Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

A friend of mine whose blog I read linked to this article. I don't think I have ever been so appalled by someone who, initially, I would want to agree with.

I was almost willing to go along with the essayist's ideas until she started saying Joss Whedon rapes his wife. Yes, she really said that. And not just once, but several times, both in her essay, and in the comments.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Joss uses his own wife in this way," from the essay.

"I feel awful for Joss Whedon's wife. From what I've read about him and the interviews I've watched, I'm fairly certain that he rapes his wife and abuses her in various other ways." from this comment


These are the most tasteless, baseless, unnecessary statements ever put in an essay. If she was so bent on focusing on the pilot episode--something she asserts in the comments, why throw that in there? It is an ad hominem attack, even ignoring how inappropriate it is.

"What the fuck is this feminist man trying to say about women here? A black woman calling a white man ‘sir’. A white male captain who abuses and silences his female crew, with no consequences. The women are HAPPY to be abused. They enjoy it. What does this say about women, Joss? What does this say about you? Do you tell your wife to shut up? Do you threaten to duct tape her mouth? Lock her in the bedroom? Is this funny to you, Joss? Because it sure as fuck ain’t funny to me."

If I tilt my head to the right and squint a little, I can see her argument about the racist and sexist take on the Mal/Zoe/Wash thing, as well as the Kaylee thing. But just because I can see it, doesn't mean I agree with it. At no point in the series or the movie, do I get the impression Zoe would put up with an ounce of disrespect from either man, directed at her or anyone else.

I find it very disingenuous that the essayist totally glosses over the fact that the reason Zoe is "violent," and the reason she calls Mal "sir," is because she is a soldier. During the war and on Serenity, Mal is her superior. These facts have nothing to do with his maleness or her skin color.

Lastly, I found her take on Inara and the Companions thoroughly repugnant. She went past hating sex work, and straight to hating sex workers, which is really unconscionable. According to her profile, all comments to her journal which are pro-porn or pro-prostitution will be immediately deleted. Likewise, she says in a later comment, "I would argue that most 'sex' between men and women, in the contemporary 'sex-positive', pornographic, male-supremacist culture, is rape."

This kind of radicalism completely ignores the real world. Yes, there are men who rape. Yes, there are men who emotionally leech from the women around them. Yes, there are men who oppress, and hate, and restrict. But not all men do. Moreover, not all men do so out of an inherent misogyny, but because of an indoctrinated cultural setting that can be unlearned.

I don't believe this woman can conceptualize a man striving to reframe his world view.

Ironically enough, from everything I know of him, that is exactly what Joss Whedon tries to do. Whatever this woman's interpretation of the Whedonverse is, the fact is, he has written the majority of the strong female characters that have graced the small screen in the last fifteen years. This is a man who, whatever of his she may disagree with, consistently proved that a show with a female lead could have staying power. Whatever critiques someone may have about his reliance on archetypes, I never felt for a second that he didn't try to set those same archetypes on their ears.

Joss Whedon is a man who has done everything in his power to present strong, intelligent female lead characters, and to support the female characters of other creators. To call him a misogynist--not even going near the other accusations laid at his feet--is grossly innaccurate.

A phallus is not automatically a weapon. The act of sex is not automatically an act of violence. Context is everything. If you go looking for misogyny, in any and all works, you will find it. But don't go marking things as misogynist that aren't.

And for the love of all that's holy, don't go around saying someone rapes their wife because you disagree with them. That's just not okay.

9 comments:

Irene Kaoru said...

WOw, sounds like we have an emergency, Code Dworkin. Someone get her to a library, maybe she needs some new books.

Anya said...

I think the most telling part is her statement that she will delete any "pro prostitution" comments. Regardless of what I think of her analysis, this immediately makes her suspect because she posts something that is intentionally inflammatory and then censors the response. If she believes so strongly, this shouldn't bother her unless it was an outright personal attack. And not even then.

queenmother49 said...

I think this is completely ludicrous. I am a woman and can be accused of being anti-feminist. Joss Whedon is not a misogynist. He's a man and thus knows better what goes on in their heads. Rape is a very strong word and she throws it around. I also think she needs to grow a sense of humor. "Rabbit Proof Fence?" What a laugh riot! And don't even get me started on a Feminist Convention...

Correct me if I'm wrong but feminism was about equality...this woman sounds like she would happily do away with that and oppress men in return.

Bunche said...

I read that post and was greatly appalled and offended. That kind of stuff just makes me sad and also makes me wonder what engendered such hatred of all males in the writer. Thank the gods for the level-headed scribes out there, yourself most definitely included.

Kate'N'Kerry said...

These are the most tasteless, baseless, unnecessary statements ever put in an essay.

... It's also slander and libel.

Eh... Not so much said...

Ummm, Zoe was in the ARMY, or a reasonable facsimile. Under Mal's command. Hence the SIR?

And c'mon, Zoe mostly uses the sir with sarcasm anyway!

I've heard about this essay, but I haven't read it myself because I wish to remain sane.

Victoria Marinelli said...

See, when I read shit like this, I start to reach and struggle and try to articulate a specific and credible reason why, for many years, I identified as a radical feminist, and just find myself stammering helplessly.

I know there are plenty of viable reasons for that identification (which, since then, I've neither discarded nor continued to embrace, in keeping with my maddening preference for literary ambivalence over political essentialism at all costs), but when I read or hear this sort of thing? Mouth goes dry.

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