Regarding Joss Whedon’s speech on “Feminist” and in response to RealLivingBeauty’s response.
I don’t believe a person has to name-drop a comprehensive history of feminist theorists–but one important tenet of feminism OR equalism is giving credit where credit is due. Homage for its own sake, sure, but more importantly for the consequences of respect and perception shift*. I would like to know what consideration if any Joss Whedon gave the question of whether or not to include acknowledgement of the ideas or accomplishments (or names) of any feminist shakers. I do have a problem with his focus on linguistics regarding feminism without a holla to the work of Mary Daly or the effects of dialects gendered for the speaker. I think in fact that it’s a disservice to his public and a falling short on the part of his capability to not use his position to bring to light see it as the same way I wouldn’t make a speech on the current* (mis)use of electrical power without harkening back to Tesla and his philosophy and the lack of awareness about the Sphinx’ battery function.
I grew up and out of adolescence to Buffy. I came out to Buffy. I’m a fan of Joss Whedon. Airing his work does not excuse the missing diversity in produced writers, creators, et al. on TV.
I have two brothers, raised by our single mother, who embody and enact feminist principles but have a huge problem with the name or word, not for its aestheticism but for its alignment with one sex/gender. I’ve met hordes of women (straight, gay, bi, trans; of many colors or national or cultural origin) who proclaim themselves “not feminist, but” or denounce feminism, aligning it with being a “femi-nazi” and for fear of being seen as such, who don’t know who Elizabeth Cady Stanton was, that Rush Limbaugh coined the above term, or who the Guerilla Girls are. Or that their side-stepping standpoint is related to these not-famous-enough leaders of feminism and setbacks by sensationalizing opponents.
I understand that the term “feminism” alienates some men. The semantic problem with the word is not (primarily, if at all) its sound, as Joss Whedon purports, but its usage given semantic similarity to the terms “racist” and “sexist” that therefore aligns it with these…within a yet misogynistic society. And a misogynistic society also hurts men, and depends on classism and racism and heterosexism (that last, a word not recognized by WordPress!). The sexism can be directed at men, and the racism can be directed at white people, even though these groups also get by on a lot of privilege. Homophobic violence has landed straight people in the hospital. Most males have at least one female in their lives they care about, whose survival, success, and well-being matters to them. Intersectional feminism shows the problem is people in power taking advantage of these many discriminating -ists and -ist attitudes bludgeoning people intermittantly, simultaneously, and in syncopation, like a million permutations of ominous chords of possible alignments. As long as people with not as much power also take advantage of or submit to these -isms and their -ists, the usury and abuse are repeated and reproduced. And to change it all: Recognize your privilege. Make your voice heard. If you can’t, seek solidarity; if your voice is heard, help someone who needs to be heard and wants to be heard.
As far as words go, feminism concentrates on the problems women face because of their sex or gender, the problems misogyny causes. The movement is called feminism, and people who focus on these particular struggles and this portion of a philosophy of equality therefore called feminists–the same way some people are Afro-centrists, and yes, still need to be, and the gay pride movement keeps going strong, led by or in close conjunction with gay rights activists. And whether or not you argue the term crosses over to the semantically and functionally occupational “-ist,” remember that most activists don’t get paid for their work. Neither do most feminists, like me, and unlike Joss Whedon.
The problem with the word mirrors the problem with the movement’s history, tending toward the exclusionary as much as the possibly healthy and necessary separatist, continuing and contributing to the oppressions of people of color, people earning lower income, lesbians and gay men, and gender nonconforming people before that was a term, and reaping the benefits of colonialist occupation and oppression of so-called developing countries. Until feminism caught up with the struggles of people in all these groups, and people realized how interconnected all these struggles for equality are, because women come from all these groups. Everyone who is oppressed in one but usually more of these ways fights to be equal. Fighting for equality brings to light the way things should be and the humanity we have in common and rights every single person should share: Civil Rights and Human Rights, acting on your Dream to pursue education.
Feminism has moved as a movement to be inclusive and feminists are leaders working and fighting for racial equality. Not too many people believe men can’t be feminists. I do believe that focusing on the equality pursued at the basis of helps promote the philosophy –and in a more inclusive way. It leaves room for the acknowledgment, understanding, and addressing of how sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism take form in all different directions, when girls are schooled in being manipulative to counter men’s dominance, for instance. But where each of these structural and systemic discriminations don’t out-and-out harm the majority group, say, White folk, it sure plays dirty tricks on their minds and keeps our society as a whole down, sick, because for one, there are always individuals that make up a group, especially groups defined by identity politics, who might belong to other oppressed groups, and for another–every society won’t be healthy until everyone really is treated equally. To attain this, we must all acknowledge and enact the equal fights of fighting for equalism.
When impressionable young people and workplace holiday committees are taught 1990s multiculturalism where appropriation counts for celebration of different cultures, they practice it unwitting of its offensiveness and that as a machination of oppression until they learn or someone shows them otherwise. When impressionable young people and unenlightened workplace after-hours parties are taught a vague mixture of vague scandalous riotous fake bra burning feminism, of Femi-nazis, shame, and blame, and that boys will be boys and girls should be skinny–we end up with guys being slapped in domestic relationships along with in the movies as a twisted new norm. This is not the empowered female of feminism. Anything other than believing that speaking out against this as unacceptable goes against the principle of feminism, of equalism. In this sense, yes, I vote to promote a new word, I vote with my right hard-won by feminist foremothers and feminist (“sympathizer”) forefathers, for a term that includes men being treated individually not as some new enemy, but be treated still as equals, for Equalism.
If that helps everyone be treated as equals with the progress and changing tides for all groups still fighting the good fight for equality and equal treatment, and the new or now recognized rather than well-meaning (even straight, white) men feel alienated, when they can be willing and wonderful allies, then I am an equalist. I’d rather let the sons of soccer moms and single mothers know they are needed, so they can fight rape culture instead of rape cases that prey on the poor and men of color.
On the other hand, each of these fights contains different specifics because of its unique history. There is a fine balance between recognizing the equality that everyone deserves, and working for it, fighting for it and working on and fighting for the equality of a certain group that needs it. Every path to full equality is specific. Each group deserves the recognition of its struggle; each fight requires the understanding of this struggle to reach the same equality that other groups appreciate (or fail to) in their privilege. Because people have lived it as individuals and groups. Feminism has expanded, finally, to acknowledge the intersections and multiple oppressions people face, to its credit, from Angela Davis to Feministing website. I believe that Equalism, and pronouncing oneself an Equalist might take this on and teach it even more quickly.
I don’t think we should work to eradicate the term by any means, but it should never be used to validate bullying against individual males, in media or life, either.
And I -love- the connotation of “Feministing” and its visual cultural reference to Rosie the Riveter and daring female sexual pleasure; it packs the right amount of punch, a goodly productive portion of goading, and a physical and visceral rallying cry of solidarity.
~Shakin’ a feminist fist at Spike,
*also a (deconstructionist) new understanding, critique, and change of the rule-making experts’ doling out of credit … which translates to money and fair treatment of individuals.