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W&L Online

from Volume 43, Issue 1 - Spring 2020

“Believing” in Feminism, “Lovable” Sexism:

Rhetorical Inaction and Fallacies of Authenticity
doi: 10.34036/WL.2020.007

Paul Muhlhauser
McDaniel College

Jedidiah Fowler
Independent Scholar

Daniel Schafer
McDaniel College



Abstract: Parks and Recreation expresses a metamodern feminist sensibility; however, the show also promotes a toxic metamodern masculinity. Character Tom Haverford illustrates the dangers of such a masculinity. He simultaneously embraces a “softer” more feminine side and is stereotypically sexist in his behavior towards women. Rather than take issue with his actions, feminist characters, like Leslie Knope, give Tom a “pass” because they believe his behavior isn’t “authentic” because he’s really a “good” guy. Such a “pass” on Tom’s behavior illustrates a dangerous fallacy regarding gender equality, allowing one to believe in feminism but not necessarily advocate for feminism.


Paul Muhlhauser (Ph.D., Washington State University) is associate professor of English at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. His work has appeared in Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion, Women & Language, The Journal of Popular Culture, Computers and Composition Online, and Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. He likes writing about digital technologies, interface design, zombies, The Avengers, and dating apps. He makes beautiful webtexts, loves his chickens, and is a gentleman farmer. Correspondence can be directed to

Jedidiah Fowler has a Bachelor of Arts in English from McDaniel College. His specialties lie in the fields of creative nonfiction and blog writing and can be read at He is a compassionate scholar who enjoys consulting with students about their writing and teaching them about rhetoric. He is also an accomplished musician and has played with several Maryland-based bands, most notably withLove. Direct correspondence to

Daniel Schafer (M.A., Washington State University) is lecturer of English at McDaniel College and the director of communications and development at the global health nonprofit HealthNovations International. His work has appeared in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, Computers and Composition Online, Journal of Global Health, and elsewhere. His forthcoming book, Professional Writing and Design: A Guide to 21st Century Composition, will be published in 2020 by Babylon Farm Books. Direct correspondence to

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