In a 2006 speech, Joss Whedon explained his frustration when the question “Why do you write such strong women characters?” was asked over and over at press junkets. He was upset that this should even be a questions. Why is it so notable that someone is writing strong women characters. Towards the end of the speech, he beautifully summed up his frustration with the status quo:
“Why do you write such strong women?”
“Because, equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for; it’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity; we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every and woman who is confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.” (Watch the rest of the speech here.)
Don’t see the problem? Skeptical that things are out of balance?
- According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Census, women earn just 77% of what men earn for the same amount of work.
- In 2008, the United Nations reported that one in every three women is likely “to be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.” (And here are the facts for just the US in case you think we’re any better than anyone else- pretty sad)
- The United Nations often cites the statistic that women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10% of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production.
- According to the World Health Organization, one woman dies in childbirth every minute of every day.
- Despite making up half the global population, women hold only 15.6% of elected parliamentary seats in the world.
(Statistics via Policy Mic)
Gender inequality and the suppression and oppression of women is everywhere. From the obvious- gang rapes in India– to the subtle- women being shamed into hiding their intelligence or artificially altering their bodies to accommodate male desire. You have to make the conscious decision to open your eyes and see it. You have to tune your mind to recognize the absurdities of society instead of just blindly accepting the traditions and norms that you have inherited. Inequality of all kinds can be effectively countered legislation, but it will never disappear from minds and hearts (the places that determine our actions) unless each individual makes the decision to fight the prejudice and hate that brews unnoticed in our minds.
If inequality (of all kinds: poverty, racism, misogyny) is unbalance, then it’s pointless to just stop actively perpetuating injustice or assume we aren’t guilty because we haven’t been actively acting on prejudice. And to look the other way is just to become an accomplice. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” We are off balance, and the only thing that will stop us from falling is to move actively to a state of balance, to get off the wrong train and start going the right direction.
The Psalms are full of descriptions of God’s justice and the terrifying punishment in store for those who oppress the poor and weak.
- “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble….For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted. ” (Psalm 9)
- “But you, oh God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand…. defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” (Psalm 10)
- “You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. ” (Psalm 18)
There is no category for those who weren’t so bad, but didn’t actively turn from injustice. Pretending injustice doesn’t exist will not excuse you from a God who listens attentively to those who are downtrodden and abused by the status quo. It’s not enough to abstain from certain destructive practices; we have to get leap off this train taking us from one war and system of oppression and wide-scale injustice to another that actively seeks justice and healing. It’s not enough to stop owning slaves. It’s not even enough to codify the equality of African Americans in law. We have to actively reverse the deep injustices that are the result of centuries of hate and decades of untreated racism. It’s not enough to acknowledge that women are under and misrepresented in the media. We have to write the strong women characters. It’s not enough to refrain from directly stealing from the poor. It’s not enough to think that someone should do something about the exploitation of immigrants. It’s certainly not enough to just sit back and watch the widening gap between the rich and poor.
We have to train our minds and heart to recognize injustice at every level and in every guise. When our eyes are open, when our minds are turned in the right direction- then we can start to change things, change minds, and change the status quo.