Dear Joss Whedon: STFU

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Critical Hit
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“But the word feminist, it doesn’t sit with me, it doesn’t add up. I want to talk about my problem that I have with it. First of all, on a very base level, just to listen to it. We start with fem. That’s good… Ist. I hate it. I hate it. Fail on ist. It’s just this little dark, black, it must be hissed. Ist! It’s Germanic but not in the romantic way. It’s just this terrible ending with this wonderful beginning… 

Let’s rise up a little bit from my obsession with sound to the meaning. Ist in it’s meaning is also a problem for me. Because you can’t be born an ist. It’s not natural… So feminist includes the idea that believing men and women to be equal, believing all people to be people, is not a natural state…

And so unless somebody comes up with a better one – and please do – my pitch is this word. Genderist. I would like this word to become the new racist. I would like a word that says there was a shameful past before we realized that all people were created equal.”

– Joss Whedon, during this hot mess of a speech

When you posit that two of the main problems with the word feminist are the offputting phonetics and unnatural implications of its final syllable, then promptly suggest a replacement word that uses the exact same fucking syllable in the exact same fucking placement while changing the part you claimed was great – which backflip you manage to perform in the space of a single, pre-prepared speech – it’s probably time to sit all the way down and shut the fuck up about feminism.

Listen, Joss Whedon: you’ve made some cool, transformative, feminist shit, plus a bunch of other stuff – or sometimes the same stuff! – which is awesome despite being problematic on multiple fronts, though as always, YMMV. That much is undeniable. But you’ve also done some truly fucked-up things, like firing Charisma Carpenter for being pregnant, planning to have Inara gang raped in order to make Mal Reynolds a hero, and repeatedly racefailing your representations of POC, especially the women; and now you’ve got the gall to stand there and proclaim the ineffectiveness of feminism at a conceptual level – to agree, in effect, with Elle UK’s recent attempt to rebrand the movement – because you don’t like the word?

Before we proceed any further, let’s get one thing straight: there are times and places for changing our language on the basis of what a particular term originally implied, or of what it continues to imply. Language is important and sneaky; it changes our thinking without our even realising it, and when we make a conscious effort to reclaim that process – to be clear and unambiguous, to avoid causing hurt, and to set aside long-standing biases better left as historical footnotes – that is an important, a powerful thing. But this is not the case with the many successive attempts to rebrand feminism; to replace it with words like equalist or genderist , which invariably involve the removal of that disquietingly feminine prefix. Rather than redressing a lexicographical wrong, it’s a way of downplaying the role and relevance of women within their own movement in order to make others feel more comfortable with the concept of equality, a form of taxological silencing derived from the same logic which recently saw a female speaker ejected from the Michigan House of Representatives for saying ‘vagina’ while talking about abortion. For as long as the word feminism is deemed both radical and confrontational for its use of the feminine prefix, it will remain a necessary word precisely because of how perfectly our cultural uneasiness with women’s rights is reflected in our uneasiness with a term that dares to make them its focus.

Because linguistically, feminism is a word rooted firmly in the female quest for equality, an origin story which speaks of combat against oppression, not its perpetuation. Which isn’t to say that the movement has never been oppressive, either then or now. Early white feminists routinely threw women of colour under the same bus Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin before her were forced to the back of, openly spouting racist views and stealing the foundations of modern feminism from the women of Iroquois Confederacy, a practice all too often continued today by the erasure of the feminist contributions of WOC, the endorsement of men like Hugo Schwyzer, the aggressive Islamaphobia of Femen (an organisation, coincidentally, which is run by men), and Caitlin Moran’s assertion that she “literally couldn’t give a shit about” the representation of WOC in media, to say nothing of the repeated transphobic abuse and cissexist attitudes of radical feminists towards trans women and their inclusion in feminist spaces. Which is why womanism has arisen as a separate institution to feminism – as a way for black women especially, but WOC generally, to discuss their rights and needs without being spoken over, condescended to, misappropriated, elided or otherwise ignored by white feminists too oblivious to their own privilege to realise that, as per the words of Flavia Dzodan, feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

All of which is a way of saying: there are many good reasons to discuss the future of feminism, its relationship with oppression and the way this intersects with our use of language. The failures of the movement – and there are many – are not derived from its nomenclature, but are rather a disappointment to all that it should encompass, but doesn’t. With so much toxic history bound up in exclusionary feminist thinking, it may well be that the best answer, long term, is to find ourselves a new title and start afresh. But when Joss Whedon comes out, completely ignores the existence of such conversations, suggests that race is a comparable side-issue to gender rather than a major intersection with it and says that, no, the way to move feminism forward is to rebrand it using a word  he invented all by himself, because apparently the true spirit of feminism is best encapsulated by our uncritical capitulation to a powerful white guy who cracks jokes about the Taliban and publicly shames Katy Perry while telling the rest of us what we’re doing wrong? FUCKING NO.

In Whedon’s recent adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing –  a film I otherwise loved – there’s a single ugly moment that perfectly encapsulates the nature of his fail. Brought to the altar to wed a woman he thinks is an unknown substitute for his beloved Hero, whom he presumes dead, the guilt-wracked Claudio declares his intent to marry her “even were she an Ethiope” – which is to say, even if she were ugly or otherwise socially unacceptable. Being as how this is 2013, rather than 1599, when the play was first written, Whedon could easily have changed this line, removing or altering it without any loss of drama. Instead, he chose to emphasise it, cutting quickly to the disapproving face of a nearby black woman – someone he might well have hired just for that single purpose, given the otherwise lilywhite casting – for a comic beat as Claudio speaks the line. It was jarring and awful and needless, and more than anything else of Whedon’s I’ve seen recently, it reminded me that here is someone who needs to have his shit called out, and loudly. Because if you can put that much conscious thought and planning into making a joke about the ugliness of black women and still get up and call yourself a feminist, then something in your view of the world is seriously wrong.

Comments
  1. seidrcat says:

    I am disappointed. Avenger’s is one of my favorite movies and I enjoyed what I scene of Buffy, but I did notice the lack of non-white people on Buffy and how easily most of them were killed off. He did break ground by having a lesbian on prime time, but also killed her partner off to make her go evil for a time.

    I hope he reconsiders this and thinks it over, but I doubt it.

    • Nikki says:

      Well, considering Buffy is more than ten years old, I think it’s a little too late for him to reconsider it. And EVERYONE outside the main characters (and even some of them) were killed off on the show. Buffy was killed twice! But you are right that there aren’t enough POC on his shows. Any of them.

  2. Lenora Rose says:

    Just as a small point: He was suggesting genderist as equivalent to racist, IE, the bad kind of IST, the kind that should be hissed at. Which is not at all obvious from starting with feminist, but it’s there.

    It’s still a suggestion worthy of the rest of your ire.

    • fozmeadows says:

      That only adds to the disconnect – he should be critiquing sexism as a term, not feminism, and yet he’s suggesting that genderist replace feminism, somehow.

      • Lenora Rose says:

        I’ve given up on Joss Whedon being consistent or even particularly thoughtful. While he’s made some good shows, that’s about what can be said for him. I often wish he were more thoughtful and could consistently deliver a message as powerful as his strong Female Characters speech, — but I don’t hold my breath waiting for it.

        (Do not get me started on his efforts regarding race.)

  3. Jerome says:

    Imagine how awesome the world would be if everyone just shut the fuck up. That’s the world I want to live in.

  4. Ugh, it’s been really bothering how everyone has been praising Joss Whedon’s feminism speech all week like he’s some sort of hero to the feminist movement. I just cannot take seriously a guy who is supposed to be a feminist but has maligned WOC in his work again and again.
    The season 3 Buffy ep “Faith Hope & Trick” was my first experience on how fans like me are just considered a cruel joke on television (like, human trafficking of Asian girls, haha). (Yeah David Greenwalt wrote it but Joss was still the showrunner.)

  5. jamesworrad says:

    Agree with much- indeed most- of this post. However, surely cutting away lines of Shakespeare (however noble the intent, however loathsome the line) can’t lead to anywhere healthy. I haven’t seen the film, but from what you say Whedon wasn’t going to censor but he also wasn’t going to tolerate or let it slip by unchecked. Clumsily handled or not, I sense Whedon was actually trying to call Will out.

    • Emily says:

      If you’ve ever studied any dramaturgy or even general Shakespeare, you’ll know that nearly every production of his plays cuts lines and sometimes full scenes or characters. It’s hardly rare. The obvious example is Hamlet – when you go to see a production of Hamlet, it’s never IF they’ll cut (Hamlet is almost never performed in full), it’s ‘oh, I wonder how they’ll cut this production. What is his director trying to say?’

    • mfennvt says:

      From what Whedon says in the film’s commentary, he was using the line to reinforce what an ass Claudio is. He actually did edit the anti-semitic remark out of another line. I do find it odd that he chose to edit one and not the other.

    • Jerome says:

      Absolutely. Once we start cutting shit out of books to make people happy, we’re well and truly fucked. You want to punish a writer or director that treats women, LGBT people, or any other group like shit? Exercise your right as a consumer and stop consuming their shit. That’s the only way to get a person’s attention in our lovely capitalist world. Plus, there’s plenty of better, more open minded artists out there that would just LOVE your money.

    • Vicki says:

      Almost every production of any Shakespeare play cuts lines. Critics frequently discuss which lines a director has chosen to cut, and the effects of and possible reasons for the choices. All else aside, few movie audiences have the patience to sit still for an uncut production of most of Shakespeare’s plays. (Live audiences, maybe, if there are enough bathrooms for everyone who needs to use one to get back by the end of intermission, without the gap feeling unreasonably long to those who stay at their seats.) So the director has to make those choices, and we can reasonably ask about them.

      • Jerome says:

        I’d say there’s a hell of a difference between cutting for time and cutting something because a portion of your audience will be butthurt by seeing it.

        Do I like that Mark Twain dropped about a billion N-Bombs in Huck Finn? Not so much. Do I think we should sanitize it? Also not so much.

  6. freshangel says:

    The last paragraph was the only paragraph necessary. This long drawn out article, masked in “fancy” and “witty” remarks totally puts the author in the same pot of brewing bullshit as Whedon. Sometimes less is more.

  7. pashortt says:

    I’ve often said that Joss Whedon doesn’t actually write such strong female characters as he claims. They are repeatedly controlled, undermined, and defined by the actions taken upon them by men.

    Buffy doesn’t even save the day at the end of her own series. The man who tried to rape her does, using a macguffin provided by her ex-boyfriend.

    Of all the problems with female representation, the etymology of the word feminist is about the most inconsequential cause Whedon could have taken up.

    • Lenora Rose says:

      i find your comment frustrating; one the one hand, i agree completely that Whedon undermines his female characters in odd ways (And that his griping about the word feminist is weirdly inconsequential).

      Yet I strongly disagree with your particular example. Not only does she play a not insignificant role in that fight, prior to that, she takes leadership and planning of an army – AND arranges in the process to empower a whole lot of other women in a way nobody else could. Without her and her army of new Slayers, Spike and Angel couldn’t have done a darn thing. Her exact polace int he final battle is somewhat irrelevant to that contribution; she’s proven herself strong in ways that go well beyond merely being the individual to do the big bad fight. If anything, that might have been too much. One of the major themes of the show was that Buffy is stronger with her friends than without, so not giving them some important role is not the same as undermining her strength.

      There are enough examples everyone could agree on without using one that feels like it in turn erases some of her strength.

    • Brendan Liam says:

      Foz’s edit: Comment deleted and commenter blocked because racism, Islamophobia and general WTFery-style fail. I have no idea where this came from – guy was making some strongly worded but otherwise vaguely cogent posts before this – but yeah, NO.

  8. Ronni says:

    This speech was just a disaster, really. I feel so badly let down by Whedon, because Buffy meant so much to me as a teenager, because I loved the stories he told, because I still think his original Equality Now speech (the one about ‘why do you write these strong female characters?’) was a thoughtful discussion of representation and why it matters, because I loved the way he wrote Black Widow in Avengers – and all of this led me to think that he was that rare being, a straight white cis man who Got It.* And I’d been excusing all his fuck ups (which you rightly point out) over the years because I thought that the good things he did meant that he was capable of learning, of apologising, of trying to be better.

    But it almost seems as if he’s getting worse, of deliberately not learning or changing. This speech just about did it for me. It’s clear that he does not Get It at all.

    *By which I mean ‘a feminist man who actually understands what it is that women face’.

    • Brendan Liam says:

      I don’t think that’s possible Ronni, no more than a man “getting” labor pains… And if a man thinks he gets it, hes done learning, true with anything. I remember the day I learned this. I’ve strongly believed in equality with my being since I was about 18 and converted to Buddhism. I worked in a high level math with another smart student, we got the highest grades together in every class we had-really complementing each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Karen was the best study partner I ever had. Anyway, we asked a teacher some questions in his office on a Math Economics class (mostly linear algebra and DiffEQ). When we left, walking down the hall, she said “Did you see that???” I didn’t and asked her “what?” She explained, “Everytime I asked him a question, he looked at you while giving the answer.” I hadn’t noticed. Why not? Because I’m not sensitive? Yes. But not because I don’t care, but because I’m not in the class that was violated. And it took a lot of horrible treatment by some other people, to make me sensitive enough to realize a big one, something original that is a big step for equality between the sexes, I hope you hear about it soon-as it would mean the world is ready lol.

      Just as theists aren’t offended and could never “get it” why “god” in the pledge or on the money or anywhere in government is incredibly offensive from an American standpoint (any rebuttals require you to first find me the location of god or jesus in our constitution, short of that, it’s sophistry).

      Just my opinion, but I am very sensitive to this, I’m an activist for equality and am working on something I think is big with my wife. Huge actually, but we’re worried we’re too far ahead of our time-most feminists I bring this obvious truth to don’t get it. So realize that too, sometimes women, sometimes feminists are the misogynists, none of us are innocent-we all have sexism, racism, etc. I used to think I believed in equality and had a good handle on it. With the epiphany I had, I realized many things.

      For example, did you ever notice that homemakers tend to retire…. not when their husband does, but when he DIES. What the fuck?? I did the math, and before retirement, he likely works around 15 years less than she, BEFORE RETIREMENT, and then she may work another 20 years unless she’s smart and helps him keel over dead-sorry, I would. Just a small example. But I realize now, that Buddhist or not, its a christian culture that oppresses all, but more than any, the one they are most afraid of, the one they immediately cast down as inferior first, before any other in the bible-the woman. So its everywhere and I always must be on my guard in what I say, what I think. Especially as a father. Anyway, just wanted to share that.

  9. […] Dear Joss Whedon: STFU – I’ve liked some of the stuff he’s created, but every time he’s spoken about feminism or racism or the like I’ve wanted to find him a seat. Also, Jezebel is still a bad joke. […]

  10. Bookgazing says:

    That last paragraph – on it. The use of that line also really set up Claudio as a racist, and the way the people around the actress reacted made me think we were supposed to get that it’s probably not the first time he’s said stuff like that. Which makes Claudio an even worse character right at the moment we’re supposed to be sort of coming around to thinking he might at least be an ok guy from now on as he shows penitence.

    Off track – Although I liked that film I wasn’t super excited about the choice of making this a modern dress adaptation rather than a modern adaptation with changes and/or clever in-text commentary. The solution maybe worked really well in Shakespeare’s time (woman avoids unearned dishonour and shunning with clever trickery) but when set in modern surroundings it looks super awful (woman marry’s jerk and has to placate seriously old-fashioned moralist of father).

  11. Camille says:

    People cut Shakespeare all the time. (Hell, Shakespeare cut Shakespeare from performance to performance — I think the definitive folios were only compiled and published after he died.) The average modern film doesn’t last but two hours, maybe three, in genre, if fans are demanding enough. Shakespeare wrote four-hour audience-interactive extravaganzas with intermissions.

    I’ve seen productions of the play where the line was left in, in modern times generally whispered or otherwise downplayed, usually not in casts where there were black people (and Branagh’s version, where Claudio just nods sadly) as well as a recent stage performance with James Earl Jones as Benedick, where I think the line was put into the mouth of a black Claudio (it was hard to tell; sound quality and acoustics were not good). But I was extremely uncomfortable with the combo of Whedon’s letting the line stay in AND cutting directly to zoom in on the face of a woman who looks like me. I didn’t see it as a joke — I saw it as an attempt at condemnation, but an awkward and vague one, rather than a clear refusal to cut it on principle or a clear attempt to play it off as of-the-times without hanging a neon arrow over it, either of which I would honestly have preferred. While I believe he sincerely meant it to come across as a “Hey, how dare Claudio” situation, it actually did come across as “I would marry her even if she looked like THIS WOMAN OVER HERE, LOOKSEE.” And it did not fit the rest of the production. And I probably only gave him that much benefit of the doubt because of Buffy-love in past years.

    I don’t know.

    I don’t mind him messing up so much as I mind all the knee-jerk credit he gets for NOT messing up. He messes up. This particular speech was on the messy side.

  12. Lurkertype says:

    I’m a little disturbed by the quote from the woman who quit Femen for being Islamophobic — she said “What if it’s financed by Israel?” Now, if that’s not straight-up anti-Semitic, it’s as near as makes no difference. “We must support everyone’s religion…” unless they’re Jewish? Bit with the cognitive dissonance and non-intersectionality there. (See, Foz, I read the links!)

    But to your main point: yes. Joss needs to STFU. Apparently he’s believing his own press and thus sees himself as the SWM who will save all us wimmens *. Because we need protecting and we need new words to describe ourselves other than the ones we came up with ourselves.

    *As long as the wimmens are white. And have no physical disabilities. And are conventionally pretty and thin. And cis. And not poor. And mostly straight, or bi once in a while.

    • Brendan Liam says:

      But all Abrahamic religions are without a doubt the main force behind female oppression historically. Judaism isn’t innocent… isn’t a male’s Jewish prayer something that includes thanking Yhvh for not making him a woman? That’s effed up. I can’t imagine following a religion based on a doctrine that defiled me, or my wife, or my children, or all human beings… At least it doesn’t threaten an eternal hell or heaven (both are equally threatening to anyone who’s given the matter serious consideration), but it’s view on women … I’ll leave it. And I can’t imagine a valid argument for Israel, and anyone who can should picture some bozo showing up one day at their parents house and removing them based on claims with no evidence, and then proceeding to shoot at them if they got near the lawn…. It only makes sense from a cold, political standpoint-from the point of view of “the front” or economic modeling that proves we need conflict, we need war, we need stupid people that hate each other, so they don’t figure out what we’re doing…… same with what they did with pakistan and india…. Most of the world’s current problems can easily be blamed on 2 acroynms: US & UK

    • noam says:

      Israel is an awful country that does awful things. Criticizing it, refusing to support it and even just downright loathing it are reasonable courses of action and in no way antisemitic. Why would they be? Because there’s a lot of Jewish people in Israel? Does being Jewish excuse occupation, oppression and the casual murder of civilians?

      Please properly separate the Jewish religion/ethnicity from the State of Israel, okay.

      (I’m a Jewish Israeli, in case you were wondering.)

      • Orryia says:

        It seems rather hypocritical that you criticize Israel while being a citizen of it and enjoying all the privileges that come from the aforementioned oppression. If you truly believe that your country is casually murdering innocent civilians, how can you morally justify living there and supporting it? Your taxes are paying for the tools used to oppress and murder.

        (Incidentally, I happen to believe that Israel is a country stuck in rather awful situations that sometimes chooses to commit problematic actions, and not the spawn of satan that people make it out to be.)

        • fozmeadows says:

          Following that logic, it’s hypocritical for any American pacifists to live in the USA while their tax dollars continue to finance drone strikes against innocent civilians in other countries. Moving countries isn’t as easy or as simple as you’re making it out to be, and it’s certainly not a valid trump card to play against someone who’s being sensible enough to admit their own government is problematic. People live where they live: that doesn’t mean they’re hypocrites because they happen to disagree with the people in charge or prevailing social customs.

          • Lenora Rose says:

            Following Orryia’s logic, I wonder if there’s a country in the world that isn’t (or wasn’t within the last century) guilty enough of some human rights offense that its entire citizenry should have walked away in droves or be “Morally culpable”.

            Likewise, the same reasoning argues that nobody who enjoys the privileges of any country could ever be allowed to criticize the aspects of it they don’t like (unless those aspects are insignificant and non-oppressive, I suppose).

            I know by that reasoning I should neither live in, nor mention the failings of, Canada.

            • Orryia says:

              That’s correct. If only I could build an utopia and convince all the citizens of the world to abandon their countries and join me… World peace could be so easy if they listened to me.

              On a more serious note, everyone has a right to criticize their country to their heart’s desire. I didn’t mean to imply that people should be banished out of their country for criticizing it, or even loathing it. The impression I got from noam, however, was that Israel has passed the category of “country that does some seriously problematic things, but the rest of the world isn’t much better” into the category of “truly awful country in which the level of human rights is comparable to a dictatorship such as Sudan”. In which case, I would begin to consider immigration.

              Apologies for turning the discussion completely off-topic.

          • Orryia says:

            True. I did simplify the issue to prove my point. However, I don’t agree that people just live where they live, and that has no moral implication. Nowadays, most people in developed countries usually can choose to immigrate. In Israel, where many people hold dual citizenship, it might be even easier. Deciding to stay in a country that systematically oppresses and murders, (when you belong to the oppressor’s side), does mean something.

            In practice, as you have pointed out, even people that care about civilian deaths can’t be bothered with committing such drastic and difficult changes in their lives. It certainly is understandable. Most of us won’t stop buying chocolate (a luxury item), even if we know that child labour and slavery have been used to grow the cocoa beans.

            But I think you would agree that a vegetarian preaching about the evils of the meat industry carries far more credibility than a carnivore.

            • As long as we’re off topic: No, I wouldn’t agree that a vegetarian has more right to preach about the evils of the meat industry than a carnivore.

              If I understand you correctly, you think the best way to change systems is to abandon them. When we’re talking about changing a country, the only time countries change is when the citizens of them make them change. So leaving Israel (or the U.S.) because you think they’re destroying the world just means that there’s one fewer voice to oppose the ruling class in that country.

              And to bring it back to the topic-ish: Joss’ decision to abandon the word feminism is not an effective solution to whatever he sees the problem as.

              Here’s the problem (and the reason I’m here)

              An distribution/production company that produces a web series I’m in recently distributed a piece that exemplifies the kind of casual sexism that is replete through pop culture (a video titled “Pet Peeves Women Do (Men’s perspective)” I wanted to not watch it, assuming it would be exactly what it was, but I also wanted to believe that these guys were a little more thoughtful than they are, since we’ve had conversations about feminism before, and that they were going to turn the title on its head somehow. They didn’t. I was disappointed, and I wanted to respond. My first thought was just that I’d tell them they disappointed me. But Twitter is a public forum, and I wanted a little alternative to promote something useful. So I thought: a good video from a feminist will be great. I typed “feminism” in to YouTube.

              And here’s the problem. (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=feminism&sm=3)

              Just reading the titles of the videos, I’m pretty sure that 9 of the top 10 results are anti-feminist, or at least anti-the-word-feminist. From “Why ‘feminism’ poisons everything” to “17 reasons we DON’T need feminism” I don’t even want to click them and give them views to confirm… but I can’t imagine that they’re pro-feminist. What’s the deal? When did feminism become cool to hate?

              I hope that changes.

              To finish the story: I came to this blog and shared it, but I’d rather have shared a video that’s funny and feminist. Any suggestions?

  13. laureladaire says:

    As a self proclaimed feminist I still rarely have the courage to speak my mind. Glad I happened to find your blog!

  14. […] that is quiet, gentle and happening at the academic level of privileged white people.” Shattersnipe says “Dear Joss Whedon: STFU” and then accuses him of various unfeminist behaviors […]

  15. […] Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech on Monday called for replacing the word “feminist” with “genderist” because “-ist” sounds icky (so… he retained it? Je ne comprends pas). Foz Meadows rips it apart succinctly: […]

  16. “People are confronted with the word feminism and it stops them; they think they have to deal with that. But I think we’re done with that as intelligent human beings.” –Joss Whedon

    Feminism, something intelligent people are done with.

  17. The poet Bao Phi took Mr. Whedon to task in his essay “Nerds of Color” – specifically calling out the fact that Whedon tells us the in the Firefly Universe, American and Chinese cultures sorta merged, and then he includes exactly zero Asian characters. IN THE WHOLE SHOW.

    Really, Joss?

    Super frustrating. And damaging. Because the audience is left to make assumptions about which bits of the new culture came from which originator. Cowboys? America, obvs. Swearing? China. Heck, they all swear in Chinese, right? Heroism? Well look at him! he’s a cowboy! America. Crazy oppressive government that doesn’t allow independent status of its break-away provinces? Oh. Those scary Chinese. Thank you, Mr. Whedon.

    There is so much that Joss Whedon does extremely well in terms of subverting the expected narrative and forcing the audience to call bullshit when he calls bullshit. But only when he actually *notices* the fucked up narrative. Otherwise he makes the audience swallow what he swallows. So the rape narrative – swallow. The Yellow Menace narrative – swallow. And, apparently, the Ethiope narrative. I have yet to see that movie, but good god. I am horrified.

    And really, it’s *because* of the good that we are so blindsided by the bad. Because he is clearly capable of seeing bullshit and calling bullshit – but both require work, both require care, and both require deep and considered thinking. Which means that the quoted bit above, is so goddamned lazy, that it’s actually heartbreaking to see. Do the work, Mr. Whedon. Think it through. Break it down. And DO NOT SPEAK UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE SO. Jesus.

    Thank you for posting this article. It is important. And here is a link to the Bao Phi piece. (It’s a good one. Plus, he’s a hell of a poet.) http://www.startribune.com/local/yourvoices/82188702.html

    • Ronni says:

      ‘There is so much that Joss Whedon does extremely well in terms of subverting the expected narrative and forcing the audience to call bullshit when he calls bullshit. But only when he actually *notices* the fucked up narrative. Otherwise he makes the audience swallow what he swallows. So the rape narrative – swallow. The Yellow Menace narrative – swallow. And, apparently, the Ethiope narrative. I have yet to see that movie, but good god. I am horrified.

      And really, it’s *because* of the good that we are so blindsided by the bad. Because he is clearly capable of seeing bullshit and calling bullshit – but both require work, both require care, and both require deep and considered thinking. Which means that the quoted bit above, is so goddamned lazy, that it’s actually heartbreaking to see. Do the work, Mr. Whedon. Think it through. Break it down. And DO NOT SPEAK UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE SO. Jesus.’

      Exactly this. It’s because he sometimes gets it right that when he gets it wrong, it’s so extraordinarily frustrating and disappointing.

    • Nikki says:

      While I don’t disagree that Joss needed more POC in his shows, I’m not sure Firefly is the one to complain about. No Asian characters in an entire thirteen episodes! I’d think you have more of a point if Firefly had lasted as long as Buffy. But we didn’t even get an introduction to what would have been the entire cast. (Remember: Spike wasn’t introduced until season 2, and wasn’t given billing until season 4. Anya was a late add – I think season three. Tara was a late add- season four.) Remember, Joss planned for long-term gain in writing all his shows. Which means he wasn’t going to blow his character wad, so to speak, in a mere thirteen episodes.

      • Bookgazing says:

        Yep I def think we should have to judge creators based on things we do not know because they didn’t get to happen and assume the most positive outcome of this thing that didn’t happen even when we have other works that actually exist from said creator to go on and those works show what looks like a pattern. Also, because the series got cancelled any critical discussion has to come with caveats because we can’t know how it was going to turn out. If that’s how you want to work that’s cool, and depends on your own interpretation of context (I give creators leeway all the time if I think I spot patterns of context in their work) but I don’t think everyone needs to remember the context you talk about because there’s no actual evidence that the show would have gotten more representative of Asian characters as it went along.

        Also 13 episodes seems like plenty o’ time to put one central Asian character into an Asian inspired fantasy world. I actually think the first episode would have been a good time for that (and I say that as someone who loves Firefly and had to have the race problems explained to me) because it’s an Asian inspired fantasy world… Saying Whedon may have made a plan to add characters in later to me just seems to show up the fact that his planning is kind of flawed, not that he could potentially be a planning master.

  18. Konekon1nj4 says:

    Thanks for this article. It concentrates everything I find frustrating about the whole “feminism is an icky word. You should change it because it makes me uncomfortable” narrative and then smashes it into itty bitty bits with a truth hammer. Love your stuff!

  19. Jaki says:

    Reblogged this on poorlibrarian and commented:
    Sometimes the people you admire make some seriously fucked up mistakes. Case in point: Joss

  20. Reblogged this on Televisiony and commented:
    I’m getting more and more skeptical of Joss.

    • Brendan Liam says:

      I can’t imagine how he’s a positive force for women-he perpetuates the illusion that this equality thing is complicated, it’s not. It’s quite simple if one can self reflect, be honest, and be humble. And that’s just as true for women, as they equally perpetuate the problems, and in my opinion moreso in the dynamics of the home-where it really, really, really matters … if you have kids.

      What was that shite about “You don’t have to hate someone to destroy them, you just have to not get it”?????????????? I mean, was the audience a bunch of 16 year old girls in high school or women? Because the former might appreciate this deep sounding sophistry with a fraud wig on it, but it’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard in a speech. Joss doesn’t get it.

  21. […] dear shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows […]

  22. marianne says:

    I went to a screening of Much Ado and don’t think that the inclusion of the “even were she an Ethiope” line is fairly characterized here. Yes, the line was emphasized for comedy, but the punchline certainly had nothing to do with the “ugliness of black women.” It was meant to be a shock to the audience that had been reveling in Shakespeare’s timelessness and the fact that 400-year-old jokes can still be funny, stories still emotionally resonant. Then: BAM! WTF moment of random and wildly offensive racism! The intended humor wasn’t in the statement itself, but in the fact that of COURSE this is not acceptable by modern standards. It’s anybody’s prerogative to still find it offensive, but there are plenty of people–myself included–for whom the distinction in intent is important.

  23. […] Dear Joss Whedon: STFU | shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows […]

  24. Insanely we’ll written article! Loved it!

  25. Richard says:

    I agree that Whedon is just behaving like a Tool(TM), and has no real business making suggestions to the feminism movement about anything.

    However! My biggest issue (?concern) about the feminism movement is the name. It was not until quite recently (the last 5 years or so) that I came to realise that it actually refers to gender equality rather than some sort of all-power-to-the-women kind of movement. I’m all for gender equality, and consider myself a feminist by that definition, and am not for either gender having the “upper hand”, so to speak.

    Therefore, even though the movement has its roots in women trying to get more rights, I think the name is misleading. I’m not saying that the ultimate answer is to rename the movement. I’m just saying that I think objections to the name are reasonable, and should not be discounted automatically (although my objection is with the “fem” part, and I agree that if your objection is with the “ist” part you should not include “ist” in your own made-up word).

    • Nat says:

      Here’s the thing about the “fem”: women don’t have a monopoly on “femininity”. The qualities that have been coded as “feminine” exist in males and they are are shamed for. All male disadvantages that MRAs like to bring up (child custody going largely to the mother by default, “boys don’t cry, hold in your feelings”, male rape being a joke or a sign of weakness, etc.), all of them are traced back to misogyny and gender roles. A man could not be shamed for ‘throwing like a girl” if being compared to a girl wasn’t an insult. So in my opinion, even if a man can’t get behind feminism by virtue of the empathy they feel for the women he holds dear or for the principle of equality, they should get behind it to fight for their own femininity and their right to express it .

  26. Laura says:

    AGREE and love the explanation of why the word feminist is important. Ugh, that whole speech made me feel so gross. I almost think what bothered me the most was how incoherent it was, for a self-described wordsmith. The stuff about the sounds was all played for laughs and to sound clever and quirky and was completely irrelevant and undermined his actual point if he was planning on having one, which apparently he didn’t because it went downhill from there. What exactly is wrong with the word sexist, if he wants something like racist which is generally accepted to be a bad, old-fashioned sort of thing? And more importantly, why on earth should that be the goal, since what’s happened with the word racist is that it’s somehow become more socially acceptable to be racist than to call someone racist, since we’ve all decided we’re so over it, obviously only horrible people are racist anymore.

    His mess of an argument manages to imply that racism is totally over, you guys, which is pretty infuriating, and on a more fundamental level, that the words we use are more important than the actual things that they mean. As if once we get everyone to agree that ‘genderist’ is bad, no one has to bother worrying about what inequality based on gender actually looks like and what we have to do to fight it. Because agreeing that ‘racism is bad’ has brilliantly succeeded in eradicating racism. /sarcasm

    Not that language can’t be important, of course, as noted in the post, but his treatment of it is really shallow and unproductive.

    tl;dr Contentless, clueless attempts at being an ally from dudes with a platform and no idea what the fuck they’re talking about really irritate me.

  27. First of all, normally I don’t respond to blogs like this, because you’re well beyond making up your mind about something, but I’m inclined to say something . . . the reason is at the bottom.

    First, you leave out most of his speech and most of his train of thought to make your points. If anyone wants the full speech its over at Jezebel.com.

    OK.

    Joss is speaking as a linguist. The definition of feminism is: “Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.” It signifies a collection, a collection with one goal in mind, not a single defining word like racism/racist (which is the example Joss uses) that defines the assclowns Joss is referring to. The word that history needs to separate the good from the bad.

    “I start thinking about the fact that we have this word when we’re thinking about race that says we have evolved beyond something and we don’t really have this word for gender.” From the definition of the word feminism, that’s true. Feminism isn’t a word that implies we’ve moved past something as racism does.” That’s logical. That’s not opinion. That’s not because he thinks people can’t get past the word. It’s that the word “feminism” has too many definitions – it’s a collection of movements and ideologies. Those ideologies may not be the same, even though they have a common goal.

    “This is how we understand society. The word racism didn’t end racism. it contextualized it in a way that we still haven’t done with this issue.”

    Joss is looking for a word that shows the competent caring people of the world are on the winning side, and if you’re not one of them, you are *this* (genderist). He’s not replacing the word feminist with genderist. He’s defining all of those people that are against equal rights for women as “genderists”. Yeah, he starts by saying he doesn’t like the word feminist for its linguistic sounds, and meanings (he has a point when he says, by definition of the word through linguistics, it’s not something you’re born with, and it should be), but if you follow the journey his brain takes, he veers away from that. His final conclusion isn’t based on his beginning argument, which in your blog post you manipulate to match your anger.

    Next, the person that coined the term feminist was a man: “Charles Fourier, a Utopian Socialist and French philosopher, is credited with having coined the word “feminism” in 1837.” – Wikipedia
    I bring that up, because it’s a word. It’s not the issues behind the word. The word at the time could have been coined anything. Charles decided upon “feminism”. I add this, because, he has every right to talk about the meanings of the words and how society uses them.

    The term feminist was coined some time ago. A lot has changed since then. Whether it needs to be changed or we need another word now or not . . . Then, more people didn’t think women should have equal rights. Now, a lot more do, and the term feminist now encapsulates many, many more definitions (ideologies, etc) than it did in the beginning. Everyone from housewives to performance artists consider themselves feminists, and disagree with each others definitions of feminism.

    Finally, he doesn’t shame Katy Perry. He makes a joke about his first reaction to what she said, then realizes she has a point. A point he spends his entire speech mirroring.

    You are entitled to your opinion, but you skew the man’s words from the get go to make your point. That’s unfair, because everyone who reads your blog and trusts you, is going to immediately agree with you without question.

    Anyway, for anyone that is interested in a second opinion, there it is.

    • marianne says:

      Thank you.

    • Kagi says:

      Seriously? Jesus what the hell, I can’t even. The word you are looking for already exists, it’s called ‘sexism’, and it’s a perfectly good word. There is absolutely no reason to contort the issue into coming up with a ridiculous substitute like ‘genderist’ when the word sexist/sexism already means exactly what you say you are looking for in a term. You and Joss both sound rambling, incoherent and immature, as well as privilege-blind and rather arrogant with it. Sit down, shut up and listen.

      • Indira says:

        I know sometimes this gets muddled in the west because of linguistics, but there is a difference between gender and biological sex. Pretend for a moment that you don’t know the definition of sexism and take it at face value. You might conclude that it’s all about discrimination and oppression of biological women. And in that light, the word fails to include the intersectionality that’s so important to feminism. Sexist is not an adequate antithesis to feminist… at least linguistically.

        Whedon’s word “genderist” is, in essence, a rehash of sexist if we’re looking strictly at the definition. But the way we colloquially use sexist and sexism certainly lacks the same impact of calling someone a racist or accusing them of racism. In fact, calling something out as sexist is often the butt of jokes as much as feminism (ie, see “straw-feminist”)… so I can see the appeal of creating a brand new word that doesn’t come with preexisting baggage. Genderist meets this criteria but it still falls short of conveying that the genderist in question is guilty of bigotry and hatred against *all* the qualifiers that feminism fights for.

        So while Whedon didn’t really succeed in creating the perfect word per se, he is making some interesting points, which Phillip Kelly deftly explained. In other spheres, we focus on looking down our noses at people for being racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc, but sexist doesn’t get as much of a workout. We focus on positively proclaiming ourselves as feminist instead. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Whedon glossed over it and came up with this new word. After all, his idea is to shift the focus from positively proclaiming ourselves as part of this “minority” group to instead negatively proclaiming others as an anachronistic holdover from more ignorant times – thus making them the minority.

        Now, while I think that any healthy and robust discussion has room for criticizing Whedon’s speech as well as praising it, I certainly don’t agree with criticizing it for something that’s untrue. The OP’s interpretation, whether intentional or not, is a straw man and thus her blog is guilty of a logical fallacy due to the false representation of Whedon’s words and meaning. I would urge everyone, including the OP, to read Phillip’s interpretation above and then calmly listen to Whedon’s speech in its entirety.

    • Nat says:

      ” which in your blog post you manipulate to match your anger.”

      Pray tell: why did you feel the need to throw in attacks on the OP’s emotional state? Didn’t you think your argument was strong enough on it’s own without resorting to “emotion =/= logic” fallacies?

      “His final conclusion isn’t based on his beginning argument”
      So, that beginning argument is superfluous and he shouldn’t have included it if he didn’t want it to be analyzed in context of the whole speech (he was meant to make a SPEECH, deliberate rhetoric, rather than a train-of-thought rambling, remember). But he did, and here we are.

    • Marcus says:

      Yeah, Thank you. Can’t believe so few people really tried to understand Joss Whedon’s speech.

  28. […] But does the jargon really need an upgrade?  Really? […]

  29. And if you really want him to STFU . . . then he should never have been allowed to say this.

  30. Brendan Liam says:

    Glad to hear someone else say it. That was my immediate reaction when he said “Genderist”-that either this guy is a huge fucking idiot, or he is mocking all the women in the audience by trying to slip an overly obvious point grounded in neon idiocy past them… or both. Considering they quit applauding and it’s pretty quiet, I think it was starting to sink in. But I read all the comments on the page I saw the video, hundreds, and nobody mentioned it.

    He also says nobody is “born christian …. or atheist” and I forget the filler.

    But this is idiotic and if I’m not mistaken, he is an atheist. Yet doesn’t understand the word? Now I think I see a pattern. See, atheist is a default position, your shoes are atheist, a tree is atheist, and every baby is certainly atheist. It means literally (from the greek) “Without god”. It suggests nothing of beliefs nor of actively disbelieving, but rather is a default state until one becomes theist. All Buddhists are atheists, but they dont’ actively denounce gods… nor do they denounce unicorns, or sea monsters or the lizard people of david icke…. And I don’t know why he dragged atheism into it anyway-it’s not atheism that teaches women are men’s property and lesser, and should be in house slaves…. no that’s the abrahamics and frankly, most other cultures. But for a feminist to bash on atheism is really silly as it’s among the few belief or disbelief positions that DOESN’T actively bash women or teach lies about them or hate gays for acting like them (as they see it) there is a correlation.

    Anyway, great post, I can’t believe this moron is getting awards… and from Meryl Streep???? But she’s such an icon, such a badass, she would associate with this moron? She’s one of the best actors there are (Yes you heard me right, certain divisions are designed again to suggest a lower class, “actress” is one of them, so is “mankind”)

  31. […] Foz Meadows at Shattersnipe: Malcontent and Rainbows: Dear Joss Whedon: STFU […]

  32. Bacon says:

    You’re actually saying that not censoring a racist character in the adaptation of an older work makes the person doing the adaptation a racist themselves.

    *tosses hands into air* You are a fucking idiot.

  33. katran says:

    Ist is Germanic? Excuse me? It’s a plain old Latin (and Greek) suffix, meaning “someone who does (such and such)” or, more broadly, “someone who is an agent of [x].” Minor quibble, but as long as he’s spouting off about language, he shouldn’t make stuff up. It almost sounds like he’s thrown in “Germanic” because he’s got some bone to pick about German.

    • Cora says:

      Because it’s always acceptable to say insulting things about Germans or use them as the go-to villains (though Whedon seemed to prefer stereotypical villainous Russians so far).

      Or maybe he’s just angry that “The Avengers” didn’t even make the top ten most highest grossing movies of 2012 in Germany and was beaten even by small homegrown comedies, when it trumped the opposition everywhere else.

  34. […] "But the word feminist, it doesn't sit with me, it doesn't add up. I want to talk about my problem that I have with it. First of all, on a very base level, just to listen to it. We start with fem. …  […]

  35. megpie71 says:

    My response to Joss Whedon on this one is very tumblr. Picture a gif of Tim Curry as Frank N Furter, snarling at the reader, captioned “We didn’t make it for you!”.

    Which is pretty much how I feel about any white, apparently heterosexual, apparently cismale, upper middle-class American attempting to “rebrand” feminism. I’ll gladly second Flavia Dzodan’s comment that “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”, because, y’know, she’s female, and she’s working to INCREASE the number of women that feminism works on behalf of with her comment and critique of the movement. And gods know, most of the gains of feminism so far have been primarily the ones which were wanted by wealthy white women in the US and UK (which is why women are much more welcome in the professions than they are in the trades – wealthy white women wanted to be doctors and lawyers, rather than bricklayers, plumbers or stevedores, so they didn’t bother fighting for access to trade schools and apprenticeships, just universities and degrees). It’s well past time the movement broadened its focus and moved on to work on goals for women of colour, women who aren’t willing to fake a heterosexual-compliant gender identity in public, women who aren’t able-bodied, women who weren’t assigned a female gender at birth, women who aren’t neurotypical, women who aren’t Christian, women who aren’t living in the UK or US or the First World at all, or women who fit into any two or more of these categories simultaneously.

    But for Joss Whedon (who’s never actually been a beneficiary of feminism, except in the sense of gaining massive female approval for being marginally less blatantly sexist than most of his colleagues in Hollywood – a very low bar to step over, let’s face it) to be telling me the movement which has given me one hell of a lot (and yet has so very far to go) needs a new word to describe it? He’s lucky I don’t respond with a very homophobic Australianism, and tell him to go shove it up his arse!

  36. “For as long as the word feminism is deemed both radical and confrontational for its use of the feminine prefix, it will remain a necessary word precisely because of how perfectly our cultural uneasiness with women’s rights is reflected in our uneasiness with a term that dares to make them its focus.”

    I need that on a shirt.

  37. […] is even more good stuff from Foz Meadows, namely she’s calling out Joss Whedon for some of the problematic stuff he’s said and written, including a recent speech in which he called the word “feminism” passé, because it […]

  38. Just wanted to post a direct link to the part of the Charisma Carpenter panel that was relevant to the conversation about her getting fired for being pregnant. (since it’s 5 minutes in to the video link): http://youtu.be/Y_igTbXKPck?t=5m45s

  39. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “because apparently the true spirit of feminism is best encapsulated by our uncritical capitulation to a powerful white guy who cracks jokes about the Taliban and publicly shames Katy Perry while telling the rest of us what we’re doing wrong? FUCKING NO.”

    This is one of the many reason this article has no credibility when it falls back on ad hominem circumstantial. Joss is a powerful white guy thus anything he says regards to feminism has no relevance or validity. Give me break. This is pure misrepresentation of Whedon’s argument who stated publicly that it’s not the word feminism that is the problem but question of ” is it an idea that imposed on someone or something they’re born with.”

    “But you are right that there aren’t enough POC on his shows. Any of them.” Gina Torres,J. August Richards,Harry Lennix, Ming-Na Wen aren’t people of color?

    • fozmeadows says:

      Whedon’s status as a powerful white guy is relevant because it grants him privilege; and privilege has a tendency to blind one to the realities of oppression, or systems of oppression, the privileged don’t share. THAT’S the point – that Whedon is oblivious to the sexism of his actions precisely BECAUSE he’s privileged, which is a relevant consideration in interpreting what he has to say about feminism.

      Also, please note that “not enough POC” isn’t the same as “no POC whatsoever”, and that neither means he’s handled race well as an issue within his stories. Yes, he’s hired POC, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t also engaged in a buttload of racefail (Inca Mummy Girl, anyone?), while having Firefly set in an Asian-themed universe without any Asian actors as his leads is… problematic, at least.

  40. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “Whedon’s status as a powerful white guy is relevant because it grants him privilege; and privilege has a tendency to blind one to the realities of oppression, or systems of oppression, the privileged don’t share. THAT’S the point – that Whedon is oblivious to the sexism of his actions precisely BECAUSE he’s privileged, which is a relevant consideration in interpreting what he has to say about feminism.”

    Huh… no. Again that’s an ad hominem circumstantial to say because Joss is “privileged” that nothing he says is valid or that because his “privileged” he has an inability to empathize or sympathize with issues of the opposite gender. Even if I were to agree that Joss is “privileged” it’s
    not the “privilege” that is the problem but the systemic construct. What you’re doing is guilt by association and over-generalization. If the privilege don’t share then what exactly do you call philanthropists? Please, come back to me when you have a relevant point.

    “Also, please note that “not enough POC” isn’t the same as “no POC whatsoever”, and that neither means he’s handled race well as an issue within his stories. Yes, he’s hired POC, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t also engaged in a buttload of racefail (Inca Mummy Girl, anyone?), while having Firefly set in an Asian-themed universe without any Asian actors as his leads is… problematic, at least.”

    Okay. You think because he had person of race as an antagonist in one episode that means he portrays race poorly? And if I remember that episode correctly he made the Inca Mummy Girl into a sympathetic character in which the protagonist (ie Buffy) found relatable. If you’re arguing that the episode wasn’t politically correct then you don’t have much of an argument. That episode was inspired by the real life story of Mummy Juanita. As for not having any Asian in an Asian theme show…do you not realize that Firefly is a hybrid of many culture and not just Asian? Also, it’s inauthentic to cast an person of color as a token rather than an actual character who comes out of the story organically. It’s counter -productive to have diversity just for the sake of diversity and expect to see quality characterization rather then we need more POC stunt.

    • Lenora Rose says:

      This particular straight white guy might not be speaking against it (Something of which the person you’re replying to never implied, by the way -saying he missed the context that as a straight white dude he might need to be a bit more delicate how he does so is not the same as interpreting him as against feminism – though it is interpreting him as *Screwing up* his attempt to support feminism). In this context, though, Whedon does feminism no favours by suggesting we shouldn’t need a word for it because it’s a natural state.

      As to some of your earlier comments about what privilege means, you’re misinterpreting privilege badly. Privilege doesn’t invalidate comments, but it could make the person saying them say somethign that is less helpful than their intent. Privilege doesn’t mean they can’t empathize, but it can mean that in empathizing they jump the wrong way when looking for a solution.

      Most of all, saying someone is privileged isn’t actually an insult or an attack, as you interpret.

      My husband has white male privilege. He likes women – genuinely likes, not just “Is heterosexual”. He ahs female friends, he respects woman in his profession, he certainly seems to me to listen to male and female perspectives. He acts and behaves in most ways like an egalitarian.

      And yet, when I asked him if ti ever happened to him that he had drunk strangers shout insults at him out of their car while he waited at the university bus stop? Not only was the answer no, to no-one’s surprise, he looked at me as if thinking “That really happens?” Like I was describing a world more alien to him than Middle Earth or Narnia. That’s male privilege. Saying Joss Whedon has it is saying he lives in North America. it’s not an insult, and it certainly doesn’t prevent him from trying to be empathetic or sympathetic.

      But letting his every word go without challenging it because he tries (and he does) and because he’s been praised in the past for his successes is not helpful to the cause he espouses.

      As for Whedon on race? He wrote the Tams as intended to be Asian. Then he let white people try for the roles, and, not entirely coincidentally, then didn’t cast them as originally planned. I loved Summer Glau and Sean Maher as well as anyone, but I think saying it would be inauthentic to cast them *as* Asian when it was the original plan is … somehow a bit disingenuous. Also, what is inauthentic about casting Asians in smaller speaking roles? Or more, as extras in the background? Not even having speaking roles, just being *present*? Doesn’t the place you live in have any Asian people? Don’t you know of major cities or trade centres where, even if you rarely talk to them yourself, they walk around or serve you coffee or bag your groceries just like white people? Explain how having more black people show up, more Indian people (And both of those also in minorities considerably lower than the actual percentage in many populations) than Chinese people in a setting where people *Speak a Chinese dialect* is more authentic.

      • Lenora Rose says:

        Augh. One clause in the first paragraph clause needs revising to sound coherent. Here’s a second try:

        saying he missed the fact that, as a straight white dude, he might need to be a bit more delicate how he speaks *for* feminism, is not the same as interpreting him as *against* feminism

  41. Neil M says:

    I think it’s always delicate to have a straight white guy speaking about feminism, but OK. I don’t think he’s forbidden to speak his mind, but I wish he’d do so with that context more firmly in mind.

    In any case, I have a big problem with his assertion that humans are born naturally egalitarian and that sexism, racism, etc. is some unnatural state. Given how much bigotry exists now and has existed throughout human history, it seems more likely that people have to learn to get over the “unfamiliarity” of people of other races, cultures, sexual orientations, etc.

    Thanks for blogging, BTW. These are conversations that need to happen.

  42. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “I think it’s always delicate to have a straight white guy speaking about feminism, but OK. I don’t think he’s forbidden to speak his mind, but I wish he’d do so with that context more firmly in mind. ”

    That straight white guy wasn’t speaking against it. Were you not listening?

    “In any case, I have a big problem with his assertion that humans are born naturally egalitarian and that sexism, racism, etc. is some unnatural state. Given how much bigotry exists now and has existed throughout human history, it seems more likely that people have to learn to get over the “unfamiliarity” of people of other races, cultures, sexual orientations, etc. ”

    You think it’s offensive that people are born with an intuitive egalitarianism? If anything it shows that feminism is more then just an idea but an necessity.

  43. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “Given how much bigotry exists now and has existed throughout human history, it seems more likely that people have to learn to get over the “unfamiliarity” of people of other races, cultures, sexual orientations, etc. ”

    But doesn’t that say something that people have to “learn” to get over people who are different from them? Racism, sexism, classism may be part of human nature but doesn’t necessarily make it “natural”. If bigotry is inherent then why isn’t humanism just as inherent? You talk as if being a bigot is more natural than being a feminist/humanist.

  44. Resigned Sidekick says:

    Also, I think it’s counter-productive to think it’s too delicate for a straight white guy to speak on the behalf of feminism. Because if feminism is only regulated to women how exactly is the message of equality spread when it restricted to a certain demographic.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Nobody is saying straight white guys can’t be feminists, or talk on behalf of feminism. We’re simply saying that the privilege afforded them in our culture means they shouldn’t try to speak *over* women on the subject of women’s rights – and when you have Whedon saying “feminism is a redundant word”, that’s pretty much what he’s doing.

    • Lenora Rose says:

      It’s not that it’s “too delicate” It’s a situation that must be approached with some delicacy. It was pretty clear to me that Neil M, who is presumably male by handle, meant the second and recognized the difficulty.

      I can think of several white males who have interesting things to say about feminism and about equal rights. They’re usually the ones though that are aware they might not have the whole picture, and who, when called on it, get thoughtful before getting defensive (At least in public).

  45. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “We’re simply saying that the privilege afforded them in our culture means they shouldn’t try to speak *over* women on the subject of women’s rights – and when you have Whedon saying “feminism is a redundant word”, that’s pretty much what he’s doing.”

    No, that’s not what he is doing. Whedon says explicitly that the word feminism isn’t the problem. You’re committing a strawman by distorting his argument then attacking the distorted argument. He does not say that the feminism is a redundant word. It seems to me that reason you take objection to what Whedon is because his straight white man and not for what he is actually saying. His not speaking over women his giving his perspective on how the word feminist is perceived. Also, if Whedon is privileged by being a straight white male then the same can be said straight white females. If privilege is what determines validity in a person’s argument then straight white female feminists shouldn’t try to speak over feminists of color. You can argue that straight white females have experienced the realities of oppression and inequality. But some would argue that they do go through as much oppression or inequality as women of color. Others can even argue that being a straight white male doesn’t automatically make one privilege. And as I said before whether or not someone is privileged or how privileged they are is irrelevant to the actual discussion.

    • fozmeadows says:

      *sighs*

      Of COURSE it’s relevant how much privilege someone does or doesn’t have when they’re talking about oppression – it’s the difference between purely theoretical knowledge versus actual, real-world experience, which you seem rather to be interpreting as “all people are equal and equally entitled to their opinions, therefore their knowledge on specific topics and the appropriateness of their speaking on those topics in certain contexts must also be identically equal, Because Reasons”. The whole point of intersectional feminism – of which I am an advocate – is precisely that white women, like me, don’t experience sexism in the same way as women of colour, and therefore have privilege that WOC don’t. That doesn’t mean I can’t still talk about feminism; but it DOES mean that my experience of sexism doesn’t include a fucktonne of racist assumptions and (for instance) a still-recent history of the rape and enslavement of women like me through which to filter the abuse I receive, which means that when black women talk about misogynoir, I should fucking shut up and listen to them, because THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT AN EXPERIENCE I DON’T PERSONALLY HAVE.

      Thus: Joss Whedon is still a feminist, albeit a very imperfect one – his feminism is mainly feminism that works for white women, not women of colour, because his depictions of WOC are overwhelmingly, and with precious few exceptions, tainted by racist stereotyping. But when he begins a talk on feminism, at what is essentially a women’s conference, by saying he dislikes the term feminism itself, and goes on to talk about how it’s an issue in muddled and faily terms – then yeah, he’s fucking up, and his privilege is behind that. If you actually read this blog at all, you’d know I’m a big fan of much of Whedon’s work, albeit with specific critical reservations – so no, I’m not just calling him out because he’s a straight white guy. I’m calling him out because he’s a self-professed feminist and should fucking KNOW better by now.

    • Lenora Rose says:

      Funny: Straight white female feminists (of which I am one) HAVE talked over women of colour on feminism and feminist issues, and it IS in fact a big problem. So saying so isn’t actually invalidating the idea of privilege.

  46. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “Of COURSE it’s relevant how much privilege someone does or doesn’t have when they’re talking about oppression – it’s the difference between purely theoretical knowledge versus actual, real-world experience, which you seem rather to be interpreting as “all people are equal and equally entitled to their opinions, therefore their knowledge on specific topics and the appropriateness of their speaking on those topics in certain contexts must also be identically equal, Because Reasons”. The whole point of intersectional feminism – of which I am an advocate – is precisely that white women, like me, don’t experience sexism in the same way as women of colour, and therefore have privilege that WOC don’t. That doesn’t mean I can’t still talk about feminism; but it DOES mean that my experience of sexism doesn’t include a fucktonne of racist assumptions and (for instance) a still-recent history of the rape and enslavement of women like me through which to filter the abuse I receive, which means that when black women talk about misogynoir, I should fucking shut up and listen to them, because THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT AN EXPERIENCE I DON’T PERSONALLY HAVE.”

    *eyeroll* Real world experience can help an argument but that doesn’t make an argument valid. You seem to have very hard time differentiating an argument with the person. Instead of attacking the argument you attack their personal experiences. It’s a deflection and red herring that avoids taking about the issue head on. Also, discussing experiences with racial sexism is one thing but making an argument is something else entirely. Being empathetic to one’s experiences does NOT mean that you should blindly agree with everything that they say or do. For instance, if a women a color discusses their experiences with bigotry then claim that all people of European White descent are racists then that is something to object to. It’s not objecting to their experiences but their conclusion because having real world experiences does not validate fallacious arguments. Just like it would be fallacious for solider from Iraq solider to make overgeneralization about the Muslim community due to their real world experiences. Especially if the argument is potentially bigoted.

    “Thus: Joss Whedon is still a feminist, albeit a very imperfect one – his feminism is mainly feminism that works for white women, not women of colour, because his depictions of WOC are overwhelmingly, and with precious few exceptions, tainted by racist stereotyping. But when he begins a talk on feminism, at what is essentially a women’s conference, by saying he dislikes the term feminism itself, and goes on to talk about how it’s an issue in muddled and faily terms – then yeah, he’s fucking up, and his privilege is behind that. If you actually read this blog at all, you’d know I’m a big fan of much of Whedon’s work, albeit with specific critical reservations – so no, I’m not just calling him out because he’s a straight white guy. I’m calling him out because he’s a self-professed feminist and should fucking KNOW better by now.”

    You being a Whedon fan does NOT validate your argument. Furthermore, if you think that Whedon’s feminism only works for white women then that just show bigotry on your part not his. Whedon has written many great female characters of color and the relatability of his female characters isn’t regulated by the color of their skin, You think real women of color can’t relate to Buffy Summers just because she is white? And for the last time Whedon is not speaking against the word or term but the implication that feminism is the an idea that is imposed on someone and not a necessity. Even if Whedon’s argument is because of his “privilege” that doesn’t disproves the argument. It’s the argument that matters not why he believes it.

    “Funny: Straight white female feminists (of which I am one) HAVE talked over women of colour on feminism and feminist issues, and it IS in fact a big problem. So saying so isn’t actually invalidating the idea of privilege.”

    Please, define what it means to “talk over”. Having an opinion isn’t talking over someone. Again whether or not someone is privilege is irrelevant. To say that this person is wrong because they are privilege white person is for the last time ad hominem circumstantial. It just as bad as saying “of course he supports affirmative action his a black man.”

    • Lenora Rose says:

      Talk over: To say something as if your opinion is naturally more important than that of another person even when claiming to speak *for* that other person. Not stopping to ask the opinion of someone with experience before declaring and deciding what they must need. (White Woman “All feminists regardless of colour want the same things for women!” Black woman: “Actually, I also have this issue…” White woman, louder, “All feminists want the same things!” This is not much of a parody.)

      You also keep conflating “Is relevant” with “Automatically makes one right/wrong”. Nobody here is saying that but you. It is relevant to Foz’s criticism of Whedon that she’s a fan. It is relevant to Whedon’s obvious blind spots that he’s got white male privilege (If anything, he’s done a lot more to see past that and into other points of view than most, but again, that’s far from saying he’s perfect).It would be relevant to a black woman’s perspective on matters that she’s black. It neither makes him wrong nor her right instantly, but it is a factor to consider when discussing racism and sexism.

      As for whether “You think real women of color can’t relate to Buffy Summers just because she is white?” — you clearly haven’t listened to a lot of black woman on this subject. Yes they can. Of course they can. And they can relate to various male role models, too. But they can ALSO get a bit tired of only seeing people who look just like them in a handful of stereotyped roles without losing that ability to empathize.

  47. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “Talk over: To say something as if your opinion is naturally more important than that of another person even when claiming to speak *for* that other person. Not stopping to ask the opinion of someone with experience before declaring and deciding what they must need. (White Woman “All feminists regardless of colour want the same things for women!” Black woman: “Actually, I also have this issue…” White woman, louder, “All feminists want the same things!” This is not much of a parody.)”

    And I’m assuming you think that a female of color is speaking for ALL women of color? They’re not. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean you think you’re opinion is more important. What it could mean is that you believe that your opinion is just as valid. To disagree with someone is not the same as trying to silence them. If a white feminist thinks that all women regardless of color want the same thing and black feminist disagrees that doesn’t mean the black feminist is right simply because of the color of their skin. Another thing you need to understand is that neither the white feminist or black feminist speak for a certain group of people. What they speak (or should be) speaking for is truth not declare themselves as the voice of all people. Not all white females have the same experiences nor do all women of color and it’s demeaning to suggest that to disagree with white feminist or black feminist that you’re disagree with an entire group of people.

    “You also keep conflating “Is relevant” with “Automatically makes one right/wrong”. Nobody here is saying that but you. It is relevant to Foz’s criticism of Whedon that she’s a fan. It is relevant to Whedon’s obvious blind spots that he’s got white male privilege (If anything, he’s done a lot more to see past that and into other points of view than most, but again, that’s far from saying he’s perfect).It would be relevant to a black woman’s perspective on matters that she’s black. It neither makes him wrong nor her right instantly, but it is a factor to consider when discussing racism and sexism.”

    Again no. It’s not relevant that she a fan of Whedon. And it’s not relevant whether or not Whedon is privilege. None of this relevant to the actual discussion even if it doesn’t automatically make him right or wrong. I don’t understand why this is hard for you to get. It’s nothing more then a distraction…a red herring. Even if Whedon’s “white privilege” makes him blind doesn’t mean his argument hold less weight. Why he believes his argument is irrelevant and you can’t undermine an argument based on it’s origin. Furthermore, a black woman perspective is not the perspective of ALL black women. When a person talks about their experiences they talking about it as an individual. Many people may have the same experiences but that doesn’t mean they’re not individuals first and foremost.

    “As for whether “You think real women of color can’t relate to Buffy Summers just because she is white?” — you clearly haven’t listened to a lot of black woman on this subject. Yes they can. Of course they can. And they can relate to various male role models, too. But they can ALSO get a bit tired of only seeing people who look just like them in a handful of stereotyped roles without losing that ability to empathize.”

    Yeah, I don’t need to read some biased sampling to tell me something that should be common sense. Also, understand that just because a person has the same skin color as you doesn’t mean they look LIKE you. It implies that all people of color look the same which they do not. Furthermore, there is difference between a lack of representation and being politically correct. And even when there is a character of color that character is not meant to be relatable to every person of color. The reason diversity just for sake of diversity can hurt is because they bring in characters of color thinking that all or most people of color will gravitate to those characters just because they’re non-white.

    • fozmeadows says:

      “And it’s not relevant whether or not Whedon is privilege. None of this relevant to the actual discussion even if it doesn’t automatically make him right or wrong. I don’t understand why this is hard for you to get. It’s nothing more then a distraction…a red herring. Even if Whedon’s “white privilege” makes him blind doesn’t mean his argument hold less weight. Why he believes his argument is irrelevant and you can’t undermine an argument based on it’s origin.”

      So basically, your whole position is an outright denial of contextual relevance. Huh. OK. Let me give you a scenario, then:

      Imagine two people are having a conversation about what it’s like to experience front-line combat. One of these people is a soldier who’s just returned from active duty in a war zone; the other is someone who’s played a lot of Call of Duty. Now, if the gamer started contradicting the soldier’s opinions and experiences with actual warfare on the basis of having experienced a simulation of it for fun, would you think that was disrespectful? Would you think it was irrelevant that whole reason the gamer felt confident enough to voice their opinion to that particular person, on that specific topic, to the point of overruling their interlocutor, was because they felt that their fake battle experience was just as valid as real battle experience?

      I’m genuinely curious. Because when you say you can’t undermine an argument based on its origin, what you’re essentially saying, to paraphrase Isaac Asimov, is that your ignorance is just as good as someone else’s knowledge – that the context in which a conversation takes place, or the backgrounds of the people having it, are irrelevant to how the content is interpreted. Or, OK: let me be more specific. You can’t undermine an argument based SOLELY on its origin – that way leads to all kinds of fuckery. But if you’re asking two different people to diagnose your illness, and one of them is a doctor, and the other is a florist, then yes: if the florist contradicts the doctor, you can sure as hell say that maybe their opinion on the matter is worth less PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY AREN’T A DOCTOR AND DON’T HAVE A DOCTOR’S KNOWLEDGE.

      So when we’re saying Whedon’s privilege is materially relevant to why he’s wrong, you’re missing the point. The florist isn’t wrong about the illness solely because they’re a florist, but because they’re not a doctor. Whedon isn’t wrong solely because he’s privileged, but because his privilege means he’s coming at the issue from a position of lesser experience than the people he’s contradicting.

  48. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “(White Woman “All feminists regardless of colour want the same things for women!” Black woman: “Actually, I also have this issue…” White woman, louder, “All feminists want the same things!” This is not much of a parody.)” And that what you think Joss is doing really? When did he talk over someone trying to express their opinion then listening to them and starting a discourse from there?

  49. Resigned Sidekick says:

    “Imagine two people are having a conversation about what it’s like to experience front-line combat. One of these people is a soldier who’s just returned from active duty in a war zone; the other is someone who’s played a lot of Call of Duty. Now, if the gamer started contradicting the soldier’s opinions and experiences with actual warfare on the basis of having experienced a simulation of it for fun, would you think that was disrespectful? Would you think it was irrelevant that whole reason the gamer felt confident enough to voice their opinion to that particular person, on that specific topic, to the point of overruling their interlocutor, was because they felt that their fake battle experience was just as valid as real battle experience?”

    Wow, what a false comparison. You think having difference experiences in term of oppression is the same as having real world vs fake video game experiences? That is absurd because this isn’t a real vs fake argument. Nor is this an argument about shared experiences again this is an argument about the conclusions being made. I don’t know how many times I can say it.

    “I’m genuinely curious. Because when you say you can’t undermine an argument based on its origin, what you’re essentially saying, to paraphrase Isaac Asimov, is that your ignorance is just as good as someone else’s knowledge – that the context in which a conversation takes place, or the backgrounds of the people having it, are irrelevant to how the content is interpreted. Or, OK: let me be more specific. You can’t undermine an argument based SOLELY on its origin – that way leads to all kinds of fuckery. But if you’re asking two different people to diagnose your illness, and one of them is a doctor, and the other is a florist, then yes: if the florist contradicts the doctor, you can sure as hell say that maybe their opinion on the matter is worth less PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY AREN’T A DOCTOR AND DON’T HAVE A DOCTOR’S KNOWLEDGE.”

    Another false comparison this isn’t an argument of authority. This is people personal experiences and how their experiences doesn’t validate fallacious arguments. A doctor’s empirical knowledge is NOT the same as personal experiences of an individual. Personal experiences are subjective and different from person to person. You seem to be under the impression that because Whedon is straight white male that he automatically experienced privilege. Which may not be the case because you have to consider that Whedon may not have experienced any of this.

    “So when we’re saying Whedon’s privilege is materially relevant to why he’s wrong, you’re missing the point. The florist isn’t wrong about the illness solely because they’re a florist, but because they’re not a doctor. Whedon isn’t wrong solely because he’s privileged, but because his privilege means he’s coming at the issue from a position of lesser experience than the people he’s contradicting.”

    Again you’re assuming that he has experienced privilege simply because his white which are experiences he may not of had. Your automatically assuming that the people his “contradicting” has more experiences based on nothing except the difference in gender. As you should realize that not every woman or every POC have had the same experiences. Furthermore, even if Whedon does have less experience that doesn’t mean he is wrong. What you’re doing is a genetic fallacy because even if his argument came from less experiences it doesn’t mean the meaning/context of his argument is wrong nor not a legitimate as someone else. You mentioned the real world experiences of a solider well what if that solider who came straight from Iraq had bigoted opinions against the Muslim community because of the experiences in Iraq. Would that make that bigoted beliefs on the Muslim community valid because of their real world experiences?

    • fozmeadows says:

      Oh for fuck’s sake. Saying a powerful straight white male in the USA *hasn’t* experienced or been the beneficiary of white privilege is like saying someone who lives on the planet Earth has never experienced or been the beneficiary of oxygen. You have no idea what you’re talking about, I have better things to do with my time than explain to you the pervasive nature of white privilege, and I’m done giving you a platform to whinge on. BLOCKED.

      Happy new year to me!

  50. Sadie says:

    There are so many things wrong with this Blog post, it’s hard to know where to start! Your title, for one, it sounds like a 13 year old wrote it. If you hope to be taken seriously whilst taking on serious topics? You need to be really careful with your word choice. Well, use actual words, for a start.

    Speaking of word choice, it seems that your entire problem with Mr Whedon is that – just a word. Big deal, he doesn’t like a word – but his ACTIONS (and you seem quite confused about those as well – shame on you for using as your example of his hideous mysogenistic ways that he *planned* to have a character on Firefly raped. Where is your proof? Do you understand how tragically often rape happens? Seeing a strong woman survive that might have been intreresting, although I am glad it wasn’t part of Firefly (I would really love to see your “proof” – not internet rumors, actual proof, of that or your comments about Charisma being fired because she was pregnant – especially since she was still very much on “Angel” whilst pregnant!!). Proof, folks. Something painfully missing on the Internet.

    BUFFY is a huge part of why I am a survivor, not a victim, of rape. You need to talk to more people & see how they were affected by the TV shows and films that Joss has worked on/created *before* telling Mr Whedon to “stfu”. (I still am sort of giggling that you couldn’t even be bothered to write out a subject when talking about a man whose command of the English language is really impressive and then some!) Now I watch girls long to become victims as they fawn over the girls in “Twilight” and “The Vampire Diaries”, and it makes me sad and sick – the creators of these wimps deserve a talking-to. I disagree with Joss about a lot of things, but he has hekped women more than a lot of women have. You see, actions beat words evey time. You are pissed about his words, and I like the majority of his actions. So do most people. But I guess in this bizarre place the world has become, everyone has someone hating them. Usually someone who doesn’t know them – just knows the words they have said or an event they attended.

    Women do not become strong by whining and begging. We become strong by the choices we make, with our votes, and how we conduct ourselves. It’s sad that you have completely misunderstood Joss Whedon. But a lot of us didn’t. And I for one am so glad that, back in 1997 when i was laughed at and mocked for watching “Buffy”, that I kept watching and knew it was a show worth watching, and it’s creator a PERSON who made and makes really good art.

  51. Foz Meadows, may I link your post to my Tumblr blog?

  52. […] you cringe when some bloke labels himself a feminist because you know that very same bloke is going to show his arse in exactly fourteen point oh six seconds after saying tha…? I know I […]

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