On shows created by Joss Whedon

Dealing with the F-Word

By Misty K. Hook, Ph.D.

Much has been made about whether the work of Joss Whedon is feminist. Books have been written, blogs composed, honors given, and arguments created on the premise that the ’verses of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly are feminist. All this talk about the feminism in his work is interesting, but the truly fascinating story rests with Joss himself. Some may wonder why a man would publicly proclaim himself a feminist; even in twenty-first-century America, the term “feminist” is often greeted with discomfort, even derision, and Joss describes himself not just as a feminist but as a radical feminist. All feminists believe in the equality of women, but radical feminists take it a whole lot deeper. Radical feminists believe that the cause of women’s oppression lies deep in the entire gendered system (Tong). Thus, being a radical feminist means believing that fundamental changes to that system are necessary in order to bring equality (Steinem). Consequently, feminists tend to work within the existing system while radical feminists question the foundation of society itself.

Joss has located himself squarely within that paradigm. This is quite unusual. It’s understandable that some women would hold radical views, but a man? What causes a white, heterosexual male, who it is hard to imagine has suffered the kind of discrimination that would make him sympathetic to radical feminism’s cause, to think and behave so far outside of the box?

To answer such a question, you have to think about gender. In our culture, certain traits tend to be considered either  …

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