This post has been a total pain to write, because I knew that I had something to say, but I didn’t know what it was. That is just incredibly annoying. It had something to do with feminism and Joss Whedon and how much I like him. Yeah, well that’s not particularly conducive to any sort of point. I could have just not made a follow-up post, but I said I would, so whatever. So I figured, “Hey, I’ll write about that speech he recently gave for Equality Now. Yeah, that was good. I got this. Go me.” This was the second speech he’s given at a dinner for the organization, and I was pretty thrilled with it.
Turns out a lot of people… weren’t.
All I did was Google “Joss Whedon” and what followed was basically a list of various responses, criticizing everything he’d said in that speech.
The guy is a pretty well-known feminist; he’s created many iconic TV shows with fantastic female characters. His status as feminist icon in pop culture created itself.
HOW COULD PEOPLE DISAGREE WITH HIM?
And so began this incredibly tedious two day journey to figure out how exactly I actually felt about his speech. I couldn’t just ignore what I’d read and continue on my merry way, nor could I simply take it to heart and drop my initial views.
I mean, it’s Joss Whedon.
This is the guy who created Buffy Summers, the girl who snuck out of the house every night to slay vampires. The girl who dealt with one emotional trauma after another, who literally and metaphorically slayed her demons. Everything about her tiny, blonde cheerleader self was very deliberate; Whedon used the stereotype purposely to subvert it and replace it with a strong female character.
I’ve watched almost all of his shows to date (I’m working on it, ok?) and all of them include strong female characters, no questions asked. It’s never surprising that these women can hold their own. Why should it be? He does not celebrate female empowerment as something spectacular or out of the ordinary. He does not put it on display with arrows and a flashing neon sign. There is no “ladies and gents, may I present to you, for the first time ever, the Strong, Independent Woman!” He does not exploit it as an angle.
Why? Because Whedon is a feminist. He views women as equals. There is no need make some show about how great it is, what he’s doing for women. He’s not doing it for us. He’s not doing us a favor. He’s just creating fictional characters that should be far more prevalent in TV and movies. Women who can fight, who can handle emotional trauma, who don’t need a savior.
I’m going to stop before I go into compete fangirl mode and start drooling. Oh wait…
Right. So. When some reactions to his speech were less than thrilled, I kind of turned into a lost puppy. I totally did not know what to do. Had everything I believed been a lie?
So I found a transcript of the speech to analyze, on reddit of course. Quick explanation: everything is on reddit. It’s the self-proclaimed front page of the internet, and rightly so. It’s full of misogynist ass-clowns who probably live in their mother’s basements, passing their lives in front of a computer screen. HOWEVER, it’s also full of hilarious, intelligent, well-written people. I’d actually just started visiting the site again after about a year staying away; that website is a total mindsuck. What really get me are the comments. Whether you’re an ass-clown or actually intelligent, the internet knows no difference when you’re leaving a clever comment. And reddit is full of them.
Ok, whatever, who cares. I found a full transcript and proceeded to read the comments until my eyes hurt, because like I said, total mindsuck. A lot of people had really good points in favor of what Whedon said. Others were completely missing the point. A stranger’s totally incorrect opinion on the internet should not bother me nearly as much as it does, but what can ya do? It simultaneously reminded me why I love reddit and why I stopped frequenting message boards. Because yeah, I totally used to do that, if you didn’t know. And I’m sure you didn’t, because it is my most shameful secret.
But now you know, because I just really feel like I can trust you guys.
Alright, awesome. Many of my redditors were expressing exactly how I felt, thus giving me some traction. I kept looking for more opinions, though, because that is what I do. And then the hardcore feminists came along…
I was reminded how complicated, diverse, and quite frankly, confusing, feminism is. It can be a very unwelcoming subject, and understandably so. It’s only natural that those who are fighting for any cause are on the defensive. I’m not well-versed in every aspect of the movement, but highly capable of defending and explaining what I do understand, and I’m completely open to learning more and hearing others’ opinions.
But just reading what other people had to say made me feel totally cornered and judged for agreeing with Whedon.
Ok, where am I even going with this? I don’t know. It’s really hard for me to not go off on a tangent. I’ve also been meaning to listen to Whedon’s speech again before I keep writing, but my mind won’t shut up. Because the thing that I learned through all of this “research” regarding his speech the last few days is that regardless of how right or wrong what he said is, people were mainly arguing over semantics and actually misunderstanding the point. I mean, people within the feminist movement were disagreeing with each other. It’s difficult to partake in a discourse that contains so much dissent merely within itself, let alone outside of it.
Right, whatever. Basically, a lot of people were kind of totally getting off point because he’s a privileged, white male who obviously doesn’t understand the movement in any sort of depth. And ok, that’s legit up to a certain point. Obviously, as a male, he doesn’t not understand what it’s like to be a woman. No shit. Come on.
I should maybe probably listen again so I can address that.
So this speech. What he says is right, but the way he says it just isn’t quite. (I’m assuming that by now you have either read the transcript or listened on Youtube. I linked them both.) That’s unexpected and disappointing, as his entire point was the deconstruction of words, and he has made a career out of writing. I don’t know. I’m not sure exactly where to go from here. Logically, I could discuss his speech and some of the reactions to it. I could point out where people are right and where they’re wrong. But that is just so tedious and doesn’t really seem fun to write about, and definitely not interesting to read about. Who wants to read all about my opinions when they could just be forming their own?
Hopefully this post has been at least more interesting than that.
Maybe Whedon’s too intelligent for many to understand what his point was. Maybe he’s too scatterbrained to have conveyed it properly. Maybe some feminists are too quick to assume the worst. Maybe it totally sucked and I’m too biased to see that (it didn’t, and I’m not). There were plenty of valid points made about feminism in response, but they were too far removed from what he was saying in the first place.
Right, fine, fine, that’s just fine. People are free to have their own interpretations (even if I’m totally convinced that they are WRONG and I’m right) and dissect and criticize his words. That’s good. His speech started a conversation, and that’s what’s important. Hey, it got me re-exploring the discourse. I know that I’m not the only one whose interest was piqued. I suppose it’s good that not everyone is totally enamored with him like so many of us are. It’s good that there are those who are removed enough from his hypnotic awesomeness to question what he says and does, that even with the best intentions, maybe he doesn’t totally have it right.
Alright, so, kind of pointless post that I probably didn’t need to write but I did anyway just because. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, but hey, at least it wasn’t an attempt to totally mutilate another person’s character this time. Right? Right.
Also I just re-affirmed my belief that Whedon’s role as cult leader of geek culture and awesome feminist is totally warranted, and that’s really all that matters.