You Are Humorless and Oversensitive

[Content Note: Cissexism; transmisogyny.]

Yesterday, Joss Whedon, he of the urge to rebrand feminism for us, was asked for advice on writing strong female leads in a comic. To which he replied:

screen cap of tweet authored by Joss Whedon reading: 'Must value #strength but also #community & not have peeny/balls'

Some people quite understandably rejected his cissexist definition of womanhood as lacking "peeny/balls." Eastsidekate has an amazing response here: "An Open Venn Diagram to Joss Whedon." And Aoife has an excellent response here: "Comic Book Anatomies: A Brief Response to Whedon on Real Women."

Whedon's response?

screen cap of tweet authored by Whedon reading: 'Anybody who thinks my actual opinion on ANY subject involves the word 'peeny' is free to unfollow me. No really I insist.'

I'm not sure, exactly, what we're meant to take from that. That if a cis person uses a silly euphemism for genitals, then they can't possibly be engaging in cissexism? Because: Nope.

If Whedon really meant just to imply that a strong female character has to be female, he could have said that. Just like he said in the same tweet that a strong female character has to be strong. But he did not say that. He said that she should not have a penis and testicles. That is not the same thing as saying she should be a woman.

And instead of just acknowledging that, he went on the offensive by telling anyone who takes that shit seriously to unfollow him. "No really I insist."

Welp. I'd be happy to, if I were following him in the first place.

Whedon evidently believes that it should be obvious to anyone that he was not being serious, that it was a joke, but where's the punchline? Specifically: Where is the punchline for trans*, intersex, and other women with "peeny/balls"? What's the humor for them in the suggestion that they are not women? What's the humor for men who don't have "peeny/balls"? This is a joke, such as it is, for people who are transphobic.

Perhaps Whedon imagines that it should have been apparent he was being sarcastic—but a cis man engaging in that sort of sarcasm can look indistinguishable from actual bigotry to someone targeted by it.

And, you know, even when a marginalized person does recognize an ostensible ally is engaging in that sort of sarcasm/satire, sometimes it's just not funny when you're routinely targeted by shit that sounds/looks exactly like it. There are lots of times I know a dude is being "ironic" about misogyny, but why is it supposed to be funny or interesting or trenchant to me? It just looks to me like he doesn't understand that I hear/see that shit for real every day of my life.

Why does Whedon think that people who are marginalized by this kind of rhetoric should be obliged to indulge his right to be flippant at their expense?

Perhaps he should consider if it's not that his critics are being too sensitive, but that he has failed to be sensitive enough.

And then maybe he can offer a meaningful apology, instead of resorting to the rankest of silencing tropes by implying that people who are harmed by this kind of language are just humorless and oversensitive.

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