Joss Whedon has had no shortage of opinions on the topic of feminism or strong female characters in the past, but his latest speech at an Equality Now event took things one step further. In a speech on equality this week, the “Buffy” creator proposed abandoning the word feminist altogether, and took a shot at pop star Katy Perry while he was at it.
“I hate 'feminist.' Is that a good time to bring that up? Is this the right forum to bring that up?,” Whedon began in the speech on Monday night. Whedon’s issue with the word feminist, he said, wasn’t that he dislikes feminists themselves – “That would be weird,” he remarked – but rather, that the suffix “–ist” implies something contradictory.
Whedon went on to talk break apart the word into its core components and humorously analyze its mellifluousness. “’-Ist,’ I hate it. Hate it,” he said. “Fail on ‘-ist.’ It’s just this little, dark, black little… It’s Germanic, but not in the romantic way. It’s just this terrible ending, this wonderful beginning. It’s just, tonally, like watching a time-lapse video of a fresh bread being put into the oven and burnt.”
Whedon said he’s analyzed the word over and over because his issues with it bother him so much. But what it all comes down to is the word’s implication that it’s something you have to be converted into “because you can’t be born an -ist.”
“It’s not natural. You can’t be born a Baptist, you have to be baptized. You can’t be born an atheist, or a Communist, or a horticulturalist. You have to have these things brought to you,” Whedon said. “Feminist includes the idea that believing men and women to be equal… is not a natural state; that we don’t emerge assuming that everybody in the human race is a human.”
It’s a revelation that was partly inspired by Katy Perry. But that should not necessarily be taken as a compliment. “The great Katy Perry once said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘I’m not a feminist, but I like it when women are strong.’ That’s lovely, Katy. Don’t know why she feels the need to say the first part. But listening to the word and thinking about it, I do understand.”
The problem, as Whedon sees it, is that the word feminist doesn’t draw a clear enough line in the sand and it’s something not enough people “get.” That’s why he proposes a new word: “genderist,” because like “racist,” it delineates a shameful part of history that is now behind us.
Katy Perry has yet to share her thoughts on the matter.
You can watch the full video of Whedon’s speech below.