Joss Whedon thinks feminism has a branding problem. He's hardly the first person to make that claim, though the tack he takes in his acclaimed speech at Equality Now is a little unusual. Rather than discussing the feminist movement per se, Whedon talks specifically about the word, "feminist" as a formal exercise in poetry. He likes the first syllable, is okay with the second … but he really dislikes "ist." It's "Germanic, but not in the romantic way; this terrible ending with a wonderful beginning." He repeats it over and over with a hiss. "Ist." It sounds bad.
As it turns out, Whedon's objection is not purely aesthetic. He dislikes "ist" he says, not just for its sound, but for its meaning. The problem, he says, is that "you can't be born an –ist. It's not natural." Therefore, he says, "feminist includes the idea that believing men and women to be equal ... is not a natural state." The word "feminist" suggests that "the idea of equality is just an idea that is imposed on us." But Whedon argues that equality is natural; that we're born with it, like the prelapsarian innocents Rousseau wrote about, and it's only when evil society gets its hands on us that we get rape culture and pay discrimination and whatnot.
Whedon doesn't mention Rousseau by name. In fact, except for a brief shout out to Katy Perry to note that she doesn't like the term "feminist" either, he doesn't mention anyone by name. This is a speech about the word "feminist," but there are no feminists in the speech.
Which, given Whedon's presuppositions, makes sense. If equality is something that is natural, if it's a thing that everyone understands innately, if it is the default, then it isn't something you have to learn from anyone. You don't need Betty Friedan to tell you that an enforced life as a homemaker can be stifling. You don't need Andrea Dworkin to tell you about systematic cultural violence against women. You don't need Patricia Hill Collins to explain that race and gender can intersect to create particularly vicious forms of discrimination and oppression. You don't, for that matter, need to think about, or engage with, the long feminist mistrust of arguments from "nature." You just know, naturally, what is right.