Haha, oh how the seventh-grader in me is both embarrassed and amused by that word. It’s such a good website, but with such an unfortunate connotation.
The reason I chose that word is because it’s what first came to mind when Joss Whedon started talking about why he doesn’t like the word feminist. Mind you, Joss Whedon IS a feminist. I am also a feminist. I am, in fact, a feminist who is a big fan of Joss Whedon. Give me the opportunity to work with one single person in Hollywood, and as much as I love Meryl and Shonda and RDJ and Clooney and so on, I would pick Joss Whedon in a heartbeat.
With that in mind, here is my defense of Joss Whedon’s speech at the ‘Make Equality Reality’ event held by Equality Now (Whedon is an Advisory Board member). Writer Noah Berlatsky had a problem with the speech, which you can read about on The Atlantic’s website.
Here are my thoughts, on our much smaller platform of Real Living Beauty:
1. Why does one need to be aware of feminist theory in order to call themselves a feminist? I’ve never liked reading feminist theory – I prefer to rouse the rabble. Either way, quoting a lot of feminists doesn’t make you more of a feminist than someone who doesn’t quote a lot of feminists. Especially when that someone created Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
2. Joss Whedon is a writer. He has 15 minutes to give a speech at an honorary dinner. So… was he supposed to fit in an outline of every prominent feminist that ever was? Because unless you talk about lots of other feminists when discussing feminism you aren’t really a feminist? Or you don’t understand feminism? Wait – is he introducing a new idea about what it might mean to live and fight as a feminist? Because that certainly isn’t in line with the goals of feminism. As far as I can tell, feminism has only ever meant and will only ever mean one thing. It means you like to burn bras, right?
3. Joss Whedon is a Writer. His speech is about words. It’s about semantics and how they affect us and shape our conversations. It’s about proposing an idea (not mandating a new doctrine) that equality is our natural state, since none of us enter the world as “pathetic, prehistoric, rage-filled, inbred ass clown(s).” It isn’t a speech about the history of feminism, because again: Writer. Of movies and television. Not professor of feminist history.
3a. He uses the word ‘Taliban’ as an example of an aesthetically and aurally appealing word. I just wanted to point that out because it was funny.
4. His “shout out” to Katy Perry isn’t a shout out. He brings her up as an example that a lot of people still have a problem with the word feminism. Because a lot of people still have a problem with the word feminism.
4a. Joss Whedon is not one of those people. He points out that his problem with the word feminism is, in fact, not in the word feminism, but in the question. The question that he is relentlessly asked, “are you now or have you ever been, a feminist?” Then he brings up racist as an example of a word that has a shameful connotation. Which is not to say that racism no longer exists. It’s to say that racist is inherently a bad thing to be. This point holds a certain amount of water. Can you imagine reporters casually tossing around the question, “are you now or have you ever been, a racist?” Even the most audacious of racists like to preface their racist statements with “I’m not a racist, but…”
5. Equality is, in fact, a natural state. That does not mean we live in a state of equality. Wee children are not born with inherent prejudices toward one gender or another. Those prejudices can be very quickly ingrained in said children, but someone or something has to do the ingraining. Saying that equality is a natural state is not saying that we don’t need to talk about feminist issues. It’s saying that we take for granted this notion that we’re fighting to upend the system, when it’s Joss Whedon’s opinion that we’re fighting to restore the natural order of things. Which is a fairly unique and apparently polarizing perspective. And if the whole of human history points to a great deal of patriarchal oppression, then all that says to me is that we have our f-cking work cut out for us.