I have never watched Buffy

Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t at some indefinite time in the future. The only reason for not having watched it thus far is that it came out at the same time I was edging into my thirties and felt the need to distance myself from my own teen angst. The reason I bring this up is to establish that I’m no Joss Whedon hater, I loved Firefly, but there has yet to be a compelling reason to launch into binge watching another show. (Have you seen my To-Be-Watched list on My Anime List? NO? It’s secret!)

Anyway, scrolling through Twitter I came across a thread describing the early Wonder Woman script that Whedon wrote. Another disclaimer, I have not see the new Wonder Woman movie yet either (next week) but I have heard good things from friends. Yet these excerpts that were posted describe a Wonder Woman that could have been vastly different from what was eventually made.

The whole thread is worth a read. I had no idea–or, more likely, don’t remember– that there had been a huge backlash against Whedon a while back. Perhaps I brushed against this while reading something on Jezebel, or skimming through my news feeds, but apparently this was something I’d missed.

The whole thread is worth a read. Seriously, I’ll be right here when you get back.

But the reason I’m posting this isn’t to rehash an argument that I was never part of, but to highlight a paragraph from a post that was linked in the above thread. The post is from laureljupiter.tumblr.com and is two years old, yet I absolutely had to highlight the following paragraph. The context is discussing Wash from Firefly in relation to the rest of the Whedonverse:

A big outlier here is Wash, from Firefly and Serenity, who almost fit the pattern, but not quite, and that “not quite” was enough of a problem that, like the similar character Oz, he had to be written out of the story.  Alan Tudyk had the same general physical resemblance to Joss and the same dress sense as Andrew, Topher, and Billy Horrible.  His dinosaur theater sessions looked and sounded like the action figure games the Trio played, and the blurb for Joss’s media company, Mutant Enemy.   But unlike all the other nerdy blond men of the Whedonverse, Wash was in a equal and loving relationship with the strong soldier woman he adored.  Other characters in the series were preoccupied with the traditional gender role imbalance in Wash and Zoe’s marriage and questioned whether Wash felt emasculated by his wife being stronger than he was, but both Wash and Zoe were completely above and untouched by it.  She was a warrior woman and she was married to a dorky guy who told stories and who wasn’t the most physically powerful man on her crew.  She could have broken him in half with her pinky and they loved and respected each other and had a happy, healthy marriage. This was, somehow, too much for Joss to handle, and so Wash had to die.

Not only is this a great observation, but it’s gets at the reason why “War Stories” will always be my favorite Firefly episode.

 

Not All Women

Another post, another disclaimer. I am an atheist and have been all my life. I come away from this week’s readings troubled with how I can explain my distrust of indoctrinating children into religion without being disrespectful of an adult’s choice in their personal faith. In many ways Gyasi’s “Inscape” spoke to me, trying to make sense of my own connection to the universe without the tether of faith. That faith and religion are two separate things is something we forget. I believe, if you’ll forgive me the use of that word, that when religion is done right it is a process of writing that “Future Testament,” the story of the role of god in your life. Too often that story is written for us, in books and sermons and that predetermination is where I have to leave religion behind. Yet, I also have to explain that my distrust stems from the fact that it adds one more layer of patriarchy into which women have to navigate. A patriarchal organization will, by its very nature, have to make women subordinate. The flowchart of oppression:

  • Born into patriarchal religion – one layer of oppression
  • Born into patriarchal society – second layer of oppression
  • Born into colonized patriarchal society – third layer of oppression
  • Born into colonized and globally exploited patriarchal society – fourth layer of oppression

This layering effect renders the borders between these places nearly invisible. How does one speak against so terrible an edifice?

I’m glad I read Spivak first. She outlines this “wall” of separation between those who have no voice and those have the education and leisure time (not as vacation time, but the freedom from subsistence toil or constant exploitation to think abstractly)—direct beneficiaries of the legacy of imperialism—to supplement those without a voice. I liken her critique of Foucault and Deleuze as two men sitting by a window discussing the weather, never once acknowledging that they are inside. Derrida at least accuses them of ignoring the window, but he is inside as well. As is Spivak, as am I. We cannot speak for those out in the snow, yet only recently have we opened that window to listen.

But do they speak at all? Ahmed’s “Discourse of the Veil” highlights the danger of others speaking for us. By arguing over the forced veiling and unveiling of women in Egypt, the women never seem to be consulted as to their choice. It is a small example of how easy it is for an imperialistic power to subsume another—move one notion of patriarchy alongside another, swap out a few details, and instant colony. Sure there will be some rough patches, but once you “other” and therefore feminize the indigenous population, they will be too busy to regain their “masculinity” (read: power) that the continued subjugation of women (a quadruple oppression) will be merely a stepping stone on the way up.

Women’s bodies are the battlegrounds upon which men fight their wars.

And by saying “women” do I mean all women? Are veiled women silenced? Do they not have a choice in their veiling and unveiling? I cannot and will never try to speak for them. The veil is not representative of oppression if it is put on by choice. And as much as I want to, in some sense desperately need to define what choice actually is, I would fall short, for even though I am a woman, I am a small example of a large, disparate group of individuals who have to define themselves. The leisure and awareness to have that ability is probably the best definition I can offer for the word choice. In the absence of leisure and awareness, is there a choice?

And this is why I come back to religion, a convenient foundation upon which to build empires, colonies, and globally exploitative economies. The patriarchy is built in at the family level and arranging the patrons at the top does little to affect those at the bottom. White Western women are all too comfortable explaining another’s subjugation to them, never acknowledging that this act, in itself, is their own internalized sexism. We become easy foot soldiers in patriarchal oppression.

Just as the Orient was created to define the Occident, so to is the notion of “women” created to solidify the definition of “men.” We are back to Saussure’s definition by difference, we know what we are by what we are not. We are free women because we do not wear the veil. We are free women because we do wear the veil. The veil is a useful avatar for the fact that we, women, do not truly hold the power to fully define ourselves. We see our own freedom in the oppression of others, turning a blind eye to the economic engines that give us this view, but only seeing the visual signs of difference between East and West. The discourse between women—if we are to be grouped, so be it, we should speak internally then—must first be a discourse that recognizes our differences are vast and that each of our experiences are valid. We must recognize that improving the conditions of some women means listening to what they need, instead of insisting on some symbolic gesture of emancipation. We must deconstruct the patriarchies we are all born into before we insist that wearing the veil should be replaced with wearing makeup and heels. We must work first to improve the systems in which we already exist in order to give space—leisure time, as it were—for each woman to compose her own Future Testament and define herself as a human being.