Thursday, May 7, 2015

Joss Whedon: King of the Bad Allies

I grew up watching Buffy and have always loved it, and loved the fact that it was girls who were the super heroes, exclusively. Only girls could be slayers. I love the character Buffy and her incredible strength and perfect snark. She will always be my favorite super hero.

And for a long time, I loved Joss Whedon for creating her. And later for calling himself a feminist.

My first raised eyebrow in his general direction was when I learned that Dawn, a character that I disliked for the fact that she was constantly portrayed as weak and frequently damseled until the end of the Evil Willow season, was created specifically because Joss thought a show needed a girl who could be damseled, and Willow was no longer weak enough to fulfill that role.

Eye roll gif


Then there was his weird speech on feminism and his assertion that it needed to be renamed, or something. That was like a slap in the face.

I haven't watched the Marvel movies much, but I understand that there is exactly one female Avenger, Black Widow. Joss Whedon's characterization of this token woman has drawn a lot of criticism from feminists (actual feminists, meaning women). His reaction exposes the true nature of so, so, so many self-proclaimed male allies who are faced with criticism. The ally facade crumbles to expose the core of just another selfish misogynist.

Do I think that Joss Whedon is more of a misogynist than most other men? No. Just as I believe that all white people, including myself, are at least subconsciously racist, I believe all men carry underlying misogynistic attitudes. Joss is misogynistic because he is a man, but if he wants to act as an ally, he needs to actively fight against his subconscious misogyny. The only way to do that is to listen to own up to it and listen to women when they call you out. Joss did the opposite.

He literally used the phrase "militant feminists," a term that has absolutely no meaning as there are no groups of armed, militarized feminists. Saying shit like that makes him indistinguishable from all the MRAs, anti-feminists, and run-of-the-mill blatant misogynists who have used that exact phrase to conjure an image of scary straw feminists out to steal your manhood. At gunpoint, apparently.

Eye roll gif

Do I think that Joss gets more criticism because he's in the public eye? Of course he does. He's making the shows and movies that contain representations of women. And with great power comes great responsibility, right Joss? You're privileged enough to be a writer/director of huge movie franchises that are making you millions to add to your pile of millions. Use that privilege to help people that you claim to want to help and stop fucking whining.

Do I think women, particularly feminists, are hyper-sensitive about portrayals of women in media? Of-fucking-course we are, and we damn well should be. There's one woman Avenger and therefore you get one shot at making a decent female representative. If there were an Avengers team with, say, 50% women, we wouldn't be making such a big deal about Black Widow. That just makes sense. Plus, we're hyper-sensitive because we've been through movie after movie after movie with misogynistic portrayals of women who are nothing but plot devices to drive men, whether as damsels or objects of desire, who have no real lives or ambitions of their own. And we're fucking sick to death of it. So yeah, we get really pissed when someone who claimed to be different pulls the same shit as every other shit male director out there. Wouldn't you?

For fuck's sake, put yourself in our shoes for two seconds. You get so upset when men are portrayed as bumbling doofuses in cleaning product commercials, but you don't get why we're mad about Black Widow? Typical.

Joss Whedon didn't quit Twitter because of feminists being mean to him. He said that himself. But his whining about "militant feminists" and "feminists attacking other feminists" (by "other feminists," I assume he means himself) exposes him as just another whiny fake ally who refuses to listen to the people he claims to be an ally of and wilts when he's called out, trying to make himself into a victim and going "why can't we all just get along!" when he means "why can't you just never criticize me ever!" He's no ally. And if he was only acting as an ally for praise, then he never was.

So bye, Joss, don't let the mean Twitter feminists kick you in the ass on the way out.

Animated gif of a woman waving and mouthing "bye bye!"


Mooseplaining Max said...

Someone told me a while back that his take on feminism (super kickass women) was borderline fetishism more than anything, which against his oeuvre makes a certain kind of sense. I know it's another discussion, but I much of Buffy hit the feminism benchmarks well, though was ultimately damaging in the sense that people took the wrong lesson from "Strong Female Character Like Buffy," equating strong in a very (for lack of a better term) masculine sense. They missed the part about her being a person with agency not defined by her relationships so much as them being just a part of her character, and we've been inundated with Strong (Fe)Male Characters and male writers patting themselves on the back ever since.

To his credit, he did complain that he only inherited one woman member of the Avengers for the first film and was very insistent on adding more for the sequel. So we got a grand total of... two out of eight, which is like, TWENTY FIVE PERCENT WOMEN! STOP THE PRESSES! I'm not counting Vision since he was so minor I had to look up his name. We also had Agent Robyn Scherbotsky and Korean/Chinese...Asian scientist who I recall had an Anglo-Saxon name that I can't remember, both minor characters, and Mrs. Hawkeye who was super supportive of the most overtly misogynist cast member's character, and that was all she did like in every other movie where women are cast as the nondescript supporting wife. Come on Joss, you can do better than that!

Why, that went on more of a crazy rant than I intended!

femmeadmirer said...

This post made my Friday. Thank you. I appreciate the connection you make between sub-conscious white supremacy and sub-conscious misogyny.

Then there is this: "Joss Whedon didn't quit Twitter because of feminists being mean to him.
He said that himself. But his whining about "militant feminists" and
"feminists attacking other feminists" (by "other feminists," I assume he
means himself) exposes him as just another whiny fake ally who refuses
to listen to the people he claims to be an ally of and wilts when he's
called out, trying to make himself into a victim and going "why can't we
all just get along!" when he means "why can't you just never criticize
me ever!"

Well said.

Lindsey Weedston said...

Oh yeah, there's plenty about Buffy to criticize, including the celebration of an attempted rapist (Spike).

Don't be afraid to rant on my blog! I accept all levels of rantiness. Gentle reminder, do not use ableist terms in your comments.

Mooseplaining Max said...

Noted! Didn't even realize I did that.

Wermund W. Vetrhus said...

Honest question. You say that white people are inherently racist, and that men are inherently misogynists. Does that hold true for other groups as well, or are only white men inherently something?

If not only white men possess inherent qualities, but it is possible to say something definite about as large and diverse groups as men, women, whites, blacks, hispanics, does that not render the statement useless? I mean, if men indeed ARE inherently misogynist, what is it inherently in women that does not make them misandrist? If whites are racist as a given, no matter what, then that gives that blacks are as well. There are no inherent differences between sexes(excluding reproductive organs and such, but you know...) or linked to differing melanin content of ones skin. Or have I misunderstood something completely basic about feminism, anti-racism and other quests for equality? Or do you see my statement as akin to #AllLivesMatter when it's the background for #BlackLivesMatter that is a problem?

I thought that the goal was equal starting grounds, that we found a way to reduce (hopefully remove, but maybe a bit of utopia? IDK) differences in starting points. That people to a larger degree stood more in charge of their own outcomes, and not having to lug around a legacy they did not want? To claim that there is something a priori in being male or white is either to accept that there is something a priori to being anything, making it meaningless, or not really honest (if there is nothing a priori in being female, black or what have you)

Maybe I am just nitpicking at a very small part of your piece, and not something you actually want to discuss... I would still appreciate an answer :)

Lindsey Weedston said...

I never used the word "inherently," which implies that the trait in question is inherited genetically. The reason that we white people are all racist and men are all misogynistic is because we live in a racist and misogynistic society. I'm not arguing for some poorly-supported notion that racism and misogyny are adaptive or some shit. I'm arguing that when you're white in a society that holds up whiteness as both the default and the ideal, it's impossible for white people raised in that society not to be racist. It may be a subconscious, more subtle form of racism than what you see from your standard KKK member, but it's very much there, and there's a ton of scientific evidence to back it up. Same with misogyny in men. You don't grow up as a boy hearing the word "girl" used as an insult all the time without learning the lesson that female = bad. Black people (for the love of god stop saying "blacks") do not live in a society where black is the default and women do not live in a society where you hear "you throw like a boy" on a regular basis, so no, all black people are not racist, though they can be against other people of color, and misandry straight up doesn't exist.

The only way to begin at equal starting points is to entirely reform society until our language and our representation doesn't put down or marginalize certain groups. That reform can only start if those in power are honest with themselves about their own power and subconscious bigotry.

We also need to stop assigning gender to genitals.

Wermund W. Vetrhus said...

Sorry for the blacks thing, not an american so not the same connotations and not the same sensitivities on our side of the atlantic...

You didn't use the word inherently, but you did claim that "all men carry underlying misogynistic attitudes"
To me that implies that no matter what, if you were born a man, you automatically will have a hatred against women. I can't see how that is not referring to something a priori.

So you DO mean that only men can have negative preconceptions about the other genders (or rather against women, I do not think you mean that women can't be transphobic or similar)? Based solely on gender? And that black people cannot have negative prejudices about white people based solely on the colour of their skin? I totally understand that there is no systemic racism in the US against white people, that does not preclude that POC's can be racist/hold racist views against white people.

I totally agree that those in power must be honest about their own bigotry, but do you think that only the powerful are bigots? I know that I have some serious gripes against the rich and powerful, and how they behave and control even here in Norway. Does that mean that every person I meet who has a seat of power or is rich is an asshole, no, but I still have prejudice against them.

You say that misandry does not exist, maybe it doesn't, I have not delved deep enough to make up my mind yet, but, if you don't mind me asking, what are your view of the notion of "the disposable male"? The fact that men have a dramatically lower life expectancy, a much higher suicide rate, and that men make up much more of the workforce of really dangerous work? Is this OK in your book, is it just a part of biology that we have to accept? Or something that we should work to change? Would you be willing to lower the life expectancy of women if that meant that men rose to the same level? (because unlike wages and sexual harassment, death because of dangerous jobs is a zero-sum game) Apparently someone have to be soldiers, someone has to mine the precious minerals that makes us able to have this conversation, and right now it isn't women. That there is basically no shelters for men in abusive relationships (not AFAIK here in Norway, but I am guessing that with the difference in healthcare, there are not many in the US either).

In your view, are these smaller problems (in scale and thus seriousness) than those that are of a more "feminine" character (sexual harassment, 7% wage difference, etc.)

Lindsey Weedston said...

First of all, I don't care what country you're from, it's not okay to reduce people of marginalized races to their race. This include saying "blacks" or "Asians" or "Hispanics." You should be sensitive about that as a white person no matter where you're from. Apologize and change, don't make excuses.

You can feel however you want about what my words imply, but I made no reference to genetics or being born with anything. That connection was made in your own mind.

And again, you're twisting my words. Misogyny does not mean negative preconceptions about other genders. Of course women can have negative preconceptions about other genders as well, as can non-binary people. But this is not misogyny. Misogyny is systemic and oppressive, while having negative preconceptions is not.

People of color can be racist against other marginalized races, but not against white people. They can be prejudiced against white people, but racism, like misogyny, is system and oppressive. People of color do not have the power to oppress white people, and women do not have the power to oppress men. This is almost universally true in this world, and is absolutely true in a global sense as the people with the most global power are white men.

The idea of the disposable male is MRA bullshit, full stop. Everything you described is a result of patriarchal gender norms backfiring on men and toxic masculinity. More men have more dangerous jobs because women are blocked from jobs like mining by misogyny and sexual harassment. Men have a higher suicide rate because showing emotion and seeking psychological help is considered to be "weak" and "womanly," and being compared to a woman is the worst thing in the world for a man in this misogynistic society. They have a lower life expectancy because toxic masculinity includes violent and dangerous behavior, and because our society mandates that women must take care of their bodies in order to please men. As for shelters, even if there are few for men only, many women's shelters will gladly help abused men by paying for private hotel rooms for them. If there aren't any that cater exclusively to men, it's only because men haven't created them the way women worked to create women's shelters.

Feminism is about ending patriarchy and toxic masculinity, and therefore, no matter what the scale of men's problems, they will be solved by this.

I disagree that we have to have soldiers and we have to mine minerals. Mining coal will eventually end because it's a finite resource and we're switching to green energy sources.

"7% wage difference" oh man, you're way off. Here: