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Friday, 19 June 2015

Joss Wheden: Everything both right and wrong with feminism.

Feminism, whether you believe it right or wrong, has earned itself a bad reputation.
Many proponents argue that the "bad" feminists are not real feminists, or do not/should not reflect on the wider feminist movement.
Others pretend that there is no problem at all, or that it's actually an elaborate conspiracy to discredit equality by a nefarious patriarchy.
I would make the case that feminism is complicated.
It has good elements and it has bad elements.
I believe that Joss Wheden, oft celebrated as a positive feminist role model, is the perfect reflection of both sides of this.

His work, at first blush, contains all manner of empowered women and feminist themes.
He's unafraid of nuance, of showing female vulnerability or flaws and displays remarkable empathy for his subjects.
Yup, you guessed it, I am a Whedon fanboi.

He also shows a similarly remarkable capacity for wilful blindness and an assumption of ill intent in others that he refuses to accept when levelled at him by other feminists, dismissing them as radicals even as he parrots them to target others.
An apologist in every sense. Willing to join a chorus with those he dismisses as "fringe" or "not real" feminists and cashing in these brownie points to justify his position when criticised by these same people.
Any vitriol, venom or outright harassment is deemed "just a normal part of feminism" and ignored, while criticising similar, identical or even less extreme behaviour from those falling outside of the feminist umbrella.
The stark relief of his repeated defamation of those that make PRECISELY the same points he occasionally makes about the worst excesses of feminism but declaring themselves against it show a hypocrisy I find distasteful in a man I respect for his works.
For all that feminists protest that "Not all feminists are like that" even the most populist and popular feminists are ready to dismiss any criticism as an attack on all of feminism.

Amusingly his work encompasses many of the criticisms of modern feminism and societal perception of women as well as all the best aspects of empowerment, including the right to be flawed, broken or wrong.
One of my favourite Wheden characters was the unapologetically villainous Saffron.
Introduced to the audience as a victim she uses gender stereotypes to her advantage to manipulate the crew of Serenity and hide her intent. She uses Mal's altruism against him and remains critical of him when he shows very human flaws.
How a man can be so aware of this pattern of behaviour to create a well rounded, deep character but lack any awareness of it being abused in real life I do not know.

Some might say that I am leaving out the evils of radical feminism or the misguided idiocy of feminist ideology, but I don't see these things as the real problem.
Being wrong is an important step to take on the road to being right, so feminism being based on flawed principles is something that can be fixed.
Likewise, radicals, extremists and morons will be involved in every large scale human endeavour, so cant really be credited with "ruining" anything by themselves.

No, the real problems remain the lack of integrity, self awareness and self criticism of those that are widely championed. The self styled moderates that allow extremism to flourish and refuse to condemn it, that refuse to engage in criticism of their own ideals or acknowledge when they are at fault.
To me, Wheden reflects this in abundance, no matter how true his devotion to equality.
He truly encompasses everything that is good about feminism as well as everything that is bad.