It’s probably one of the highest honors in the world of film and storytelling to be recognized and revered by the incomparable Meryl Streep. In this Cookie’s humble opinion, there’s simply no one more universally talented and decorated.
So when Ms. Streep tips her hat to a man for his great work on equality for women and girls, you know this guy must be pretty amazing.
And he is. He’s Joss Whedon.
Perhaps one of the eloquent explanations on the issue of gender equality (and from a man’s voice) came from Joss Whedon’s thank you speech to Equality Now, when they honored this acclaimed writer & director in 2006 for his incredible work creating strong female leading roles.
In his speech, Joss shared a story that he’s experienced at nearly every press junket he’s ever attended, and nearly every of the roughly 50 interviews he has to attend in a day at each of them. He goes into interview #1 and at some point, the reporter asks, “Why do you always write these strong women characters?”
So Joss Whedon replies:
“I think it’s because of my mother. She really was an extraordinary inspirational tough cool sexy funny woman, and that’s the kind of woman I’ve always surrounded myself with.”
But that doesn’t seem to satisfy the reporters. So in his next interview, when he’s asked the same exact question, he offers this answer instead.
“It’s because of my father. My father and my step father… they prized wit and resolve in the women they were with, above all things. And they were among the rare men who understood that recognizing someone else’s power does not diminish your own.”
Then he goes to the next interview, and is once again asked this same question. “Why do you write these strong women characters?” So he offers another incredibly eloquent answer:
“Because these stories give people strength. I think there is something particular about a female protagonist that allows a man to identify with her, that opens up something… that he might be unable to express, hopes and desires he might be uncomfortable expressing through a male-identification figure.”
And somehow, they still don’t seem to get it. Frustrated and tired, Joss Whedon sits in the next interview and hears the question, “So why do you write these strong women characters?”
“Because they’re hot.”
By the 50th interview in the same day where he’s asked this exact same question, Joss Whedon finally erupts at the reporter and demands, “Why are you asking me this? Why aren’t you asking a hundred other guys why they don’t write strong women characters?”
As Joss Whedon puts it:
“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 man and woman who is confronted with it. We NEED equality… kinda now.”
Reporters: “So why do you write these strong female characters?”
“Because you’re still asking me that question.”
Seriously, why is this such a hard thing for people, like these reporters, to grasp? Let’s do like Joss Whedon and express the necessity that is equality. Let’s let people in on the secret that “recognizing someone else’s power does not diminish your own.” Let’s all be Tough Cookies!