Dear Joss Whedon, Et Al: Leave “Feminist” Alone

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Joss Whedon

We’ve all seen the misguided pop culture caricature of feminism rear it’s ugly head, popping up in far too many celebrity quotes and media pieces that misinform the masses and scare people away from identifying as feminists.

This imagined man-hating, bra-burning political radical still lives in the ’60s or ’70s, rants constantly about the patriarchy and doesn’t shave her legs (gasp!!). The suggestion is often made that the word “feminist,” with all these false associations, be abandoned in favor of a new word.

One of the latest attempts to re-brand feminism came from a surprising source: writer and television producer Joss Whedon, who is acclaimed for his shows that feature strong female leads, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse and Firefly

While some praised the speech he made (cough cough, Jezebel) at an Equality Now benefit last week in Los Angeles, many have taken issue with the 15 minutes he spent dissecting the word “feminist” instead of, say, firing up the crowd to support ongoing efforts for global gender equality.

Unlike those who take issue with the cultural context of the word feminist, Whedon argues against the word itself. He finds the last syllable particularly troubling: “-ist, I hate it.” He adds,

It’s this terrible ending to this wonderful beginning. This word for me is so imbalanced, just tonally, it’s like watching a time-lapse video of fresh bread being put in the oven and then burnt … it bugs me that I don’t love the word more. ‘Ist’ in its meaning is also a problem for me, because you can’t be born an ‘ist.’ It’s not natural.  You can’t be born a Baptist, you have to be baptized, you can’t be born a Communist an atheist or a horticulturalist. You have to have these things brought to you.

I hate to break it to you, Joss, but the progress toward gender equality that we’ve enjoyed in this country did not happen naturally or without struggle. It was fought for by generations of strong women and men who opposed what the patriarchy told us was our natural role as women. It did have to be brought to people—and it still does.

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Drawing of the pop culture feminist caricature

Said Whedon,

People are confronted by the word ‘feminist’ and it stops them, they think they have to deal with that. But I think we’re done with that as intelligent human beings.

Perhaps from the privileged position of a wealthy white male it’s easy to think that we no longer need to “deal with that,” at least on a rhetorical level. Whedon suggests a solution of sorts: Let’s just use the word “genderist” to describe gender discriminators from now on, instead of “sexist”. (Uh, Joss, that also has an “ist.“)

The feminist movement is not perfect. This is in part because a movement is made up of people, and people are fallible, but feminists continue to critique themselves and strive for more intersectionality and inclusivity. If you choose to not identify as a feminist because of disappointment with the movement, that is your right. But if you choose to not call yourself a feminist because you don’t want to be thought of as a radical,  a man-hater or (god forbid!) a hairy person, then you do yourself and society a disservice. To those who feed the pop-culture caricature (I’m looking at you, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson, among others), please realize that when you dismiss the term you weaken the fight for gender equality and harm those who have dedicated their lives to it. Every time someone says, “I’m not a feminist, but … ” a suffragist rolls over in her grave, a little girl puts down a book and picks up an apron and Rush Limbaugh gets a hard-on.

80px-Feminism_symbol.svgInstead of proposing that we educate people on what it means to be a feminist, the suggestion continues to be that we just adopt a new word. Well, I, for one, won’t. To reject the term is to let the opposition redefine it for you. I’m with famed feminist writer Erica Jong, who said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times,

[Feminism] has been bad-mouthed in a million different ways, and many women have been fooled by that, but feminism only means that women want the right to be whole human beings. End of story.

 

Photo of Joss Whedon courtesy of Flickr user Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons; feminist symbol courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Video of Whedon’s Equality Now Speech courtesy of YouTube. Cartoon drawing, “The Pop Culture Feminist Caricature” by Melissa McGlensey.

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Melissa McGlensey recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and Spanish with a minor in creative writing; she is a lover of the word feminist and an intern at Ms.

Comments

  1. I’ve never liked Joss Whedon.

  2. H has not had the privilege as living as a woman. He has not lived with sexism. Here’s a word that sounds pretty douche. Maybe he won’t like bag. But he is a douche bag.

  3. Joss Whedon fired actress Charisma Carpenter from Angel because she didn’t ask his permission beforeshe got pregnant with her son Donovan. Talk about offensive and antifeminist. Since when do actresses need permission from men in Hollywood to have children

  4. Sometimes people are inclined to hear what they choose to hear. I am not sure I heard the same speech you heard. Many of your assertions (that Whedon “claims that we’ve defeated sexism in the same way we defeated racism” are out-and-out false. He asserts the contrary in at least three different ways, but my guess is that you had stopped listening by then, or were hearing only selectively. “I say with…sadness: we will never not be fighting.” “To the people on the other side of that line, who believe women are to be bought, or trafficked, or ignored…we will work this issue until it doesn’t need to be worked anymore.”

    He is not positing that we’ve moved past either race or gender issues, and I think it’s almost unbelievable you concluded that.

    Nor is he, as you imply, proposing we CHANGE the word “feminism” to “genderist” (as you remind us, he thinks “-ist” words are problematic, and sees that type of word better used to describe the offender not the proactive person. It’s an odd point of view, though I see what he’s getting at—and whether that venue was the best place to wax rhetoric on semantics is certainly a valid question—but what he’s suggesting is a new term for the rubes who haven’t gotten on the bus yet; the ones who have not evolved. He is suggesting we stop promoting a cause that SHOULD (though it is not) be second nature and obvious to all; instead we should just call out its opposite (discriminating along gender lines, or being “genderist”) as a negative term. In other words, we don’t say, “I’m pro-race!” We say people who are NOT enlightened with regard to racial equality are “racist.”

    Whedon’s given an uncharacteristically sloppy speech for such a talented and insightful writer, and that’s unfortunate given that he’s contributed some of the most profound ruminations on the subject of female strength I have ever witnessed (and I’ve read LOTS of Margaret Atwood).

    Still, I think your read was pretty careless; I think you had to almost work to misinterpret the speech in the way that you did. There are countless people who speak publicly and leave little doubt, in doing so, as to their appalling beliefs about women. If you have to work this hard to find something inflammatory—form a guy who’s written some profoundly feminist threads into pop culture—you may be working too hard in the wrong direction.

    • I am so glad someone pointed this out.

      One thing that I have to add is Whedon is claiming that women are “whole human beings” and in the quote at the very end by Erica Jong, she states the same thing. I am assuming that the speech was not watched to the full extent because that basically proves the point that Whedon was making. I think the argument here was misconstrued and focused on the wrong aspects of the speech. I would also like to mention that that it was completely excluded or looked over that Whedon himself said the genderist was not a perfect term but wants to change it so that the people who are the “plague” can get a clue.

      I was actually really disappointed how this article picked apart his speech so inaccurately. It seems juvenile to focus on the such small petty things that were said which seemed to cause a misunderstanding or lack of acknowledging what the major argument of the speech was.

    • Amen, sister.

    • Thank you!! You outlined everything I found wrong with this article. It is possible for two separate people to take something different from a speech like this but I feel like this article in particular really didn’t understand what Joss was truly trying to say.

    • I think it is very true that people often hear what they want to hear. As I believe you heard what you wanted to. He repeated made claims about being across a line that delineated racism or sexism. At 11:06 he states “there was a shameful past before we realized that all people were created equal and we are passed that.” But my guess is that you had stopped listening by then, or were hearing only selectively. I think the problem is that he isn’t properly indicating to the audience when he is talking about explicit or implicit biases.
      To your other point, he is in fact suggesting we all ditch the word feminist for “genderist”. At 10:10 he brings up the word and at 10:53 he strongly advocates for it.
      Maybe I just try to see the best in people but I honestly think that he isn’t trying to derail feminist activism with some of the things he said. Regardless, as an outsider to the feminist community to come in and say that he knows how to “fix” our problems by changing our language is mansplaining plain and simple. I believe he means well but instead of listening to what the community needs, he enters with his privilege and tries to argue for what he knows. Don’t believe me? how about the beginning when he says to trust him because words are what he does for a living. How about feminists… feministing is what they do, how about listening to them about issues of gender equality.

      • I think calling Whedon’s speech mansplaining goes a bit far. He’s not advocating to ‘fix’ feminism, but rather calling to put defining labels (and thusly pressure and stigma) on people who are sexist/genderist, rather than the people who are trying to stop them and work towards equality. He is less an outsider trying to change the feminist community than a member of the feminist community (and I would argue that given the feminist themes and characters in his works, in addition to other speeches and quotes he’s given on the topic of women in media, he is a part of the feminist community) advocating- albeit in a less eloquent manner than usual- for a semantics change that singles out the offenders as opposed to the defenders of gender equality.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself, Necia. Glad I didn’t have to. ;)

    • Holly Weiss says:

      AMEN AMEN AMEN. I’m so glad i’m not the only one who read the article and wanted to throw something at my screen. We should be happy to know that there are men who get this and are openly willing to make that stand against gender equality.

  5. So, so much better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi_27bpIb30

    Patrick Stewart speaks simply and intensely about having grown up with domestic violence.

  6. This is unbelievable. Did you actively TRY to misinterpret every single thing Joss said?!

  7. This article just seems really disingenuous. It seems like you deliberately misunderstood the point Joss was making, which was that these things (racism, misogyny) SHOULD be relics of the past, and that the fight for equal rights SHOULD be ancient history. He even out and out said that anyone who doesn’t believe in the equality of the genders ‘is like the black plague’. I agree with Necia completely, I’m pretty sure you had preconceived notions about Whedon and were hearing what you wanted to hear. The dude isn’t perfect, but he’s a genuine ally for sure.

  8. When feminists who disagree with each other argue over semantics it undercuts the message. It is a toe hold for the ignorant sexist; who needs so little reason, so little proof, so little prompting to take their deep held beliefs and bring them out into the world; where they can do harm. Instead feminists need to refocus their energies towards combating sexism wherever it raises its ugly head.
    When I am on the street and I run into sexism, I meet the challenge head on. I challenge sexism whenever I can. I challenge the idea of female inferiority with whatever tool works. I don’t sit and argue semantics, because semantics are not a good foundation in educating a new feminist. Instead, I appeal to reason, I appeal to emotion, and I appeal to common sense.
    A favorite starting point for me is to ask them to apply their generalized comment to their mother or sister. If that doesn’t work, I ask them about their favorite primary school teacher, or boss and how they feel their comment applies to them. I ask them how they would feel if the roles were reversed. How they would feel if the field they were in became female dominated, and the ideals they espoused were directed at them…and so on. There are just so many ways to positively change the popular viewpoint toward gender equilibrium, none of them start with arguing semantics.
    Teaching young feminists what to say when they encounter the closed minded is a more proactive of approach than dissecting and analyzing minutia.
    Maybe it’s just me. I’ve always despised “talkers”. The type of person who addresses social ills by arguing it in committee after committee, but never accomplishing anything. They are the type of person who values governance over social good; When everything has to be “just right”, there is no room to get anything accomplished.

  9. With writers, you have to look at what they do, not what they say.

    Whedon did fine with women in Firefly. What he says here doesn’t matter. Maybe his subconscious knows better than his conscious does.

    • Up Yours, Joss says:

      LOL, Whedon’s “badass” women are fighting-fucktoy fetish objects. The only reason he gets a reputation as being good with women characters is because the bar in general is so low.

      Good to see his fans are maintaining their reputation as unable to take even the most reasonable criticism of their hero.

    • shhdontlook says:

      “With writers, you have to look at what they do, not what they say.”

      Look, I love Buffy, but Xander was the biggest Nice Guy ™, and the narrative was just fine with it. And I love Firefly, but I remember Inara being called a wh**e many times, and the narrative being just fine with it (characters are allowed to be sexist/racist/whorephobic… jerks, but the narrative has to make it clear they are wrong -someone has to call them out, or they have to suffer the consequences,etc).

      I also remember Sunnydale being Caucasia. And the world of Firefly appropriating Chinese culture like whoa, with *no* Asian characters in sight. (“Oh but it was cancelled, maybe they were going to introduce a whole planet of Asian people!”. Still no Asian characters in Serenity. And more importantly, as much as I love all the crew, at least a few of the main actors should have been Asian). More recently, there was the whitewashing of Maria Hill.

      And going to a feminist organization (as a straight cisgender white wealthy man, that is, a member of the *most* privileged demographic, the one that will never experience prejudice first hand), and presuming to advice feminists on how to “feminist”, is not just saying, it very much is doing.

  10. Wow.. I am so sad to read this article this morning. Thank goodness for all the comments of other readers. As a woman concerned with women’s issue, why, for hecks sake, attack Joss Whedon of all people??
    This attitude is counter productive, and the fact that Ms. printed it is shocking.
    Not only has Joss Whedon been an outspoken individual on all variety of negativity towards women, pointing out the inequities and damaging stereotypes, he lives his beliefs, pushes the envelope constantly and is in a position to effect change.
    We can all disagree on the semantics of important issues, but to write and article like this (and again, I mention Ms. printed it ) is like recommending we all fight against having the option of birth control because it doesn’t come in your favorite color of plaid.

    I really hope this was a hoax….

  11. Joss Whedon telling women which word they should use in the fight for gender equality is like a white man telling brown people which word they should use in their fight for racial equality. I really don’t need a privileged white man spouting opinions on the semantics of the cause. Plus, it’s a waste of time haggling over this non-issue. The word’s been around for decades, it will be around for decades to come. Just accept it. Own it. Otherwise, go take a seat beside Phyllis Schlafly

    • The way you refer to white men is more discriminating than anything he said. If this very same speech came from a woman from Zimbabwe, I bet most of the negative reactions had been completely different. The fact that many of you diminish the power of his words because of the fact that he is a white man is very sad and extremely anti-feminist.

    • And btw, he is not telling WOMEN what word to use. He is telling EVERYONE. Men, women and everyone in between or outside the boxes. Feminist is not a woman’s thing. So yeah, maybe this white guy has a thing or two to teach many of us.

  12. I don’t shave my legs. I also don’t watch Joss Whedon shows or care what he says. (gasp)

  13. I’m with you, except for one nagging choice of words: “puts down a book and picks up an apron”. A great deal of this article is spent trying to liberate the term feminism from its caricatured stereotypes, and then you fall back on a caricature yourself of what an anti-feminist is. It’s a weak end to an otherwise good article and discussion. Someone is not more or less a feminist because they know or like to cook, in fact, men and women both benefit from knowing how to be self-sufficient in the kitchen and run a household, for both budgeting and health reasons. Not to mention that there is no reason a girl cannot grow-up reading and cooking and playing sports or whatever else she wants to do wearing an apron or not (as I did and still continue to do) because people have more than one element to them. And let’s not ignore that fact that men still dominate the restaurant and cooking world. I’m also a scientist, so this probably quite nit-picky; but it’s what I do.

    • I agree completely. That part of the piece offended the HECK out of me. If someone retreats to “the kitchen” because of their boyfriend’s misogynist jokes, or refuses to admit their own braininess, that, yes, is a terrible thing.

      If someone chooses to cook rather than read because they like it better, GOOD FOR THEM — and you know, bravo for standing up to the ALSO immense pressure to be the “right” kind of geek. English is a subject that’s “okay” for girls – chemistry and physics which play large roles in cooking, are still not really, and kids who enjoy knowing how to put together things and make a large whole at age 10 are the same one who enjoy it at age 30 — but too often that has been discouraged.

      And if they enjoy cooking for the pure joy of providing food — in heels and pearls even — THAT IS ALSO OKAY.

      Not to mention, as someone with friends with reading disabilities whose time on the internet is marked by constant shaming over having “seen the movie and not read the book” and odes to dating girls who read, it’s not like it’s astonishing anymore to be a girl who picks up a book — but it is to be a girl who doesn’t.

  14. Melissa McGlensey says:

    Thank you all for the discussion. I’ve taken your criticism about my interpretation to heart and updated the post in the section where he talks about race in order to let his words speak for themselves, but I stand by piece.

    • Up Yours, Joss says:

      You really shouldn’t have. Everything you wrote was valid. BTW, this is also the guy who posited a universe run by the Chinese but didn’t cast anybody of East Asian descent in major roles in that universe.

  15. There must be a misunderstanding. After listening to his 15min speech it’s clear he doesn’t believe racism is over or that gender discrimination is over. He’s not blind to the world we live in but is looking for a word that contextualizes the world we are getting to and gives a negative connotation to whoever doesn’t believe in equality. A word that is against all that feminism fights against so that it is an obvious thing in public and popular discourses that not believing in equality is not ok anymore and never has been. I don’t think the intention is to erase the word feminist or feminism but to have a word for those against it, putting a spotlight on them as people who are simply wrong and not to be tolerated. It is a word for those who do not identify with the cause of feminism

  16. I agree with the majority that taken out of context (i.e. several interviews over the years as well as strong female characters created) picking apart Joss Whedon’s comments seems a little over the top considering Whedon is not perfect just like every other human being on the planet. Everyone has an occasion of diarrhea of the mouth. He recently gave an interview in Entertainment Weekly talking about how he grew up in a feminist household and he was proud that that was the way his mother raised him. He also said that it influenced him in a good way on how he created his characters.

  17. I didn’t enjoy Josh Whedon’s mansplaining and am glad that several feminists are calling it out. Whedon was being extremely rude when he manspalined at an Equality Now function. What a stunning example of male privilege!

    Women who don’t do feminist activism weaken the movement for women’s equality. Women who don’t call themselves feminists also weaken the movement for women’s equality.

    A lot of social research provides compelling evidence that subconsciously, all of us have a tendency to privilege men over women and whites over people of color (even if our politics are progressive). Harvard research psychologist Mazharin Banajee calls these tendencies “mind bugs.” Whedon needs to examine his own mind bugs.

  18. Yes, I cringe every time I hear a woman say “I’m not a feminist”. It’s obvious they don’t know what it means, and we need to educate our daughters or they will continue to say it. Women’s Studies courses should be taught from very early on, and to both genders of course.

  19. I really like Alice Walker’s term, “Democratic Womanism”, because Woman includes man. Perhaps men are threatened by anything beginning with “fem”, their greatest fear. I hope that one day, men can reclaim their lost and degraded Feminine within (we all begin life in the womb as female).

  20. Wow, there were so many problems with this speech and yet this article in a major feminist newsletter addressed none of them…by undercutting itself by not listening properly. His cis white male decision that feminist is not an effective enough word IS problematic. His ignorance of gender vs sex implied in “genderist” vs “sexist” is problematic.

    But, he in no way made this argument because he implies feminism is over, or because it’s too scary a word.

    And, even if his male perception of what makes a strong female character is at times problematic and stuck in a sad trope of “powerful men perceive strong woman as threat, woman is repeatedly and graphically victimized and made powerless, woman derives unintentional power from their victimization and fights a lot but eventually either dies (often through self sacrifice) goes insane, or is miserable” (it might be a true comment on reality, and he’s certainly not the first or the last to make the statement, but it’s kind of a shitty ending if you’re going for real empowerment) — he is not making these statements because he fears being called a man-hater or fitting into someone’s stereotype, and that paragraph dilutes this whole article.

    Also, the “puts down a book and picks up an apron” shaming for someone’s own decisions (as opposed to making it clear that the book is put away because of fear) needs to be excised completely.

    I’m just disappointed at how this article uses the very vaguest coverage of a HIGHLY COVERED event — try tumblr for long discussion on this, including: the word womanist! other mistakes Joss made in this speech! what the word genderist ACTUALLY MEANS ALREADY! and other interesting points that were in no way made here — to make a tired point about the word “feminist”. I was so glad to see someone call out Joss Whedon in a way he might recognize, eg a major publication, but if he sees this article it will be so easy to handwave that I can’t even imagine it will pack the slightest bit of punch. Do your research next time please.

  21. He seems to ramble in his usual self-deprecating but “yes I am awesome thank you very much” way. He should definitely stick to writing rather than speaking. He comes off as pompous.
    I too see the word as problematic but I will stick with it because changing at this point will only confuse people more. I like the term “womanist” better–even with the ist, but I am not sure if it is cool for white people to co-opt it from women of color who coined it.
    The main reason feminism has been demonized is because right wingers willfully misrepresented it. What would happen if we changed the word and a huge movement set forth to make that word wrong? Do we keep letting anti- feminists define the debate?
    Whatever Whedon meant, he does have trouble with feminism. This was manifest throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes where the term feminist, was used in pejorative ways. Granted he did not write all the episodes but he would have approved them. I think rather than obsessing about the word itself, he should take time to connect the dots between “strong female characters” and female characters who actually talk to other female characters (Angel) and are effectual as a group.

  22. I think it’s misguided to hate on Joss for discussing his issue with the word ‘feminist’. His issue is a result of how polarizing the word has become in today’s political landscape for many reasons. One reason is that many people don’t distinguish between Equity Feminism, which has roots in classical liberalism, advocating equal rights and opportunities for women; and gender feminism, which is often perceived to be misandric and in pursuit of abolishing gender roles altogether. The anti-feminists love this confusion, and exploit it altogether by grouping everyone who subscribes to equity feminism in the gender feminist camp. This is no different from how the words ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ have been contorted and used to discredit ideas, policies and programs aimed at promoting the common good. The word does have a problem because the enemies of feminism have been using it against feminists. The message advocating equal rights and equal opportunity for women, which is the message advanced in all civil rights movements, has been perverted and reframed by opponents as a message advocating general hostility towards men, hostility toward stay-at-home moms and women who sell sex.

    There may be a number of feminists who buy into the reframed message, but obviously some like Joss Whedon, who acted on his own commitment to equity feminism by speaking at the Equality Now benefit, or those who most likely subscribe to equity feminists (but say they are not feminists), don’t want to be associated with that message. But Joss’s musings about choosing another word won’t work because the enemy will go after that word next. And as far as his suggestion to use a word like ‘genderist’, maybe rather than call him out as fallen, someone should just school him on the definition. Though arguably, language is fluid enough that over a period of time, if enough period ‘misuse’ a word over time, they may eventually redefine it. And future hobby etymologists will marvel at how that word eventually came to mean its opposite, just like how ‘nimrod’, which in modern usage means stupid or foolish, came from the name Nimrod, who was a great hunter. We can fault the hater of hunters, Bugs Bunny for that etymological transformation.

    Joss Whedon may only have been guilty as so many other men are (including myself) of having a male brain that is wired to rush to seek a quick fix to a problem. (See ‘The Male Brain’, by Louann Brizendine, which discusses how male brains differ from female brains). I’ve been thinking long and hard about this problem. (Let’s not go there.) I think the author of this article should worry less about Joss’s nits and Katie Perry’s and Lady Gaga’s …images and perhaps consider how to better promote the feminist brand so that more people won’t shy away from it as a way to identify their politics because it is attached to mistaken notions about it. Donning an apron should be valid choice for any woman who wants to put one on if she chooses, not necessarily automatic submission to male patriarchy.

  23. I feel like neither the writer nor the readers of this article bothered to watch the original presentation from Joss Whedon. As a self-professed feminist, I have great respect for a man like Joss who forged the way for powerful heroines to enter mainstream entertainment and offer girls substantial role models. It is clear that Whedon’s words are ripped and wrenched out of context for the purpose of this article, and since truly feminist men like this one are a rare blessing for our cause, I find it doubly offensive that his words are used against him, from the angles of both journalism and the women’s movement. Anyone who had watched the presentation with a critical eye could immediately understand that Whedon’s problem with the word “feminism” lies not with its connotations of “hairy man-haters” like it does for so many, but rather, with conscious logical and unconscious emotional associations that we use to categorize and evaluate words, as lexical creatures. He is a writer. His point, and an interesting one, I might add, is that word meanings change and evolve with the evolution and needs of society. Even as we use the term “racism” and “racist” to expose shameful, backward racial attitudes, there ought to be a similar term that serves our needs for gender equality. He boldly asserts that society should adopt a term that serves to identify and discourage attitudes and actions which promote gender inequality. He imagines the words “genderism” and “genderist” as intriguing prospective solutions. In no way is he attempting to undermine the feminist agenda, nor is he diminishing the value of the term “feminist” for its service to the women’s movement throughout the course of its historical use. He is simply suggesting that we need a refreshment and revolution of the movement, through words as much as actions. He is insightfully suggesting that it is time to invent a word that encompasses the urgency for equal gender rights, that stigmatizes those who resist evolution and revolution in the name of equality. Interestingly, the term “sexism” does not seem sufficient for Whedon’s purpose. Perhaps he finds a term like “genderism” more flexible and applicable to the varied gender identities that are recognized and available to individuals of today than a term like “sexism” that is rigid with polarity. I for one, appreciate his attempt to contribute to a progressive development of gender equality. I might add for good measure that matters of word meaning have always been a pertinent issue for feminists, as we have fought to cultivate new, female- empowering language, as well as to restrict and replace the words that have devalued and derided us as women.

  24. I think Joss Whedon just made a poor decision in choosing to make his speech about semantics. I’m sure he’s an okay guy but I don’t really understand why that is necessary or how that helps anyone. If anything it does some harm to the movement because you’re saying there is a problem with the word when the word should be worn like a badge of honor. The word originated decades ago and is OUR history, women’s history and we should be PROUD of it. I know I am. I will forever be grateful that I have the life I have and I know that I owe that to the women who continued the fight, fought hard, and won. And yet the fight is not even near over. To pick the word apart as a wealthy, white man, is extremely nervy, ballsy, etc. It comes off as pompous definitely and it does give the right wing something to use against us-they use enough against us as it is, why give them yet another thing. I’m sure he made some good points in his speech ( i only heard a segment) but it seems like his overall theme was a really bad choice especially because of who his audience was. I think feminists have to be really careful next time when choosing a wealthy white man to make a speech at an Equality event. They’re too far removed from our experience to truly “get it” even if they really think they do-they don’t. Had he talked about something that was actually really helpful or poignant or thought provoking or even optimistic, that would have been refreshing and would have given more life into the movement. But it seems his speech was rather pointless and perhaps even harmful. There is nothing to be scared, or ashamed about in the word “feminism”.

  25. I somehow feel like you missed the point. I think what he was trying to say about the “-ist” is that being equal is a quality we are (or should be) born with. That’s why genderist is a word that has “-ist” in it, because hate is learned. We don’t really use any word to present ourselves as non-racist, because try to imply that not being racist is the way to be. That’s why (he believes) we should not present ourselves as feminists, because feminist should just be the way to be. The thought of it is actually very nice.

    I also don’t think he ever implied sexism/genderism is not a problem anymore. I think what he meant is that we as a society have moved forward, and today we realize, or we should realize, that discrimination is nothing we want to live by. That does not mean that the problem is over, but the front that the big majority of us have chosen is clear. We stand against any form of discrimination.

    Last but not least, I find it extremely insensitive when it is implied that white men are too blind to have any empathy for other human beings. Do you lack empathy for those who are abused, raped, sold, exploited or starved to death because you never suffered it yourself? I am sure you don’t, The more comments like that we make, the more “wealthy white males” that we will lose from our side. And that’s not something we want, because equality must come from EVERYONE.

  26. Wow, and to think I almost bought a subscription to this magazine. I have never cared for the word “feminist” either, but I still call myself that. As a writer, I understand exactly what Joss was expressing. I find it ironic that the writer of this article didn’t. I think one of the most frustrating things about being part of the feminist movement is that other feminists are so damn critical of each other and so insistent that it be done their way. Hey-I like wearing make-up and dressing up and watching Joss Whedon films every once in a while. Doesn’t make me any less of a feminist (or genderist) than you. We need to stop fracturing the movement by tearing each other down all the time. Having said that, I will definitely not be subscribing to this magazine since it clearly won’t be the positive source I had hoped for.

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