internet’s reaction, much like mine, was that of admiration, followed quickly by criticism.

If you haven’t seen/heard the speech, here it is:

Before this, I hadn’t heard or seen much of Joss Whedon, and I knew more of his works, rather than about the man himself. So when I watched the video the first time, I had an oh-my-God-this-guy-is-a-genius moment. And can you really blame me? 

Whedon gave a well articulated, and what appears to be a fairly logical argument. So whats the big deal?

Whedon has a problem with the word “feminist”. He is of the opinion that the “ist” in feminist conveys the idea that men and women being equal is not a natural state. Take for example the word baptist. “You can’t be born a baptist”, he says, “You have to be baptised.” Makes sense, right?

Well, it turns out Whedon should have actually read up on some feminism. Cause feminism doesn’t believe equality is our natural state. If equality was in the nature of humanity, history would have been completely different from the oppression that has been and continues to be a constant to this point in time.

Noah Berlatsky, explains it further. He writes:

Feminists have been wary of the idea of naturalness because it is so often used against women. Sexism feels natural to lots of people.”

[Read the entire article here.]

So why were we all so easily impressed by Whedon’s speech? Maybe, for me, personally, it’s because I have rarely met a male feminists. And I have known many people, both male and female, who have laughed off the idea of “feminism” and/or have misunderstood it to be simply another term for “bitter women who hate men”. Which would also explain why I liked this guy.

Whatever the reason may be, its possible that Whedon’s speech does more harm than good.

Berlatsky makes a good point again:

“Whedon, then, delivers a speech on the term "feminist" without any reference to feminist history, without any apparent awareness of feminist theory, and without even any demonstrated knowledge of the most important objections or conflicts around the term "feminist," the use of which he is purportedly discussing. Instead, from his position as celebrity and writer, and, one fears, from his position as white man, he takes it upon himself to simply define feminism himself so that he can discard it. The result is what Tania Modleski acidly referred to as "feminism without women"—equality as erasure.”

But whether you agree with Whedon or not, I am glad that his speech has started up a lot of discussions on the subject, especially since it's something a lot of people are reluctant to be associated with

[Another brilliant article takes up the subject of rebranding feminism, and it’s one that everyone should read.]

If there is one thing you can take away from Whedon’s speech, it is that you either believe that men and women are equal, or you don’t. There is no “fuzzy middle ground”. But if you are one of those idiots who believes that women are undeserving of the equality that is their right, this one is for you:

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