When you watch Darth Vader blow up the planet of Alderaan in Star Wars, or telepathically strangle an incompetent flunkie in one of the sequels, it may be brutal, but it’s not really upsetting. That’s what Vader is there for; it’s his job to be a professional villain and spread bloodshed, pain, and misery throughout the galaxy. In a strange way, it’s comforting to see him relish his latest act of torture, murder, or genocide; it reassures you that the world is exactly the way you expect it to be.
The Darth Vaders of gender politics are people like Maggie Gallagher, Glenn Beck, Andrew Schlafly, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and their various hanger-ons . While I think that the world would be a better place without their hidebound misogyny and homophobia, I understand it. It’s their job to be assholes, and so when Beck spouts off his latest conspiracy theory about how the gays are going to shove their homo thing down his throat, I nod and take it in stride. The world is normal.
It’s when feminists, or anyone else that I think should be on the side of the angels, start weaving reactionary assumptions about gender that I wig out. The world is not as it should be. It’s as though I walked into a theater that’s showing another version of Star Wars, the one that Lucas keeps stored in his basement along with the last existing print of the Star Wars Holiday Special. In this version, Vader is still blowing up planets, but Luke and Leia spend their spare time downing beers with Imperial Stormtroopers and torturing kittens.