Living among the Enemy

Laurie and Debbie say:

This article by Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly) connects up in our minds with this post by Kate Harding at Shapely Prose.

We think it’s unfortunate that Whedon starts in another culture. By doing so, he reinforces the easy response of “this isn’t really about me and the people I know.” He more or less redeems himself, however, by transitioning from the Middle East to contemporary American movies:

A few of you may know that I took public exception to the billboard campaign for [the film Captivity], which showed a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman. Pretty much all you learn [in the trailer] is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is “I’m sorry”.

“I’m sorry.”

The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s the meat of Whedon’s point:

Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional.

Whedon is especially correct when he says “The logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.” On some level, every woman knows this. We know that when we’re out walking around in the world, passing men on the street, sitting next to them on the bus, the odds are disturbingly high that we’re walking by, rubbing shoulders with, making change for wife abusers, men who refuse to promote women, child molesters, internet misogynists like the ones quoted below, or rapists. What’s worse, we all know that some of the men we know–sometimes some of the men we get along with–fall into these categories. (Not all men. Maybe not even 50% of men. Maybe. But even if it’s as low a number as 25% of men, do you encounter more than four men a day? We certainly do.)

This doesn’t bear thinking about. If we really consciously remember this in our daily lives, we can’t walk in the world at all. It’s not about walking in the world “without fear.” Nobody walks in the world without fear, and the more ways a person is marginalized, the deeper that fear cuts. It’s about getting out of your house at all. It’s about giving directions to a stranger on the street, or having a drink with your colleagues after work, without drowning in a cocktail of fury, fear, distrust, and resentment. Nobody wants to have to look at the world this way. That’s why we all wear our hide-the-woman-haters glasses.

This is where Kate Harding’s post comes in. She’s following a thread about rape and rape jokes at Shakesville, and she has the courage to re-quote not one, not two, but twenty-two vile comments from (presumably) men. We’ll just give you two representative ones (not the nastiest):

“You’re a liar. You made up that story to further your feminist agenda. But if, by chance, you aren’t lying then at least there was a time in your pathetic life when you fulfilled the only purpose!”

“i hope you get aids while being raped by a homeless man in the alleyways of new york. you cunt. then again if any man would want to rape your gigantic ass, i’d be shocked.”

We would love to be able to say that these are beyond the pale, insupportable comments. In fact, they’re representative of thousands, if not tens of thousands, like them. Every woman in a public role has seen them, heard them, gotten them in email (email and blogs make this kind of communication easier, but it’s been around for a long, long time). There’s no way to know if these particular commenters are also the men we wish we weren’t meeting on the street, but they could be. They like to sound like they want to be. And they hate women in exactly the deep, basic, cultural way Joss Whedon is discussing. They’ll go see Captivity in large numbers, and they will understand in their guts why the actress says, “I’m sorry.”

They think we should be sorry, and a lot of them are willing to make us sorry.

Don’t like it? Neither do we. But it’s true.

BetNoir was first with the Whedon link.

women, misogyny, safety, sexism, Joss Whedon, feminism, gender, trolls, Body Impolitic