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. Concluding the series, writer and actor Steven Oliver reflects on what life would be like as a Straight White Man.
Woman gets called bitch by man, says woman isn’t all that smart but has nice tits. Her worth is her appearance. Man’s worth is more though, so it is everywhere: on sports fields, in parliaments, running companies and positions of power – for man is boss! He is provider so he makes more money and money is God! God is poured into the Vatican which man also runs. Female Pope? Man says no, she is not worthy but let her be grateful as she is now allowed to wash feet, for man is generous! He is also kind, even if women die at the hands of men several times a year, are assaulted physically and mentally and are called crazy arse whores and bitches in songs. Women who are told, when they stand up for themselves, ‘Shut up whores! Those bitches are dancing to my song so I’m justified’ and then they get compared to that character from the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Man also stands up for woman and calls himself feminist, thinks himself great and caring but doesn’t even ask why there’s a need for man to be feminist but not woman to be masculinist. Why is he allowed to partake in an identity that is about woman? Did man give her an identity because he felt threatened when she wanted to take back ownership of herself, so now he has to own her somehow? Impossible! Man is brave, he is tough, he fears nothing, he has abs! His physical strength overpowers that of his mind, see! Man is not weak, he is awesome! Woman says ‘No! Man is f*cked!’ Man says in intimidating voice, ‘Hey bitch! You can’t say that! It’s sexist!’ Man feels smart and becomes smug. He allows himself to feel proud for he doesn’t understand that woman’s comment about man doesn’t really affect him, not in a life-defining way. He is still man and man is all powerful. His word is law!
Man is sneaky, he manipulates, he must come clean. He is now talking about himself in third person. He wrote about power structures in sexism to try to get people to contemplate power structures in racism. He knew if he spoke about race in the first sentence, a lot of people would’ve been working out their response instead of hearing what he had to say. He feels bad for using the plight of women in the struggle and hopes they understand that while a woman’s voice in this country is not granted the privilege of a man’s, it is still granted more power than that of a black one, which even then is granted more power than that of a gay black one, which even then is granted more power than other marginalised groups that remain unheard. If he were a straight white man then he wouldn’t be writing something such as this, for he’d be living in a country that has been designed for his needs. He wouldn’t have to care.
Steven Oliver is a descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji, Waanyi, Gangalidda, Woppaburra, Bundjalung and Biripi (in other words, biggest mob) peoples. He was born in Cloncurry in North West Queensland and grew up in Townsville before moving to Perth to study performing arts. He has worked with numerous theatre companies and arts organisations across Australia but became notorious with his brand of humour on ABC’s hit sketch show Black Comedy as a writer/actor. He is also a playwright and poet with published work in poetry and will soon have his play Proppa (Proper) Solid published by Playlab Press. He currently works full-time at the Brisbane Indigenous Media Association as its Creative Director.
This blog is part of a series that also features responses from Michelle Law and Rebecca Shaw. Straight White Men plays at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio until 18 June.