I know a lot of people. I know a lot of white people. I know a lot of white men. I know a lot of young white men. And I know that they feel that they’re getting trashed for things they never did. And they’re right, and I feel sorry for them. They’re too young to remember why white men had it coming.
Whatever the differences between the races, whatever the differences between the genders, whatever weird peccadilloes are particular to white men in specific, whatever they are or may be…now we are in a world where they are all equal. In America, there is no particular claim to virtue for any one gender or ethnic group.
But there was a time, recently, when a white man’s word was law. Ask older people, because they remember it. Last night somebody told me a story about driving drunk here in Austin in the 1970s. They ran a red light and hit a car. The car happened to have four black men in it. The cops arrived and arrested all four of the black men and let them go.
We know theses stories. But they aren’t so long ago. I’m not really old enough to remember them. Kids in their twenties sure aren’t old enough to remember them. But our society will remember them for hundreds of years.
So I do feel bad for these kids. I feel bad for poor white boys who can’t get any of these scholarships that are for anybody but poor white boys, but they can’t remember that there was a time when scholarships were only for poor white boys and we have to pay for that now.
On a personal level, am I happy or excited as I scroll past page after page of grant opportunities that I can’t use? No, I’m simply bored. Does it thrill me when people go to conventions and set up panel discussions for anyone but white men? No, I ignore it, as they are explicitly not meant for me and I am not invited. When you tell me that you want to set up a women’s-only drawing group, what do you expect me to say? From my point, it’s hard enough to get people to leave their houses and draw anyway, so you’re just cutting your membership in half, and there’s not much I can do about it, because I’m pretty clearly not invited, and I have very little interest in groups that I am not invited to.
Would I ever start a group for white men only? No, I would never start a group that is limited by ethnicity or gender.
And I wish the rest of y’all would get it out of your system and cut it out. White men already tried that. It sucks. Get through what you need to get through and get back to what makes us all human. White men, the only group in America that is in an active struggle to completely refuse to segregate themselves, to refuse to give themselves any particular privileges or in any way distinguish themselves according to their ethnicity or gender, will be waiting when you get here.
It seems to me that in the 50s to the 80s feminism went through a period where it was necessary to proclaim that men and women are more or less the same, that anything a man can do a woman can do, that our common humanity is what gives us the right of action and agenda in this world and not any accident of our birth. It seems to me that after that we swung into this period where we are saying, “Actually, men and women are quite different. And that’s great.” Both are true, both emphases are necessary.
Women and men are not the same. As an artist, it would be ridiculous for me to pretend they’re the same. If I drew women and men to look the same I would not be describing their characters or our reality.
Previous eras misapplied these superficial differences to mean something they didn’t mean. They were wrong. We had to sweep those errors away with the powerful abstract bromide of “women and men are the same.” Pretending two things are the same is a great way to get rid of some of the abstract mental differences between them, but it doesn’t affect the fundamental realities of distribution of adipose tissue.
So when we are faced with biological reality, and we have somehow found a way to answer with legal equality, then we can have fun with it. We can celebrate what makes men men and women women and the people who want to go between can go between, whenever they want to. Masculine and feminine are just roles, they may be picked up or put down, they are only two large constellations in the galaxy of human behavior.
I fully expect to see the ramifications of legal equality between the genders to continue to unfold before our eyes. I think male and female wages will equalize, and quickly, especially now that there’s transit between the sexes and two full generations of children raised to believe in gender equality.
So now children who choose to do masculine things or feminine things will find them both to be choices. The associations have not disappeared, but the stigma has been removed. My daughter likes to wear pink clothes. Her outfit choices could be described as pink with random pastel highlights. She has a large number of stereotypically female characteristics, and this is her right as an American. I’m happy she’s happy. I think she’s lucky to have found a relatively uncomplicated identity, because not everybody has that convenience. But that’s all it is, a convenience. Her challenges will be found elsewhere.
I’d like to see racial relations in America come to this level. I think it’s impeding our artistic consciousness and historical development to have to pretend everybody everywhere is and always has been the same. But I understand that we have to get through this first. I understand it’s not me that decides. White people, white men in particular, are not in charge of telling other people how to get through the historical trauma that was inflicted by white people, white men in particular. Now is most emphatically not the time for the crisis of the white man. We either all lived through that in the 1940s-1950s or it is yet to come, but right now is not going to work.
But when you get through whatever fires gender and ethnicity may hold, we’ll be waiting. We might already be there. If freedom really is not having to feel sorry for who you are, maybe we’ll be able to show everyone how to be as goofily self-righteous, ignorant and innocently arrogant.