Why I’m Not Sure About Joss Whedon’s Recent Speech

I love Joss Whedon. I think women are human beings who should be treated equally. Therefore, this video of Joss Whedon’s recent speech at Make Equality Reality is relevant to my interests:

For the most part, I like this video. I find Whedon funny and entertaining, so I find this speech funny and entertaining. His self-deprecating humor is right up my alley and his obsession with words appeals to the English teacher/reader nerd inside of me. But while I think his other speech at the same event from 2006 is near perfection, I had a couple of issues with this one.

First, I get the point he’s making about the “racism” the word contextualizing the conversation about race, but for most of the video it seems like he’s saying racism is a problem we have moved past. While I think the end of the speech makes it clear that this wasn’t his intent, it is problematic to me. In an effort to put my money where my mouth is and check my own privilege, I have started reading African American blogs and one of the issues I see consistently addressed is that women of color are being marginalized within the feminist community. People to try to separate the issues of race and gender, which leaves women of color underrepresented and the unique issues they face unaddressed.

Again, I love Whedon and I would be more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this, especially considering the last minute or so of the speech where he talks about continually fighting this fight, except he has a history of diversity issues in his projects. While Buffy and Angel and Firefly and even The Avengers included excellent and diverse roles for women (and in part LGBT people as well), there is a serious lack of people of color. This becomes especially clear when you look at Much Ado About Nothing, a movie that was admittedly Whedon and a bunch of his friends hanging out and having fun – if these are his friends, he doesn’t exactly have a whole lot of racial diversity in his life. All this together, plus the speech, gives the impression that racism is a problem that has mostly been solved, so let’s focus on ending genderism (to use his new word). Again, I’m hoping that’s not what he intended, but that impression is still there.

Another thing that kind of irks me about the speech is that as good as it is and as much as I love Whedon, it’s strange that the only two speeches I’ve seen shared extensively from Make Equality Reality feature the same white man. I’m glad that Whedon writes women as people and views women as people and advocates for women as people, but it seems like we’re pointing to him and saying, “See! He agrees with us! We’re people! Do you believe us now?” It’s almost as if a man saying it makes the statement more valid.

It reminds of when a friend of mine in college pointed out the oddity of women being “given” the right to vote by the men in power in our government. The language implies that rights are something bestowed on others by the people already in power, rather than something that actually exists and is being violated when it goes unacknowledged (that sentence is poorly worded, but I’m hoping my point gets across anyway). It just seems a bit incongruous to send the message of women as people by pointing to speeches given by men.

All this to say, it’s still a good speech. It’s still a message that needs to be spread, regardless of who is behind the microphone. I still (and will probably always) love Joss Whedon. I just noticed some things that I didn’t want to leave unsaid.

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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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