Two Problems, One Connection
In reading parts and pieces of Racefail 2009/the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate, I read something that resonated not only in the context of Racefail or in discussions surrounding racism. (…and here’s where I freely admit that I didn’t read everything, or even the majority of things. I read a lot of recaps because frankly there’s only so much I can read of original stupid without being so outraged that I have to reply in ways that it turned out someone else did in a far better way about a week and a hundred comments ago, and the discussion has long since moved from that point.) Which is not to say that it isn’t a very important point in the issue of racism:
Don’t expect gratitude if you’ve thrown a few bones, if you’ve been slightly less horrible than others. Don’t expect to be called a friend or an ally when that’s all you’ve done, and you still do problematic stuff.
Because I massively I can’t find where I read that statement, which I’m paraphrasing. I feel like it may have been said by Avalon’s Willow, but my poking around is not turning anything up. If you know where the concept came up, please let me know so I can give credit where it’s due. Racefail–or rather, this latest outbreak of racefail–has (probably in a very necessary way) exposed the real issues lurking under the veneer of the allegedly progressive SFF community. It’s vastly important, and I urge readers to look at the link above or the ones linked by myself and Chally in my post from 21 January.
Without negating the huge issue above, though, I found ‘don’t expect me to be grateful when you throw me crumbs’ to be relevant when I found myself face to face, once again, with The Whedon Issue. If you’re in Anglocentric fandom, chances are pretty good you know that Joss Whedon has a new series, Dollhouse. Lots of different talk about it has ensued, either massive yays or deeply felt nays about the concept–pretty people who can become whatever the client wants, then have their minds wiped again for the next go, issues of human trafficking, prostitution, etc. After the preview recently at New York Comic-Con, the flurry of discussion increased…
And I just got, frankly, fed up. While I’m not about to condemn Whedon as a treacherous patriarchal bastard, I continue to refuse to call him a feminist hero…just because he throws the feminist pop culture/fandom geek a few bones of empowerment does not mean I have to bow and scrape and acknowledge alleged greatness. He’s done a lot of stuff I don’t appreciate, both towards women and towards minorities. In Firefly, everyone speaks Mandarin as a second language, but where the fuck are all the Asian people? First healthy lesbian relationship in primetime, great, but where are the gay guys? (It’s not like Tony Head wouldn’t snog a bloke.) How many times do the most powerful women have to be deranged or stone bitches?
And that’s not even getting into the Frank Miller Test, which I have mentioned before and probably will again. My feelings about sex work are complicated, but I really have problems with the heart of gold vs. traitor dichotomy regarding sex workers in fiction.
Or the massive problem of removing the issue of slavery from a thought experiment about the Civil War. Or old tropes about relationships. Et cetera.
I will admit here that I do enjoy a good deal of problematic telly and fiction and comics and films. I enjoy stuff of Whedon’s creation. But I’m not going to insist you all acknowledge the feminist nature therein because the creators said they were feminists. It’s like me trying to tell you that because Heinlein loved strong women meant that he was a feminist who wrote feminist works. And I’m not going to laud Whedon as a feminist icon or agree with him that he’s a feminist just because he says he is.
But at the same time, I highly doubt he’s a massive tool of the patriarchy. He’s just another flawed ally, in my book.
I’ll be watching, Friday. I might even enjoy it. But I’m not going to applaud. I hope that’s okay with you.
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Tags: grinding my axe, i like to watch, race is a four letter word, what's on telly, women on screen