Okay, the title to this article is not entirely accurate, what I’ve done there is be purposefully incendiary to capture your attention because this is 2018 and welcome to the Internet. There are countless women that I idolise, truly, but between the media hammer of the #metoo movement and researching the structural difference between the male and female brain (there is no practical scientific consensus regarding this matter but it does make for some interesting reading), I’ve been thinking a great deal about qualitative gender differences lately and what I perceive as the rather enviable privilege of men.
When Oprah, God bless her wide-mouthed soul, took to the stage at this year’s Golden Globes to accept her Cecille B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement and made every Internet-accessing woman do a bit of a cry, I became rather taken with one utterly simple sentiment (for I too, am utterly simple), “In 1982, Sidney received the Cecille B. Demille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award” she announced with some– dare I say it – presidential verve. Interesting, I thought, that somebody’s always got to be the first.
There’s always got to be one person who has the audacity and self-assurance to stand up and do that thing to make others reflect on their own capabilities and ascertain that “Yes, I may do that thing now, too.” It all sounds painfully obvious but I think that especially for women with tremendous passion in areas where the top of the hierarchy has always been assumed by men (read: most of all areas), it actually isn’t so obvious at all and there comes a point for many of us when we realise, “Wait, why am I taking a back seat? I can drive this thing!”
I’ve always enjoyed the quality of appalling audacity in people, a property that in general seems so idiosyncratic of men. Its constituents comprise partly of intrinsic confidence, partly of societal privilege, and partly of outrageous social idiocy. A boy I knew in high school once asked to casually borrow a friend’s car and failed to return it within a day (a difficult prospect when he’d driven it to Queensland) and I still think about this incident at least once a month because I find it so absurdly funny. Honestly, the nerve of some people.
The things I find most hilarious in this world are unfailingly the acts that my dastardly female conscience simply fails to conceive of as a possibility: my friend smacking a deck of cards from somebody’s hands as he walked through a train carriage, spraying the train and all of its passengers with large regal confetti, my ex-partner swivelling around in his plane seat to reprimand a child kicking his plane seat while the parents turned ashen-faced beside it, “Look I’m going to need you to stop doing that before I become really very angry”, male friends who walk out of pubs with schooner glasses and just eyeball the security guards with a look that says, “Yep, this is how it’s going down.” All audacious acts, all borne of the same unapologetic attitude fostered by a “men will be boys” shrug.
So many men around me strike me as absolute psychopaths in this manner – don’t get me wrong, I bloody love ‘em – but they do seem relatively unburdened by hyper-sensitive empathy and only vaguely aware of the consequences in the next moment (or perhaps realising that they’ll come out relatively unscathed either way). I wholly enjoy being all soft and pathologically aware, it just gets bloody exhausting and I often find myself wishing that I had access to that certain carelessness, like stepping into the cooling waters of obnoxiousness. I want to manspread my way through life.
I also very much tend to fall in love with men like this because I am so perpetually anxious and their breed of aberration so confidently offends all that is good and polite and responsible; it flies through homes knocking objects off shelves and leaves others to pick up the mess (usually women). It’s the sort of behaviour to which you can only exclaim, “How DARE you!” and then laugh because you have no other options.
At the beginning of Caitlin Moran’s Moranifesto, the wonderful skunk-haired goddess reflects on her trepidation to make political commentary, “That was for serious adult men, in suits, who knew people in Parliament, or had been politicians themselves, or wanted to be politicians in the future. Politics was for the political people, and I was not one of them.” I think this conception of how the world works is true for so many women: the important stuff? That’s done by those men over there. Why is it done by those men over there? “Because they’re doing it, God I don’t know, stop asking me questions.”
I’ve written a lot in the past about the troubling confirmation biases and self-fulfilling prophecies that keep women believing they’re not as talented, intelligent, entitled to speak or create as men. In this article for Catalogue, I discussed how at an alarmingly early age school girls will attribute their academic success to luck while boys of the same age will attribute their high scores to inherent ability. We internalise cultural biases and curb our own potential because we’ve absorbed the notion that men are just better at things; as I stated in the article, I am quite sure Einstein would not have the faintest idea what E equals if he were forced to raise children and told that he was inadequate for the entirety of his life.
When I ask myself what I’d like to be when I grow up, what that person is is generally a sixty-year-old white man. I really, really want to be one of those men over there. Only, it’s obviously an absurd concept, not merely for the fact that I am so conspicuously brown and female. What is happening is that my mind is abiding by laws of historical accomplishment and failing to override the schemas of inherent male capability. My idols are men like Louis Theroux, and Jon Ronson, and Oliver Sacks, and Steven Pinker, and Louis CK (sans the sexual exploitation and all). Are they wonderful, intelligent, and talented? Sure, but they’re also unavoidably bolstered by the confidence of a society that just thinks their shit is important.
So, herein lies my point. I’ve really come to terms with the concept that the great bulk of success is a result of the audacity to just stand up and do something. And then keep doing it – because you’re really basically allowed to do whatever the hell you want. I’m jealous of men, not so much for their physiology (I’d sooner die – I can’t even touch raw chicken) but more for the brash, brazen, and belligerent attitudes that such a possession seems to afford them. I once watched a man stand up seriously in front of a crowd of 50 people and sing a poem about the tree from Guardians of the Galaxy to an electronic drum beat – so I went home and wrote my first stand-up comedy script. Because fuck it.
As it turns out, you don’t have to have a tertiary education or a dick to feel entitled to your work. It's remarkable and empowering to watch women like Oprah recognised for their achievements (even though she's admittedly got all that pseudo-science garbage to own up to) because it rewrites the script, it blazes that trail – but I also think that maybe we should be able to assume that specific male confidence that teeters into lunacy without waiting for anybody to go first. And if it’s ill-conceived or awful or thick, you’ll sure find out soon enough (or not! And get paid lots of money! Like lots of mediocre people seem to be able to do just because they’re bloody assertive!)