I feel the ripples of last night’s viewing of Nanette on Netflix. I am so moved by Hannah Gadsby’s words that I took some time to transcribe a part of her special. If you have not seen it yet you might want to watch it first to hear her voice carry these words and then read this if you feel so inclined. For those of you who have seen it and want to keep these handy to read them over and over, and over again; here you are.
I find them necessary to remember and powerful to hold close to our hearts. I was so moved by the experience that I wrote Hannah a letter last night. I wanted her to know the impact of her story, of her bravery, and transparency. I try to live my life in the same light and feel such a radical bond with others who do the same. I felt so connected to her; to humanity and the human condition. I have always felt connected and will continue to feel connected; and that was her intention. Well done Hannah, well done.
From Nanette on Netflix
“All my life I have been told I am a man hater. I don’t hate men, I honestly do not; I don’t hate men. But, there’s a problem. You see, I don’t even believe that women are better than men. I believe women are just as corruptible by power as men. Because you know what fellows? You don’t have a monopoly on the human condition you arrogant fu*@s. The story is as you have told it—power belongs to you and if you can’t handle criticism, take a joke or deal with your own tension without violence then you have to wonder if you are up to the task of being in charge.
I am not a man hater but I am afraid of men. If I am the only woman in a room full of men, I am afraid. And if you think that’s unusual, you are not speaking to the women in your life. I don’t hate men but I wonder how a man would feel if they lived my life. Because it was a man who sexually abused me when I was a child, it was a man who beat the shit out of me when I was seventeen, and it was two men who raped me when I was barely in my twenties. Tell me why was that okay. Tell me why it was okay to pick me off the pack like that and do that to me! It would have been more humane to take me out to the back and put a bullet in my head if it is that much of a crime to be different!
I don’t tell you this so you think of me as a victim. I AM NOT A VICTIM. I tell you this because my story has value; MY STORY HAS VALUE. I tell you this because I want you to know, I need you to know, to be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, THAT is incredible strength. You destroy the woman, you destroy the past she represents. I will NOT allow my story to be destroyed. What I would have done to hear a story like mine. Not for blame, not for money, not for reputation, not for power but to feel less alone; to feel connected. I want my story heard because, ironically, I believe Picasso was right. I believe we could paint a better world; if we learned how to see it from all perspectives; as many perspectives as we possibly could. Because diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. Fear difference, you learn NOTHING. Picasso’s mistake was his arrogance, he assumed that he could represent all of the perspectives. And our mistake was to invalidate the perspective of a seventeen year old girl because we believed her potential was never going to equal his. Hindsight is a GIFT. Can you stop wasting my time? A seventeen year old girl is just never, ever, ever in her prime! I am in my prime! Would you test your strength out on me???!!! There is no way anyone would dare to test their strength out on me! Because you all know, there is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself!
To the men in the room who feel I may have been persecuting you this evening…well spotted. (laughter) That’s pretty much what I’ve done there. But this is theatre fellows. I have given you an hour; I have given you a taste. I have lived a life; the damage done to me is real and debilitating— I will never flourish. But this is why I must quit comedy, because the only way I can tell my truth and put tension in the room is with anger. I’ve got every right to be angry but what I don’t have a right to do is to spread anger; I don’t. Because anger, much like laughter, can connect a room full of strangers like nothing else. But anger, even if it is connected to laughter, will not relieve tension because anger is a tension; it is a toxic, infections tension and it knows no other purpose than to spread blind hatred and I want no part of it. Because I take my freedom of speech as a responsibility. And just because I can position myself as a victim does not make my anger constructive; it never is constructive.
Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure. Laughter is just the honey that sweetens the bitter medicine. I don’t want to unite you with laughter or anger. I just needed my story heard; my story felt and understood by individuals with minds of their own. Because like it or not, your story is my story and my story is your story. I just don’t have the strength to take care of my story anymore. I don’t want my story defined by anger.
All I can ask is just please help me take care of my story. Do you know why we have the sunflowers? It’s not because Vincent Van Gogh suffered, it’s because Vincent Van Gough had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether, a connection to the world and that is the focus of the story we need— connection.