Last week, I finally watched Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s popular Netflix stand-up special Nanette. This week, I’m encouraging men in my circles to do the same. Not only because it’s amazingly well-crafted by a talented human (it is), but because it sheds light on stories that need to be told. Stories that connect people across labels and fuel how we interpret ourselves in the world.
We are a culture of story tellers. It’s through these narratives that we design a shared reality. Until those living in the dominant culture can connect with these stories, they are missing key pieces of the puzzle. The challenge is two-fold: lure people out of that comfortable place, and then keep them receptive as things get increasingly less comfortable.
Hannah uses her incredible wit to bare truths that otherwise would be too raw and stay unheard. In exposing this degree of human vulnerability, she invites others to reclaim their power and identity.
Marginalized populations often lack the voice and visibility available to those in the dominant culture. We say “excuse me” to find our way into the narrative. Sometimes, through film and art designed for the male gaze, we work our way into the spotlight. Storytellers become the trojan horse—smuggling in relatable vulnerability—rather than soldiers. You are connected by humanity before even realizing what has happened.
Think this only applies to women or lesbians? Think again. People of all genders and sexual orientations have their stories re-written by those with more power.
Many of Hannah’s experiences describe the unique perspective of being queer and female. Her story is not everyone’s story. But there are enough core similarities to resonate deeply.
It’s Hannah’s relatability at the human level that makes it possible for straight, cisgender men to see themselves in these stories. No, they are not for you, but you own learning from them. You own the work of examining different actors in each story and reflecting where you see yourself them.
Is it going to change your life? Maybe. But that’s not really the point.
Investing the 60-ish minutes to watch Nanette might make you see things a bit differently.
This could tap into something you thought you’d forgotten. Or, rather, long since decided not to think about.
Perhaps this is a witnessing; making space for experiences that may have never occurred to you. Part of the storytelling is having it heard and made real. The saying of experiences is also a sharing with others. To the person without power or agency—you are not alone, this is not just you.
To those with power and privilege—this is what you are doing, this is how you stop it.
Watch it. Watch it because it’s funny. Watch it because it’s heartbreaking. Watch it because it’s real.
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