What Do You Think Of This Idea?
In the words of Joan Didion, “I write to know what I think.*”
This morning I was watching clips from Night of Too Many Stars, an HBO awareness and fund raiser for Autism. Acts from well known comedians and celebrities were interspersed with stories about wonderful, creative people living with autism. One of my favourites featured Carly Fleischmann, the first non-verbal talk show host. Go ahead and watch this, I’ll wait.
The show, hosted by Jon Stewart, pulled together a team of friends and colleagues to bring attention to Autism and to share stories to celebrate the people it affects rather than pushing them aside or treating them as invisible.
I’m still reflecting on the work of Singular Productions who I wrote about recently. Adam Goodburn and Deborah Caddy have built a company that has consistently worked for ten years to create and perform musical theatre and opera pieces that tell stories that real people can relate to.
I’ve been following the accumulating stories of women who have been subject to abusive behaviour from men. There are the widely reported stories of famous men using their influence to take advantage of women, and there are thousands or millions of other stories coming to the surface. Stories from women all around me. Situations that happened to women I know.
I’m not above reproach, so I’ve made a conscious decision to step back and listen. I can’t assume to know how women around me experience the world. I haven’t wanted to jump to any conclusions that I understand how they feel. To me this feels like the correct initial response. Rather than doing my usual thing of interrupting to say “I know what to do” or “I know how to fix this”, I’ve wanted to check myself, to shut my mouth and open my eyes and ears.
Some time has passed. A few weeks. Not long in the scheme of things, I know, but I feel like I’ve given this some time and space so I can respond thoughtfully rather than react reflexively.
I share this idea with you, my friend. Because writing here helps me to think better. I value the responses and feedback I get from you. So if you’ve got thoughts to share about what I’m about to suggest, I want to hear it.
This morning I thought about a way to bridge the divide between women who have been affected by mens’ sexist or even misogynistic attitudes and behaviour, and the men who have been listening and are recognising the need for change. The men who want to understand better and do better.
My idea is to invite women to write about an experience they have had where they were mistreated by a male. It could be a story of coercion, it could be a story of being overlooked for an opportunity that was given to a man instead. [I would look to a woman to outline the sort of story that would be right for this project, because I don’t pretend to even know which words to use.]
The second part is to film men reading the stories. Each participating man is given a story to read, without judgement of course, on camera. Then to share the videos, either within the boundaries of the people involved in the project, or with the wider community.
Why? I think the process of speaking the stories out loud would resonate powerfully with a lot of men. For a moment that story is in his body, in his thoughts, it becomes part of his experience.
Having your story read by a man doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t make it more worthy. It certainly doesn’t make it more validated. But I am interested to see if it imbues it with a different resonance that might give other men reason to pause again and reflect.
Maybe they’ll ask themselves:
- What have I not been seeing?
- What have I not been hearing?
- Who have my actions been affecting without my awareness?
And forgive me for imagining what might be valuable for a woman with this sort of a story to share…
- The opportunity to feel really heard
- The knowledge that her story is acknowledged by others
- A signal that there are men who do want to take a stand against the status quo
What do you think? Do you think the idea could have merit? Would you be interested in helping to shape this project? I’d love to hear from women and men who are generous with their insights and feedback. Help me make my ideas better.
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*The Center Will Not Hold is a revealing documentary about the author Joan Didion made by her nephew Griffin Dunne. In watching I discovered a lot about her work, her family, life in Los Angeles in the 1960s in the era of Janis Joplin and Charles Manson. It made me think about the relationship adoptive parents have with their children indeed their experience of parenthood. I found it fascinating and highly recommend it. I watched it on Netflix Australia.