To speak, or not to speak?
The young woman was determined to be heard. She had the sort of volume that can only be achieved through a combination of theater training, ample quantities of alcohol in the recent past, and an unquestionable confidence in the righteousness of her every word.
“Straight white men should not be allowed to speak” she stated, at eardrum cracking amplitude. “And putting on Shakespeare is just listening to another straight white man.”
We were backstage at Cal Shakes, the beautiful outdoor theater in Orinda where friend and savant Mike Daisey had just given another of his brilliant monologues, this time combining personal revelations, cultural insights, and a powerfully lucid vision of Hamlet.
I’ve been to two of his shows, was blown away both times, and hanging out afterwards, have witnessed the consequence of his provocative monologues, namely that everyone comes up to him after the show and inflicts their own monologues on him. The exhausted man sits and endures speech after speech with grace and good humor. It’s a second impressive performance.
But last Friday the diatribe being shout-talked into the ear drums of every human in the room (and possum, raccoon, and sleeping raven in the woods outside) came from this young lady, swaying moderately, Racer 5 beer tipping up in hand, and opinions crashing around the room like a demolition derby.
We’d communally decided that theater is a medium for a cultural discussion about the rights, roles, and purpose of people (or something like that) when she informed us that straight white men should be allowed no voice in the conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, I know what she means. Here in the West we dwell in the aftereffects of centuries of straight white men screwing things up royally, in a cavalcade of crap, storms of stupidity, avalanches of assholery. It is well past, centuries past, the time when a broader spectrum of voices needs to gain power in our dialogues…all of them.
But NO role? NO voice? Is that the way forward? Should I be bound and gagged because of the skin, anatomy, and sexual preference I was accidentally born into, to pay the penance earned by my pigment predecessors? Is retribution of discrimination the best way forward?
Or is there some way we can take the former criminal class, and let them help drive the progress? Let’s ask Iceland and Suriname.
Those two antipodal countries recently announced an upcoming U.N. panel on gender equality…to which only men and boys will be invited. More oppression? More uninclusive dialogue? Or do, perhaps, straight white men have a role to play?
Do you agree with my opinionated friend and straight white men should bow out (or be forced out), or do straight white men have a responsibility to be involved in advancing equality?