Sunday, November 10, 2013

Joss Whedon's Awful Speech on 'Feminism'


Wow. I love me some Joss Whedon...but that speech is really terrible. Just godawful.

I'm not going to waste time on it, I'm just going to point it out and move on.

But I will say: eventually, feminism is going to have to admit that not everyone who is hesitant to identify himself/herself as a feminist is a Neanderthal. A fairly large percentage of college females no longer do so. The radical vanguard of feminism makes up stories about false consciousness or whatever...but the fact is, feminism is no longer unequivocally a liberal, egalitarian movement.

It pains me--oh, God how it pains me--to paraphrase Ronald Reagan approvingly...but I didn't leave feminism, feminism left me. I'm still an egalitarian about the sexes, I still think women are significantly discriminated against in the U.S. and outright oppressed elsewhere...I still believe everything that the liberal, egalitarian feminists of my youth believed. But the academic vanguard of feminism no longer clearly believes those things. I can't whole-heartedly identify with a movement that has so significantly identified itself with the radical, illiberal left politically, and the irrationalist intellectual left,to boot. I wish that liberal feminists would stand up to the nutty wing of the movement... But, until they do, I'll continue to be an apostate, at least nominally.

But, anyway...don't quit your day job, Joss.


Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Here's what I don't quite get.

When did feminism became a thing rather than an idea?

I identify as a feminist because I've grown up female.

I've experienced all the big and little things that means, from sexual assault to crossing the street if a male is walking behind me to the lack of self-esteem that comes from never being able to achieve an impossible and unreachable ideal of feminine beauty.

Because I don't want my nieces and all the other little girls in my life to experience this, I am a feminist.

But I am positive I never signed up anywhere for this. I don't have a card to carry around like I do for the ACLU. I don't look to an individual or group of people to lead feminists.

It's just something I am.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Ugh. Yeah, basically all the sane females I know identify as feminists. I think it's a perfectly reasonable thing to do. JQ is literally the most reasonable human being I have ever met, and she identifies as a feminist, despite being very much cognizant of and opposed to the excesses of the radical fringe.

I'm not at all happy with the fact that I don't consider myself a feminist anymore. Like I said, I still have a passionate allegiance to the ideas and ideals that I think you and I would agree on...

Thing is, there is so much of the loony left--both the extreme political left and the extreme intellectual left--in contemporary academic feminism (roughly what Christina Hoff Summers calls "gender feminism") that...well, nothing repels me faster than that morass of confusions. Cultural moral relativism, cultural epistemic relativism, Foucault, Derrida, postmodernism and poststructuralism... I think it's all wrong and pernicious as hell.

I know that every movement has its nuts. In a way, I expect that and don't hold it against most movements. But when the liberal/centrist, sane, common-sense mainstream of a movement refuses to stand up to the nuts...refuses, in fact, to even acknowledge that the nuts are nutty...well, that I have a hard time abiding.

I sometimes suspect that it's because I encounter the academic radicals more often than most people do...

I dunno. To put in my $0.02 with respect to your question: I think feminism *is* a set of ideas...but it's a big agglomeration of ideas, and some of the ideas that are really prominent among a lot of influential feminists are not compatible with the liberal, egalitarian ideas that attracted me to the movement, and that most people think of when they think of feminism.

But what really burns me up is that, when people (like me) try to bring up the fact that there really is a radical fringe (actually: a radical, elite, influential academic vanguard) of the movement, they get accused of attacking a "straw feminist" or "mansplaining" (two extremely stupid terms, IMHO). Because, you see, feminism is the only perfect and unimpeachable social/political movement in the history of humanity... (insert rage sound effect here)

All the things you mention above, the "big and little" things...I couldn't be more with you on that stuff. That shit needs to end, like, yesterfuckingday. Period. It all makes my head want to explode... But, among the many things that repel me about academic/gender feminism is that an emphasis on nutty, outre quasi-philosophical, anti-liberal theories takes the emphasis off of the actual, real-world changes that have to be made.

Bah, this whole thing makes me crazy...

2:58 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

So, this is an honest question.

If there is no official "group" for feminists, and if it is a set of ideals, then why not call yourself a feminist?

I don't identify with the wackaloons, so why should you?

If there is no "official" description of what a feminist is, then why allow the radicals (the C is important there. I was initially railing against tires.) to take possession of it?

If there's no litmus test (and I'm pretty sure there isn't) then why give a shit what a minority say?

I suppose I think of feminist more like I think of geek--a term you can apply to yourself if you have certain characteristics, but you don't have to have do everything to qualify.

FREX: I'm pro-life (loaded term there, but it best fits) and call myself a feminist, but I'm sure there are people who would say that belief disqualifies me.

I don't believe it does, and I don't think anyone has the right to tick of a list of things that I am REQUIRED to believe and do before I can don the mantle of feminist.

That wandered a bit. Sorry.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, it's obvious that these are good points, of course, and I'm reflecting on them. I've got some counterpoints that have, to my mind at least, been keeping everything at a standstill for awhile in the civil war over this point in my head, but I haven't had time to type them out. Will do so soon...

8:02 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Whoa, a (in some sense) "pro-life" feminist...holy crap, man...

Ok, you definitely beat me in the feminist-at-heart-on-the-outs-with-feminism contest... Seriously.

In a way, I guess it's that the wackaloons in feminism really bother me a lot, and bother me in ways that *really* bother me. I really do think that there is a kind of academic vanguard of feminism that is deeply confused and illiberal. That's one thing. But another thing is a certain tendency that is common among what I guess we might call the middlebrow feminist commentariat to deny that the wackaloons exist. If more feminist stood up and prominently opposed the radical fringe-that-is-not-a-fringe-but-in-fact-an-influential-vanguard, I'd happily ally myself with them. But they don't...

I mean, it's not exactly wrong to say that I'm a feminist, and not exactly right to say that I am... But, hell, I'm basically a Democrat and I'm cantankerous enough to not even like identifying with the Democrats...

I dunno. Perhaps I'm just being too cantankerous about this...but when feminist intellectuals basically adopted postmodernism, poststructuralism and related nonsense as their unofficial philosophy, they basically made it very, very difficult for me to identify with the movement.

I wrestle with this question more than I probably should...

11:12 AM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Yeah, I'm a giant bundle of, "wait... what?"

It just made no sense to me to refuse to eat mammals, buy only products that are not involved in animal testing, and purchase eggs and dairy that are pasture grown/raised/whatever but then believe that a potential baby had less worth than a calf or cow etc.

Or that a convicted criminal cannot be executed by a 3 month old fetus can killed.

But, if it helps, I believe far more strongly in preventing unwanted pregnancy, including all-ages OTC availability of all forms of birth control, including "day-after" forms.

[That doesn't even get into consideration of how, in many countries, abortion rates are higher for female fetuses than male ones.]

Going back to feminism in general, it seems like the definition of feminism is--across the board--completely f'ed up. I mean, Miley Cyrus stated she's a feminist and her actions are pro-feminist, and you could just hear the collective intake of breath as Certain Women prepared to loudly rebut her, complain about her, write more "Open Letters" etc etc etc.

It seems to ME, that feminism should be about building women up. Supporting their choices, regardless of whether you agree with them or not.

If someone who claims to be a feminist isn't doing that, then perhaps they should take a good look at their version of feminism.

Oh, hey! Got all preachy there! Sorry!

7:03 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Also, I'm a Will Rogers Democrat.

Remembering that helps keep me sane. :D

7:04 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

I think you are incorrect in your categorization. "Feminist" doesn't imply "radical feminist", except for those few who are radical feminists, and those with excessive reaction against them. Joss Whedon is a classical feminist, and he doesn't yield the ground to an "academic vanguard". Again, the problem is an outgrowth of post-modernism, as for so many others...

10:53 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Yeah, I totally feel ya on the (quasi-) vegetarianism/death penalty/abortion link. I've often reflected on the fact that the principles that drive so many feminists and others on the left toward vegetarianism and anti-death-penalty stances should make them at least think twice about abortion... In fact, a pro-abortion stance is probably the least easily-defended position there (that is, of: moral vegetarianism, anti-death penalty (for e.g. murder), and pro-abortion).

Incidentally, I've long though there was real insight in the claim that "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." But I've also thought: "If men were the only ones who got pregnant, anti-abortion activism would be many feminists' #1 priority..." I say this because I really could easily imagine feminism having gone in a pro-life direction, for the very kinds of reasons that drive you there...but I also mention it because: the very kooky, anti-male radical feminists that led me to stop identifying myself as a feminist would, IMO, quickly recognize the pro-life themes latent in feminism if the tables were turned, pregnancy-wise... Those points don't really have much to do with each other, but it's an occasion to make both of them...

Anyway, the first point was that, IMHO, there's anything *wait...what..?* about your position at all. I think it's a very coherent one, and one that ought to be more common than it is...even though I tend to disagree with it...

Anyway, I just used the opportunity to say something about what made me drift away from identifying myself as a feminist: I think that the radical vanguard really does have a healthy dose of misandry in it.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Pete Mack,

Yeah, I do realize that not all feminists are radical feminists. And I try not to judge a movement by its crazies under normal conditions. However, it matters to me that the centrist feminists are very hesitant to oppose the radical vanguard...and even hesitant to acknowledge its existence. In fact, denying its existence seems to be a conscious rhetorical strategy--criticize the radicals, and many (I've read Amanda Marcotte, among others, do this) will accuse you of attacking a "straw feminist"... Surely they are not ignorant of the existence of the radical academic vanguard...right?

I should make it clear that I'm not passionately committed to not calling myself a feminist...I just don't feel the love anymore...

9:10 PM  

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