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the woman question again

recently, i shared a joss whedon video on strong women characters in the film, the avengers. whedon is the director & writer for the avengers, and writer for buffy the vampire, toy story, cabin in the woods. i was impressed by whedons’ one man dialogue/monologue on the question “why do you write strong women characters?” he’s like the intellectual comedian, role-playing both the interviewer and interviewee. as interviewee, his 1st answer to the question “why strong women characters?” is that he was surrounded by women like his mother who was smart, intelligent, funny, sexy and now his wife. his 2nd answer was that both his father and step father prized women and felt that recognizing someone else’s power didn’t diminish your own. so, whedon feels that strong women characters give both men and women strength.

at question no.50 in the imagined interview, the interviewer still asks: “so…why do you write strong women characters?” whedon turns the question to the interviewer and asks irritatingly, “why don’t you ask the 100 other guys why they aren’t writing strong women characters?’ here it this video:

recently, i came upon another whedon video. in this, he broaches the ‘feminism’ question and the need to change public discourse of feminism. he has angst with the word ‘feminist’. he doesn’t like the word ‘feminist’. he especially doesn’t like the ‘-ist in the word, and compares it the word ‘racist’ which is something negative and old, but mostly as something which didn’t eradicate racism, but which merely contextualized it. he sees ‘racist’ and ‘feminist’ as being on the wrong side of betterment for those in question. whedon offers ‘genderist’ instead of ‘feminist’. here is that video:

the question that whedon brings up is not new for me nor for others; i.e. others who aren’t men. some women in india who write on women’s issues and rights, for ex, refuse the label ‘feminist’, because it conjures up all kinds of images they reject. images which aren’t their reality. short, cropped hair does not cut it for some indian women who like to wear their long, thick, abundant hair with pride. some women don’t get masculine dressing or masculine behaviors [like doing what men do] just to prove the opposite point. to what end do women prove they are equal or better than men if they have to imitate men and outdo them? that is only making it worse and stigmatizing feminism even more for such women or men. what whedon is suggesting seems more do-able and workable for women who don’t wish to be labeled as feminists, but who believe women are intelligent, witty, creative and beautiful, all in one package. why can’t women wear long hair, dress prettily and stylishly and still be equal? why must being on the ‘right’ side of the woman question be type-ified? why must women put themselves in a category or even belong to a category? why can’t we choose to be pro women and not ‘belong’ to any community of universalized feminism? why do we name and feel we belong to that ‘named’ club? is it a sorority of sisters, elitist and exclusionary if you don’t have the right requirements?

shouldn’t equality or support for women’s issues be something we carry inside because we believe it to be so naturally and not visible to the world? if we have hope, do we need to tattoo the word on our bodies so others see we have hope? why do we have to always prove that we/they exist by the visual?

whedon seeks equality for women in writing strong female characters. he cannot change the world, but he can certainly punch it up a little. and as he quite rightly says, ‘equality is like gravity. we need it to stand on the earth.


equality is not a concept and misogyny in every culture is an imbalance sucking the soul out of every man and woman confronted with this question.

trying to outdo a man at something he does isn’t going to make a woman anything but competitive, if that’s how she chooses to be. but, doing something for women and girls, whether writing or making films or speaking for them because they have no voice or clout in society, or simply distributing literature, clothes, educating women and girls like malala yousefzi is what feminism should rather embody.

so…no matter how we wear our hair or clothes, or what ‘club’ we belong to, we need to ‘live’ equality and not talk about it in public discourse ad infinitum. and we need it kinda now.



  1. rhettlowe says:

    After completing two semester-long college courses on women’s and gender issues, I still cannot give a single, definitive definition of the word “feminist.” I like your point about the “exclusionary club” of western feminist thought. When a man declares that he is a feminist, it somehow just doesn’t sound right; like he’s trying too hard. When a woman declares that she is NOT a feminist, she calls down the wrath of her sisters. Why do we need a loaded term to advertise that we believe in advancing women’s rights? I don’t have a special word for not being a racist, why do I need a special word for not being sexist? If we must use this silly “-ist” construction, then perhaps all of us who believe in the innate equality of all people, should just call ourselves humanists.
    Or maybe just “decent people.”
    The crosscultural failure of western feminism is another excellent point you make. For a woman outside the Occident, “feminist” can indeed call to mind images from the 1960s of American bra-burning pseudorevolutionaries. A Muslim woman who freely choses to take the hijab should not be branded as “oppressed,” a point often lost in the important discussion about the rights of women in Islamic societies. It is important to recognize that there is not just one from of “feminism” but many, differing from culture to culture, faith to faith. Our challenge is to empower these diverse women to make their own decisions without proselytizing for our own American/European conceptions of women’s rights.

    Pardonnez-moi, s’il vous plait, pour les commentaires si longues! ; )

    • Au contraire, excellentes observations!

    • Besides, for a melting pot to “taste” good, we must put in many ingredients. Like masala! Otherwise how bland life might be.

      • rhettlowe says:

        Haha, yes! That is the joy of living in a “melting pot” society.
        Speaking only for myself, I can say that this caucasian has always preferred the excitement and spice of masala to the ubiquitous blandness of white bread ; )

      • Over the last many years white bread has been deemed unhealthy and we’ve moved twds ‘wheat’ and other derivatives of grain bread. Hmmm. But alas! A lot of folks will eat masala and savour it at rest, but go home and the spiciness ends. And bland reigns again. Tsk tsk!

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