Sunday, November 10, 2013

Time to piss off everyone I respect and mostly agree with, I guess.

All right, I can’t believe I’m doing this, but here goes. Let’s talk Joss Whedon and feminism.

First of all, I should get this out there: I care approximately zero percent about the word feminist. It’s an important word, but it’s also a loaded one, and contrary to what people will try to tell you, it does not mean “the belief that women are equal to men.” At least, it doesn’t always mean that. Hundreds of groups with hundreds of ideologies have called themselves feminists, and the label is loaded. We could try to take it back, but it seems to me like an uphill battle with very little return on the investment. I have no problem with people wanting to disassociate themselves from the word feminist, just as long as they don’t disassociate themselves from equal pay, reproductive rights, and sexual assault advocacy. Words matter, sure, but they don’t matter nearly so much as results.

Second of all, I should also get this out there: I don’t mind it when men talk about feminism! I’ve never minded it! Men have a gender, and men are part of the world in which sexism exists, and men are at least half of the sexism equation, and that means that it is, in fact, important to hear what men think about feminism. Yeah, there are forums that should be all-women, but those forums do not include the entire world of conversations about sex and gender. A man talking honestly about his views and conclusions about feminism, no matter how wrong you may find those views, or how obvious those conclusions may seem, is not mansplaining. At least, not necessarily.

Third of all, I’m a firm believer that people can have good beliefs, and do a lot of good in the world because of those beliefs, and still be, on occasion, total assholes in direct opposition to those beliefs. So I’m not going to touch on the Charisma Carpenter pregnancy thing, because I wasn’t there, and even if Whedon fired Carpenter because he was mad at her for getting pregnant (which I agree would have been a fucking horrible thing to do, and from all accounts, no matter what the reason, it sounds like Carpenter’s firing was handled badly), I don’t think it means the man is a raging sexist, I don’t think it automatically negates anything he says about feminism, and I honestly don’t think it matters all that much to my point.

My point, which is this. I don’t 100% agree with what Joss Whedon said. I don’t 100% disagree with it, either. Mostly, I don’t care. Joss Whedon got up at an event for an organization that is all about working for gender equality, and made a speech in which he argued that gender equality is necessary and not yet realized. He also argued that the word we use to express “gender equality is necessary and not yet realized” is ill-chosen. 95% of people in the world will never read his speech. They’ll never know that he gave it. 95% of people in the world will have their only contact with Joss Whedon through his stories. 95% of people will only be affected by Joss Whedon’s views on feminism in so far as those views affect Joss Whedon’s female characters.

95% of people in the world will only be affected by Buffy. By Willow. By River. By Cordelia, Dawn, Joyce, Faith, Zoe, Inara, Tara, Kaylee, Anya, Glory, Harmony, Fred, Drusilla, Darla, Lilah, and whoever was on Dollhouse, I never watched that show. They’ll be affected by dozens of women who are heroes and villains and everything in between. They’ll be affected by women who are superheroes, scientists, witches, wallflowers, ditzes, drama queens, caretakers, lone wolves, mothers, daughters, sisters. They’ll be affected by smart women, silly women, ass-kicking women, engine-fixing women, sexy women, shy women, commanding women, conniving women, conflicted women. They’ll be affected by narratives that are certainly imperfect in their treatment of women, but then, what narrative has ever been perfect in its treatment of anything? 95% of people in the world will have their only connection to Joss Whedon through stories that treat women as people, and as equals.

So Joss Whedon got up at some event and said something about the word feminist that was either really cool or really stupid, depending on which feminist you ask.

Can you imagine how little I care?

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