Why did Hannah’s words affect me so powerfully? Perhaps because she embodied everything I’m feeling with starting up this blog. A deep pull of purpose to share stories and learn from others. A desire to hear the darkest and most brutally honest parts of a person in the hope of shining light on it so we can all grow.
Hannah’s stories started out as a balance between humour and darkness – the tension and the laughter as she explained it. But it ended with anger and some of the rawest honesty I’ve seen on a stage. I was transfixed by it. It made me uncomfortable and I loved it. If only we could all be that honest and open about what we are struggling with.
Maybe I was so affected because her story could be mine. I have many painful stories too, some that I share, some that I don’t. People throw the line ‘man-hating lesbian’ at Hannah Gadsby regularly, which she denounces. She doesn’t hate men, but she has been afraid of them, due to a history of men abusing her verbally, physically and sexually. In my twenties, I wanted to be gay, after several years of negative experiences with men. Perhaps at that time, I could have identified as a man-hater. I did hate the men that had hurt me and was beginning to believe most men were capable of the abuse I’d been through. It took me years to move past those thoughts. If I’m honest they still occasionally come back to me now in my forties, despite being surrounded by so many wonderful men, including my husband and son.
I’ve spent the last couple of days devouring any information I can about Hannah Gadsby. I’ve let myself go down the rabbit hole of social media comments, trolls sharing #notallmen and the ensuing arguments it triggers. I want to watch the special again with my husband or my brother but worry that they will take it as a personal attack on them. As I watched Nanette, I tried to imagine how it felt to be a straight, white man in that audience, surrounded by so many people applauding Hannah’s commentary. It must have been hard not to feel some guilt was being lumped on you. She out-right said she was putting the blame on straight, white men.
I know my husband is not at all sexist, in fact, I’d describe him as a strong feminist. But he has struggled with the shift we’ve seen in the post #MeToo and #TimesUp society and the feeling that all men are being tarred with the same brush. There is a backlash now as the #MenToo theme is building. I recently read two quotes that I think relate to this.
“It’s not about all men are being menaces to women; it’s about all women having been menaced by men.”
“If it’s not about you, stop making it about you.”
I really feel that Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ could have a transformative power on society if we all watched it. It isn’t about passing blame so much as it’s about calling everyone to do better. I’ve been guilty in my life of keeping quiet when the witness to inappropriate behaviour – aimed at others and myself. The issue of prejudice and harassment isn’t for women alone, as many men have been victim to it too. This is an issue for all of humanity to expect better from each other. The hashtag #IWill and #IWillSpeakOut calls on everyone, especially men, to stand up and hold others accountable for their behaviour, even if it makes you unpopular. One of my favourite quotes is “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing”. Speak up every time you witness unwanted physical touch, slut shaming, sexual innuendo that makes a woman uncomfortable, conversations that objectify women, locker-room banter, wolf-whistling (no, it’s not a compliment!). Don’t accept the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. This is a great article from Seth Adams, written in response to the #MeToo movement, where he lists the things he promises to do moving forward. Make your list.
Towards the end of ‘Nanette’, Hannah Gadsby says “What I would have done to have heard a story like mine” Let’s all tell our stories because someone, somewhere is needing to hear it.