Ahead of the Australian premiere of Young Jean Lee’s razor-edged satire Straight White Men, we asked some non-straight-white-men to imagine life as a Straight White Man. Rebecca Shaw considers what she would do if she woke up as a Straight White Man.
I am a queer white woman. This gives me many of the same privileges that straight white men have (emphasis on the ‘white’ part of the sentence), but there are still numerous points of difference. It’s kind of like how gorillas and humans share 96% of our DNA, but a gorilla would never be elected President. Although saying that, if Donald Trump gets elected, I suppose we can’t completely rule it out.
If I woke up in the body of a straight white man, I would do a few things. First things first, if I’m being honest, I would probably take immediate action to understand fully why a lot of men are so obsessed with their dicks. For research purposes only obviously. For science. For empathy. Because I’m a hero.
Once I was done with that, on a broader level, I would try to take action to become the kind of straight white man I currently wish all straight white men would try to be. As I went about my daily business I would keep in mind all the privileges handed to me for being a man, and all the disadvantages women face simply for being women. Not only the obvious ones like skewed representation of straight white men in everything from politics to pop culture, or the wage gap, or the lopsided number of women who suffer violence at the hands of men: but the persistent ones women experience on a micro level. Those small moments.
I would police the behaviour of myself and other men. This means that I’d probably lose some deadshit mates, who will accuse me of being a pussy or a fag. You know the kind, like Johnno, who you’ve known for years and goes wild when he’s drunk. The one who got a Bintang tattoo while wasted in Bali. Maybe it’s time we all got better friends anyway.
Oh also, I would take great pleasure in not having to line up for the women’s bathroom. They take so long in there. What is the deal with women? And periods seem gross, right? Oh God no, my white male mindset is starting already.
Most importantly, I wouldn’t give lip service to issues. I wouldn’t be looking for praise. I would simply take action in the way I lived my life. It’s not enough just to talk the talk, and it’s not enough to just be aware – it takes deliberate action. I would fight for women by fighting the system that hates women; using the advantages I enjoy to actively prioritise women, without needing women to know that I am doing so. I wouldn’t need to tattoo ‘male feminist’ on my forehead and use it to try and gain entry into women’s spaces.
Ultimately (and selfishly), I would simply value women’s existence in my life as much as now: because doing so is truly the greatest reward.
Rebecca Shaw (aka Brocklesnitch) is a writer, co-host of Bring A Plate podcast, and creator of the parody Twitter account @notofeminism. She is a contributing editor for the Kill Your Darlings Journal, one of the team at The Backburner and SBS Comedy, and has written for Junkee, Daily Life, and The Guardian. She is in constant competition with Ruby Rose to become Australia’s favourite lesbian.