“The last thing I need right now, in this moment in history, is have to listen to men monologue about misogyny.”
Hannah Gadsby delivered an impassioned call for moral revolution during what was supposed to be a stand-up comedy routine Wednesday at The Hollywood Reporter’s 2018 Women in Entertainment gala.
Gadsby, 40, has lately taken the culture world by storm with her ultra-feminist brand of non-comedy, which involves angry testimonial about the harrowing abuse she has faced as a Tasmanian lesbian diagnosed with autism. In recent months, she has notched a Netflix special, a book deal, and a viral appearance at the Emmys, where she “joked” about how much she hates men.
Her performance at the women’s gala had a similar theme. She started out by calling on the women in the star-studded Hollywood crowd ― which included the likes of Diane Lane and Christina Ricci ― to reject the dictates of men and seize the right to draw their own lines regarding who is good and who is bad.
“I tell you what, I am sick, I’m sick of turning my television on at the end of the day to find anywhere up to 12 ‘Jimmies’ giving me their hot take,” Gadsby said.
“Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the Jimmies and the Davids and the other Jimmies ― good guys, great guys, some of my best friends are a Jimmy. But the last thing I need right now, in this moment in history, is have to listen to men monologue about misogyny, and how other men should just stop being ‘creepy’. As if that’s the problem.”
Gadsby went on to explain that the real problem with men is that they are often self-deluded misogynists. They too readily forgive misbehavior by themselves and their “drunk and fratting” friends, contrasting it favorably against the crimes of monsters like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby to make themselves feel better.
The result, she said, is “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.
Her solution? Take moral authority away from men.
“Women should be in control of that line, no question,” she declared to applause from the crowd.
Having successfully outlined a solution to the problem of misogyny, Gadsby went ahead and applied her understanding of the “human condition” to all forms of injustice.
“Now, take everything I have said up until this point, and replace ‘man’ with ‘white person,’ and know that if you are a white woman you have no place drawing lines in the sand between good white people and bad white people,” she said. “I encourage you to also take the time to replace ‘man’ with ‘straight’ or ‘cis’ or ‘neurotypical,’ etc., etc. Everybody believes they are fundamentally good, and we all need to believe we are fundamentally good because believing you are fundamentally good is part of the human condition.
In other words, Gadsby seemed to be saying, not just women, but every identity group has the ultimate right to adjudge the morality of groups that oppress it, at least when it comes to how those groups treat them. Such ideas are fashionable to throw around, which may help explain Gadsby success.
But as a number of leading thinkers ― from Columbia University historian Mark Lilla to Stanford University political scientist Francis Fukuyama ― have recently pointed out, the kind of identity politics that Gadsby advocates cannot serve as the moral or ideological basis of a society.
How do you determine which group is the most oppressed by which? Who wins between an African-American man and an immigrant woman? What if the immigrant is Spanish, or Russian, or Chinese? What if a Mexican boy steals a white man’s car? Who is qualified to judge the boy? Does it make a difference if the white man is half American Indian?
To be fair, Gadsby is not a scholar or policy maker, and she seems less interested in such questions than in upsetting power dynamics and making people uncomfortable. In a moment that her conservative foils might be able to appreciate, she wrapped up her 7 minutes on stage Wednesday by warning Hollywood against self-satisfaction.
“If you have to believe someone else is bad in order to believe you are good, you are drawing a very dangerous line,” she said.
“In many ways these lines in the sand we all draw are stories we tell to ourselves so we can still believe we are good people. And every single one of us in this room number amongst the most powerful story tellers in the world, and that means every single one of us has an enormous responsibility to be very very careful about the lines we draw. That’s it from me. Enjoy your toast.”