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What Joss Whedon’s Hypocrisy Tells Us About Fake Feminist Allies

By Shruti Sunderraman

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons CC2.0

There is no self-respecting Firefly fan who is not emotional about the T.V. series. The beautiful sci-fi show will always have a special, irreplacable place in my heart. The place also accommodated its writer, Joss Whedon, for bringing this show to life. Over time, I’d read about Whedon declaring himself a feminist, a feminist ally and someone who encouraged men to be feminists. I only felt my respect increase.

Needless to say, I felt like I’d been conned massively, when I read an essay penned by Whedon’s ex-wife and architect Kai Cole, about her relationship with Whedon, who also wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers movieIn the essay, Cole detailed how, over the course of their 16 year marriage, Whedon not only had affairs with other women but also how he kept those relationships from her. She also said that Whedon felt he “could not help himself” around a bevy of beautiful women he worked with in his Hollywood career.

Fifteen years later, when he was done with our marriage and finally ready to tell the truth, he wrote me, “When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.” But he did touch it. 

It’s typical of men to blame their indecency on ‘beautiful, needy aggressive young women’, you know, existing around them. But to believe this of my ‘feminist ally’ Firefly flyboy, was double times infuriating and heartbreaking.

Through the course of the essay, a few things become apparent. One, that he’s practically used Cole to promote and support his image of ‘feminist ally’. That he used his feminist wife to maintain a life of dishonesty and also tricked her into believing she was in complete command of the choices she made with her life. Having multiple partners is not necessarily unacceptable, but taking the choice away from his wife to make decisions for her life bearing in mind the dynamics at play, is.

Kai Cole and Joss Whedon. Image via Facebook

Joss Whedon is your not average sexist in feminist clothing. There are many out there. We’ve seen the obvious ones  – the ones that join you at feminist rallies only to get laid, for example. But the likes of Whedon are the more sinister ones and are the more difficult to detect macroscopically. They wear your colours and learn your language, but quietly gaslight those closest to them. Cole describing how learning his truth psychologically affected her into questioning her sanity should be signpost enough.

My entire reality changed overnight, and I went from being a strong, confident woman, to a confused, frightened mess. I was eventually diagnosed with Complex PTSD and for the last five years, I have worked hard to make sense of everything that happened and find my balance again.

The likes of Whedon lead a life of convenience. The dudebros who parade around as wokebros alarm me, but above all, break my heart for all the damage they cause to relationships they fostered with their fake feminist tickets. But even if they make you question reality, we still have the choice to be the Coles of the world who will unmask them in time. And this choice, the Whedons of the world cannot take away from us.

Shruti Sunderraman: