Comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted earlier this month:
The "male feminist ally turns out to be a creeper/harasser" is the "family values politician turns out to be gay" for millenials.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) August 7, 2016
He probably had no idea he was prophesying the downfall of fellow nerd icon Joss Whedon, which would come less than two weeks later.
Whedon, who created hit television shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” and wrote and directed Disney’s smash hit “The Avengers,” has been raked over the coals this week after his ex-wife, Kai Cole, accused him of being a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals.”
In an op-ed published Sunday by The Wrap, Cole described Whedon, whom she married in 1995 and divorced last year, as a liar and serial adulterer who spent years “poisoning” and “[c]hipping away” at her mental health with his disloyalty and deceit, all while presenting himself as a poster boy of the male-feminist alliance.
Whedon’s feminism, and his leftist political beliefs in general, are well known. He has publicly expressed concern that the U.S. government will massacre gay people, compared America to tsarist Russia, put together a celebrity-filled ad for Hillary Clinton, and made a short film imagining the horrors of a world without Planned Parenthood.
A spokesperson for Whedon provided a statement claiming Cole’s op-ed contains “inaccuracies and misrepresentations,” but that “out of concern for his children and out of respect for his ex-wife” Whedon has declined to issue a more detailed rebuttal.
I’m sad to see Cole’s suffering at the hands of a man who, despite our political differences, I respected as a writer and showrunner. But what interests me most is the response to these new revelations.
In their article covering Cole’s op-ed, the Huffington Post included a slew of tweets from feminists expressing a total lack of surprise. “[E]very man I’ve met who is a loud and proud feminist tends to be trash,” one Twitter user wrote.
This sentiment isn’t unique to the response to this news story either. Two years ago, the feminist blog Feministing published a comic mocking six different kinds of male feminist “allies” for crimes ranging from “mansplaining” to virtue signaling in an attempt to get laid.
So why all this mockery of men trying to join the feminist movement?
In 2014, Emma Watson went before the United Nations to tell men around the world that “gender equality is your issue too,” arguing that inequality harms both men and women. It was a persuasive speech, and it first kindled my interest in feminism.
Three years later, though, I find myself disillusioned.
One article I came across advising men on “how to be a great male ally” warned budding male feminists that they can expect to “hear things from women that seem hurtful, angry, or targeted towards all men” but that this “is not the case.” The author encourages men not to be upset by statements like “men are garbage” (which it’s apparently okay for women to say because they’re oppressed), but to “dig deeper and try to unlearn any unhealthy patterns or responses.”
According to such feminist ideas, a man’s opinions on gender issues don’t deserve respect because they’re wrong and they aren’t really his in the first place — they’ve been hardwired into him by the patriarchy. If he feels insulted, it’s not because a female feminist said something mean to him; it’s because his male ego is too fragile and he needs to examine himself for unconscious patriarchal biases. Any attempt he might make to defend himself is “mansplaining.”
Whedon, who tried to get himself off the hook by blaming his lies and affairs on the contradictory pressures society places on men, is a perfect example of the loss of moral and rational agency men can experience in the feminist movement. No wonder so many feminists find themselves disappointed by their male allies.
Examining oneself for unconscious biases and trying to fix them is an important and necessary activity. In the feminist movement, however, a man risks being treated not as a rational being, but as the product of the socio-cultural influences of the patriarchy, a robot to be reprogrammed.