At the beginning of May, Joss Whedon left Twitter, amidst a flurry of messages criticising his decisions regarding the portrayal of Black Widow in the Age of Ultron. He very quickly dismissed rumors that he let because of "militant feminists" (“That is horseshit,” he told BuzzFeed News), but what about the concerns that were being voiced in the first place? While Whedon has occasionally contradicted the assertion that he and his work are feminist, his fans have been critical for years. And their concerns are absolutely valid.
He basically fired Charisma Carpenter for getting pregnant
When Cordelia went into a coma on Angel, it wasn't clear what was going on. Fans felt like it was a disservice to the character, and that the plot no longer made any sense. After many years, actress Charisma Carpenter has finally offered some insight as to what was going on behind the scenes. She refers to tension between Whedon and herself, and refers to her pregnancy in a way that strongly suggests that was a deciding factor for her character's sudden write-off. She also reveals that she was never told she would not be returning in season 5, and that she found out when a reporter reached out for a comment. So much for treating women with respect.
He created an entire culture based on Chinese culture and didn't include any Asian actors
If you haven't read it yet go check out Flavia Dzodan's brilliant article My Feminism Will Be Intersectional or it Will be Bullshit.
For those who need a recap, there is an ongoing movement within the feminist community to actively include women of color, transwomen, and other peopke that have historically been excluded from the movement. Which means that just because something is progressive for one group of women, if it comes at the expense of another group of women, the work is not upholding all the values of feminism. So while in some respects Firefly and Serenity provided representation for some women (Zoe Washburn's character was powerful and amazing), the lack of inckusion of Asian characters shows a lack of consideration for all women.
Recrntly, a fan asked about this oversight, wondering if it would have been corrected had the show been renewed for a second season. Whedon's response was less than impressive.
"It was clear that the notion of cultural integration was more important than the practice. That the grand vision of a mixed Asian/American tomorrow was more important than the inclusion of Asian faces and voices today."
He brought "prima nocta" and "mewling quim" back into our lexicon
Ew. For those who aren't fluent in Latin douchebag (or who havent seen Braveheart), prima nocta is the most likely fictionl Medieval custom where the lord was allowed to demand the "first night" or virginity of the bride of his vassals. So in Age of Ultron, when Tony Stark informs the team that when he picks up Thor's hammer and rules Asguard that he'll be reinstating the tradition, he's making very antiquated rape joke. I guess that's why the hammer thought he wasn't worthy?
Mewling quim is another word we really didn't need to hear ever again. One can only assume it made it past the MPAA because the ratings board didn't know that Loki was calling Natasha whiny cunt. For a villain who in the comics at least, is able to shpeshift into a cis woman, gendered insults seem completely out of character, in addition to being totally gross and unnecessary.
He decided we don't need the word feminist anymore
Because he should definitely be an authority on making that decision. In a recent speech, he denounced the word feminist (not because it's been used by TERFs or anything), but because the word doesn't sound very attractive to him.
"People are confronted by the word ‘feminist’ and it stops them, they think they have to deal with that. But I think we’re done with that as intelligent human beings."
So if we're smart, we're supposed to use the word 'genderist' instead, because gender-based discrimination is in the past and our language should reflect that? Except it's not in the past. Unless you're a wealthy, heterosexual cisgendered white man. Then it's probably not a daily concern.
My problem isn't with Whedon personally. He has done some great work, and while he doesn't have a perfect track record, his films aren't coated in layers of misogyny and gendered exploitation. The issue is that Whedon is one of the most prominent directors working in Hollywood right now and as such he has been the face of feminist directing there. Meanwhile, female directors are barely given the chance to show their work at all. The fact that Whedon is the most prominent face of feminism in Hollywood, it's a sign that there's a huge problem in the industry.