A Black Mirror Into the Sexism of Sci-Fi

Fair Warning: This piece is more cranky and less careful than my usual because I spent the better part of last night watching Black Mirror Season 1 and raging about how awful it was at whomever would listen. Content Notice for spoilers, discussions of misogyny, domestic violence, bestiality, coerced sex work, and lots of other awful things.

I usually expect any media I might consume to be problematic. What I don’t expect is that a show that is praised without caveat in my circle of rather well-curated, social-justice-aware friends ends up being as bad as Black Mirror. The British cult favorite falls into the same technophobic and misogynistic traps that can readily be found in the science fiction I’ve been consuming since I was a teenager.

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A Black Mirror Into the Sexism of Sci-Fi

#WhyIStayed: How to Rationalize Your Abusive Relationship

Content notice for all things domestic abuse. Please note that this is intended to be a personal account from a person whose feelings about what happened to them aren’t always fair or coherent and may carry misplaced resentment.

Whenever you realize what’s going on, remember

  • The wedding. How glamorous you felt. How happy everyone’s mom was. How sternly affectionate everyone’s dad was. How even the relatives you hate seemed lovely to you. How even the relatives who hate you wished you well without coming off as entirely passive-aggressive.
  • The cute story about the mishap from your honeymoon, when he performed a heroic, manly feat that saved you both.
  • The flowers he got for you on his way home from work each time you called him at work to let him know you were going to have his baby.
  • The ginger tenderness with which he held each newborn. The happy smile on his face in the picture you took each time of the bundled baby lying so snug and so small that he only had to use one arm to hold the tiny person.
  • How much your firstborn, who you love so dearly, looks like him.
  • That time you were listening to that one song on the radio and he swore he’d give his very last drop of blood for his children.
  • The one trip you took when there was no Incident.

When you are confronted by peers who realize, bring up

  • All the times you “almost left.”*
  • That he’s a good provider.
  • Your own lack of sainthood, how you
    • Provoke him.
    • Didn’t stand up to him in time or enough to fix it.
    • Still aren’t good enough to fix it, but you hope to be, someday.

* When confronted by your own hopes and dreams, talk to him about leaving

  • There will be absolutely no conviction in your voice.
  • There will be no reward for you, since you know that he knows that you know that you’d be helpless without him. Your punishment for this will be meted out slowly over time.
  • There will be no risk to the relationship, since you know that he knows that you know that he’d be helpless without you. He will remind you of it, voice quavering with penitence, and you will draw, yet again, from your endless well of forgiveness.

When your babies get sad, tell them what other daddies do to their babies

  • Beat them.
  • Starve them.
  • Leave them.
  • Sell them.
  • Mutilate them.
  • Marry them off.
  • Ship them away.
  • Rape them.
  • Kill them.
  • Hate them.

When your babies get angry, explain to them that

  • He’s only trying to fix them. They don’t want to grow up to be imperfect like you, do they?
  • All men are this angry, this irrational, this irritable. They’d better get used to it.
  • He used to be worse. Nobody is perfect. Everyone deserves a chance.
  • He used to be worse. Their anger will make him regress. They should stop their fussing right now, before he gets home.
  • He feels bad for it. Remember how bad he felt last time? It will blow over this time, like it did last time.

When your babies get too big and too loud with their sadness and anger, ask them why they

  • Are living in the past.
  • Can’t forgive their father. He’s their father.
  • Assert that an old — older than your father when he died, older than his father when he died, growing older every day — man, who never changed when he was younger, can’t change.
  • Refuse to give him credit where it’s due. He isn’t as bad as he was before.
  • Have gone through so much therapy and still carry so much negativity.
  • Can’t just be nice to him, for your sake? After all, you chose him, over and over and over again. They can make their own choices.
#WhyIStayed: How to Rationalize Your Abusive Relationship

What Feminism Definitely Doesn’t Look Like

I once wrote about what I call fauxminism, poking fun at “empowered” women who do little to nothing for (or even who actually hinder) other women’s choices and freedom.

That’s one thing. This is another thing, entirely.

Recently, I had the distinct displeasure of overhearing two men laugh it up over domestic abuse. As it really wasn’t my conversation and I was in far from the right situation to say anything, I was mostly silent as I listened. I learned that, to them, years of abuse at the hands of his wife rendered a man laughable, not pitiable.


The battle cry of the Men’s Rights Activist or any other breed of anti-feminist is the oft-mocked “but what about teh menz?” That particular question is posed whenever anyone dares to say anything uncritical about feminism. The frustration that many feminists feel regarding that particular derailment is, more often than not, misunderstood as a dismissal and/or trivialization of primarily male-related concerns. This leads to the belief that feminists are female supremacists (feminazis or even femi-stasi, sometimes) who want to oppress men or at least ignore men’s concerns. Taken further, the claim becomes that said problems are somehow caused by feminism.

Setting the misconstruing of feminist aims aside, let us admit a rather painful truth. To blame feminism for the mainstream gender status quo is to attribute way more ideological success to it than it has actually attained. Let us also set aside the fact that most feminists are against all oppressive gender norms and how many feminists are actively working against gender-based oppression of all kinds.

Where do oppressive gender norms for men originate?

There is no question that oppressive gender norms for women existed prior to feminism. Indeed, feminism arose in response to said norms, so to argue otherwise would be more than somewhat disingenuous. In this case, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander: gender norms for men existed prior to feminism. Additionally, so did the effects that gender norms for women had, and continue to have, on men.

Now, let us consider the matter of female-on-male domestic violence. The men I heard making a mockery of a fellow man’s abuse at the hands of his wife were not feminists. I do not say this in judgment of them or their beliefs, I say this with the knowledge that they mock and oppose feminism and say misogynistic things with alarming frequency and audacity.


This is why the allegation that feminism is to blame for female-on-male abuse, or at least its trivialization, is not only untrue but also utterly infuriating. Sexists enforce the gender binary for women — and for men. In their minds, women are weak and inferior to men, therefore abuse by a woman upon a man can’t be serious. That is why they can howl with laughter so shamelessly without a second thought as to the harm being done to a fellow human being.

Similarly, when it comes to women, the “you go girl” attitude towards female abuse of men isn’t exactly a gender-radical, feminist one. In fact, it fits quite neatly into traditional narratives with regards to inter-gender relations. To wit: “He must be cheating on her!”, “she can’t really hurt him,” and so on, ad nauseum.

Although I know I will be accused of doing so within the next 72 hours (if not sooner) because I am not afraid to say that I am a feminist, endorsing female-driven abuse of men isn’t what feminism looks like. Two man espousing an utterly cavalier attitude towards domestic abuse isn’t what feminism looks like. My hands shaking in anger at two men’s cavalier attitude towards domestic violence so hard that I can barely type this?

That’s what feminism fucking looks like.

EDIT (5/5/13): See comment from hierophant as to why I’ve removed a link.

What Feminism Definitely Doesn’t Look Like