There is a blog post making the rounds on the internet written by Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, architect Kai Cole.
The basic premise is that while she had been supporting his career for decades, he was using his feminist credentials and female empowerment narratives to satisfy not only his intellectual needs, but his sexual and emotional ones as well.
Simply put, he used his talents to fuck around on his wife and subsequently deceive her regarding the truth of his life. This is an important piece about an important topic that runs through the veins of art like a poison. I know this because it is a malignancy that I have been guilty of perpetuating.
Reading the pain that came out of her revelations, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences and those of the people that have loved me, only to find there was nothing but cinder and ash where a heart should be.
I was raised by a militant feminist.
I don’t use that word lightly.
Linda screamed truth to power, marched when it was necessary, called out misogyny wherever it might rear its head, even if, especially if, it was inappropriate or a violation of social norms. I learned this from her, growing into a socially aware advocate for that cause and others. I have made a conscious effort to attach myself to feminist causes, to fight for women to be taken seriously, for their right to have access to healthcare, to not be punished with a lack of bodily autonomy for merely existing.
Good for me.
I have also very obviously and very clearly treated a lot of women in my life like absolute shit, for little to no reason beyond my ego and my cowardice.
I was loved by people for nothing more than my voice and my words. Who cares if they are only loving a caricature, a creation built for immediate and brief interactions, satisfactions, and departures? I would embody this mutation, this sickness masquerading as reward. This mostly applied to women I was seeing, officially, unofficially, on the record, off the record, brief, extended, so on and so forth.
In only the most personal of settings.
The difference between Joss and I is merely intention of creation.
The implication of the blog post is that he began to create female characters for the sole purpose of being able to audition and work with those he could charm and woo. I did not book shows to pick up women. In fact, I made the effort to have more female centered line ups, because, frankly, it’s become almost impossible to find a show that doesn’t look like a police line up for unabomber suspects.
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Again, good for me.
So, while I celebrated female empowerment online, on stage, and hired women to help me with my shows, offline I was a garbage person to people that actually gave a fuck about my heart, my talents, and my success. As Joss makes clear in his reveal to Kai, it becomes very easy to compartmentalize criticism for this kind of behavior. To brush it off and tell yourself, ìI deserve this because (insert whatever arbitrary accomplishment justifies it this week). I didn’t. And neither did they.
I have left a pretty hefty bag of bones in the well of my life. I tried to bury them so that no one could see the ravaging shit I had allowed myself to become over something as life affirming as spontaneous creation. Something as simply satisfying as art.
This is not supposed to be some cathartic confession. It does not make me feel better and it doesn’t erase the pain I caused with my narcissistic arrogance. It is simply the way it is, was, and can no longer be.
Nerd credentials be damned.