There’s a few ways to approach complex, divisive topics – making sweeping generalisations isn’t usually the best strategy.
This morning a speech that Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby made at a Women In Entertainment event in Hollywood went viral on Twitter.
Gadsby’s speech began with condescending jokes about how men don’t get enough attention before she got to the main topic of her speech: misogyny.
So far so good. We can all agree that misogynistic behaviour is unacceptable. Except somewhere between admonishing misogyny and critiquing men, Gadsby decided to concentrate on the latter.
In the speech, Gadsby lectured the audience on the myth of ‘good men’. Using the ‘Jimmys’ of late night television as a metaphor for men that consider themselves ‘good’, she complained about men reprimanding other men for misogyny.
“The last thing I need to listen to at this time in history is men monologue about misogyny,” said Gadsby in her speech, before making a joke about male privilege.
What exactly are men who aren’t misogynists – believe it or not, they’re the majority – supposed to do? Twiddle our thumbs? Bow our heads and apologise for actions we don’t undertake, nor agree with? Don’t good doctors speak out when bad doctors commit illegal surgeries? Don’t good mechanics complain about bad mechanics that charge too much? Why must good men be silent?
What exactly are men supposed to do? Gadsby says that men are wrong when we speak up against misogyny, wrong when we don’t speak up against misogyny (because that perpetuates it), and ‘we’ men are obviously wrong when ‘we’ commit misogynistic acts. What, I ask, is the answer?
Do we huddle in a corner and ask women permission every time we want to speak up on an issue that involves them? Do we approach them like a nervous child approaches his schoolteacher and asks to go to the bathroom? ‘Miss, can I please admonish that misogynistic pig?’.
Does the same apply for racism? Religion? What if we have strong feelings on Ancient Egyptian agricultural practices in the Middle Kingdom. Do we need the permission of an Egyptologist to make comment?
Well, that’s where Gadsby’s philosophy gets confusing and frustrating. To her, and all the women who gave the speech a standing ovation, all ‘men’ believe they are good, but all ‘men’ do bad things, so therefore it’s logical to conclude that all ‘men’ are bad. According to her, even the ‘good’ men are ‘bad’, so our best option is just to leave it to women. Her logic is about as watertight as the Pacific ocean.
To be clear, in her speech Gadsby uses ‘bad’ to refer to misogynistic behaviour. Sane men – and women – will recognise the ridiculousness of her position, but it gets better (or worse). Here is her conclusion, per The Hollywood Reporter:
“Guess what happens when only good men get to draw that line? [Between correct behaviour]. This world. A world full of ‘good men’ who do very bad things and still believe in their heart of hearts that they are ‘good men’ because they have not crossed the line. Because they move the line for their own good. Women should be in control of that line. No question.”
For Gadsby, all men are bad and the answer to this male-centric problem is for women to be in sole control of the imaginary moral ‘line’ that she seems so sure exists. The idea is as preposterous as it is offensive.
In Gadsby’s radical feminist utopia – we’ll call it Gadsbyville – all men will be guided and controlled by all women, who according to her, don’t suffer from the same good/bad delusion that men do. Men are reduced to the doting dogs of our female masters. Woof.
Her logic says that women should determine the line for acceptable behaviour towards women. That sounds all well and good, but guess what? All men and women aren’t the same. Some women like holding hands, some women like having their arse grabbed. Some women are fiddling their keys at the front door because they want to be kissed, others are just fiddling with their damn keys.
Adapting Gadsby’s logic into a Kantian maxim, it proceeds that all men should determine the line for acceptable behaviour towards men. Seeing that she seems to believe every man is a misogynist pig, that would likely include replacing handshakes with heavy petting and first dates with wet t-shirt contests.
Gadsby’s ludicrous generalisation is akin to a real-life ‘Florida Man’. Florida Man is an internet meme in which any mention of the fictional man in multiple news reports is humorously interpreted to be the same individual.
There’s an entire online community dedicated to Florida Man’s antics – from having sex with a dolphin to telling children Santa isn’t real and kicking swans in the head.
Gadsby is treating all men as the Florida Man. Her dialogue is exactly the same as me saying that all women belong in the kitchen and that all men should watch sports, fix cars and be mechanics.
News flash, Hannah: no balanced and stable individual believes these things in 2018. As much as liberals and delusional feminists may not like to admit it, there are differences between genders – but morality, and a propensity for sexist behaviour – isn’t one of them.
Research into biological difference between men and women has found that women rate higher for neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness than men. Men, on the other hand, are less agreeable, more introverted, and less conscientious.
That means that on average, most women are more nurturing, tender-minded and altruistic than most men, and most men are more aggressive, insular and impulsive than most women.
Neither of these findings preclude the fact that some men may be more nurturing than some women and that some women may be more aggressive than some men.
The relevant literature shows that while small generalisations are possible about biological differences between men and women, there are hundreds of nuanced differences at the individual level.
That’s what Gadsby’s speech misses in favour of the most heinous toxic femininity. Some men are rude pricks, some women are empathetic angels. Some men are kind and nurturing, some women are rude bitches. Some men abuse their wives, and you know what, some women abuse their husbands.
One in three victims of domestic violence are men who have been hurt by their female partners. It’s not a stat you hear, and it’s not a competition between who perpetrates the most sexist, or violent behaviour. What it does show is that there are problems no matter what you have between your legs. Men and women shouldn’t be uniting against such issues.
There are Ted Bundys and there are Mahatma Gandhis, just as there are Rosemary Wests and Joan of Arcs. Normal people understand this, it’s foolish celebrities like Hannah Gadsby and certain sensationalist media outlets that perpetuate otherwise.
Many things are defined by having a penis or a vagina, but your moral fortitude isn’t one of them. All men aren’t ‘bad misogynists’, just as all women aren’t ‘good feminists’. And guess what – as hard as it is to come to terms with, no one is all good or all bad.
Adolf Hitler, perhaps the most evil individual in human history, loved his mistress, Disney films and was a decent artist. Mother Theresa, synonymous with ‘being good’, encouraged rape victims to keep their children, converted Hindus to Catholicism as they died, and the conditions of her hospitals were compared to Nazi concentration camps.
American poet and philosopher Suzy Kassem has a quote that Gadsby, and those who think along the same lines as her, can benefit from reading.
“None of us are just black or white, or never wrong and always right. No one. No one exists without polarities. Everybody has good and bad forces working with them, against them, and within them.”
People like Hannah Gadsby pretend to fight for gender equality and unity but fight only for their own ideological domination.
I am a man. I wake up each morning to make coffee for my girlfriend before she leaves for work, I stay up late sometimes to play video games when she wants me to come to bed. Sometimes I’m rude to strangers, but I always wave at newborns. I failed PE in year 10, but graduated university with a distinction average. I’ve had fist-fights and written love-letters. I’ve called a girl a bitch and told my beautiful girlfriend that I love her.
I’m good, I’m bad, I’m not a ‘Jimmy’, or a misogynist, and I’m certainly not Hannah Gadsby’s to define. No men are.