So Glad Our Oppression Amuses You, Sir

[Content Note: Misogyny; references to misogynist violence; othering; racism; disablist language.]

Joss Whedon is widely considered a Great Feminist Ally, because he puts ladies in his television and film projects. And because he talks about feminism.

And, because he is a straight white cis dude, with lots of visibility and influence, he gets asked to talk about feminism a lot.

Since no one is a better spokesperson for feminism, no one's voice more important, than super privileged dudes.

In an interview with Vulture published yesterday, Whedon was asked about men's role in feminism and what surprises him about gendered attacks online:
How would you advise men in the world who are shy about saying they're into feminism? What do you think is the best way to support the cause?
Well, they need money, they need volunteers. Action is the best way to say anything. A guy who goes around saying "I'm a feminist" usually has an agenda that is not feminist. A guy who behaves like one, who actually becomes involved in the movement, generally speaking, you can trust that. And it doesn't just apply to the action that is activist. It applies to the way they treat the women they work with and they live with and they see on the street.

Especially since you participate in the online realm, where things can get a little hateful, what for you is the most surprising thing about how people attack each other because of sex or gender?
You know, it's one of those things that's always surprising. I was raised by a very strong woman, I didn't know feminism was actually a thing until I left home and found out the country didn't run the way my mom's house did. So I have this goldfish, idiot, forgetful thing in that every time I'm confronted with true misogyny, I'm stunned. I'm like, Really? That's like, I don't believe in airplanes. It's like, What century are you from? I don't get it. So usually I'm shocked, then occasionally amused, then occasionally extremely not amused, but once I get over the shock, it's very clear that misogyny in our own culture — and not just where they perform genital [cutting] and marry off 10-year-olds — runs so deep. When I see this hate bubbling up towards any kind of progress, my reaction is twofold: First, it's horror, and then, it's delight, because you don't get this kind of anger unless real change is actually happening. It is a chaotic time. It's an ugly time because change is happening. It would be lovely to be living after the change has happened.

Okay, there is a lot to unpack here—and I will leave it to you to unpack all of it in comments!—but three quick thoughts:

1. Yes, it is true that a man who talks a good talk is usually not the best feminist ally! Also: A man who doesn't push back on the fact that there is a singular feminist "cause" (and, in fact, reiterates the idea by referencing a singular "movement") is also generally not the best feminist ally, given that he is casually ignoring the reality that feminism is a vast and varied spectrum of activism, with deeply entrenched privilege, and it's actually not the most helpful thing, generally speaking, to throw money at the most visible organizations, which tends to perpetuate power imbalances rooted in privilege.

2. Setting up a dichotomy between misogyny and "true misogyny," thus implying there are a lot of feminist hysterics who get their panties all in a bunch about stuff that isn't "true misogyny" (as determined by being filtered through Objective Men's Validity Prisms, I presume) is bullshit. And, for the love of Maude, stop using women and girls who are subjected to heinous acts of violence outside this country as props in male-centered games of Just How Bad Is Misogyny, Really?

Just because Whedon is using more sophisticated language here doesn't mean that he's still not basically saying: "Misogyny exists here, too, and happens to White Ladies born right in the good ol' USA, not just in those other places where swarthy men with cuckoo religions hurt their dark-skinned women in ways of which we Civilized Gentlemen would never dream!" This is gross and unhelpful.

3. FUCK YOUR AMUSEMENT AT OUR OPPRESSION, SIR. No one, and I mean no one, who expresses that he's "amused" or "delighted" by evidence of harm done to women, for any reason, is my fucking ally. For that matter, no one who thinks it's cool to talk about how "shocking" it is, without any seeming awareness of how shock at oppression is a manifestation of privilege, is my fucking ally.

And neither is anyone who ignorantly disgorges some variation on "that just means you're doing something right" in response to women being routinely harassed, stalked, threatened, and abused by legions of hateful shitlords. Did Whedon stop for a moment to consider what it sounds like to a feminist activist, or any woman, who's the target of the misogyny he finds so shocking, amusing, and/or horrifying, to hear he's delighted that evidence of our harm is an indication (to him) that things are changing?

Because what it sounds like to me the aggressively flippant cruelty of a man who has not considered that evidence of improvement is not measured in more intensely vile misogyny, but less.

Things aren't getting better for me, Joss Whedon, when petulant privileged patriarchs take out their rageful fear on me.

"It would be lovely to be living after the change has happened," says Whedon. I bet! I can't even imagine how lovely it would be for someone who is not targeted by misogynist oppression and harm to be living after "the change."

It will probably be much better than the billions of lives women have lived and are living, from the day of our births/transitions to the day that we die, being treated as less than in every conceivable way, who don't have the goddamned luxury to be "shocked" by misogyny and who sure as shit don't find it a "delightful" indicator that things are definitely getting better!

My contempt for this shit cannot be measured on a scale fathomable by human intellect.

If you really want to be an effective ally, Joss Whedon, here's a suggested response for the next time you get asked what "the most surprising thing about how people attack each other because of sex or gender" is: The number of "good men" who still express surprise about it at all.

[Related Reading: You Are Humorless and Oversensitive.]

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