5 December 2018, Los Angeles, California, USA
I wsant to speak about the good men.
I want to speak about the very big problem I have with the good men, especially the good men who take it upon themselves to talk about the bad men. I find good men talking about bad men incredibly irritating, and this is something the good men are doing a lot of at the moment. Not this moment, not this minute, because the good men don’t have to wake up early for their opportunity to monologue their hot take on misogyny. They get prime-time TV and the late shows.
I’ll tell you what, I’m sick of turning my television on at the end of the day to find anywhere up to 12 Jimmys giving me their hot take. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the Jimmys and the Davids and the other Jimmys — good guys, great guys. Some of my best friends are Jimmy. But the last thing I need right now in this moment in history is to have to listen to men monologue about misogyny and how other men should just stop being “creepy,” as if that’s the problem. “If only these bad men just knew how not to be creepy!” Is that the problem? Men are not creepy. Do you know what’s creepy? Spiders, because we don’t know how they move. Rejecting the humanity of a woman is not creepiness; it is misogyny. So why can’t men monologue about these issues? Well they can, and they do. My problem is that according to the Jimmys, there’s only two types of bad men. There’s the Weinstein/Bill Cosby types who are so utterly horrible that they might as well be different species to the Jimmys. And then there are the FOJs: the Friends of Jimmy. These are apparently good men who misread the rules — garden-variety consent dyslexics. They have the rule book, but they just skimmed it. “Oh, that a semicolon? My bad. I thought that meant anal.” Sorry to the vegans in the room.
My issue is that when good men talk about bad men, they always ignore the line in the sand — the line in the sand that is inevitably drawn whenever a good man talks about bad men: “I am a good man. Here is the line. There are all the bad men.” The Jimmys and the good men won’t talk about this line, but we really need to talk about this line. Let’s call it Kevin. And let’s never call it that again. We need to talk about how men will draw a different line for every different occasion. They have a line for the locker room; a line for when their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters are watching; another line for when they’re drunk and fratting; another line for nondisclosure; a line for friends; and a line for foes. You know why we need to talk about this line between good men and bad men? Because it’s only good men who get to draw that line. And guess what? All men believe they are good. We need to talk about this because guess what happens when only good men get to draw that line? This world — a world full of good men who do very bad things and still believe in their heart of hearts that they are good men because they have not crossed the line, because they move the line for their own good. Women should be in control of that line, no question.
Now take everything I have said up until this point and replace “man” with “white person,” and know that if you are a white woman, you have no place drawing lines in the sand between good white people and bad white people. I encourage you to also take the time to replace “man” with “straight” or “cis” or “able-bodied” or “neurotypical,” et cetera, et cetera. Everybody believes they are fundamentally good, and we all need to believe we are fundamentally good because believing you are fundamentally good is part of the human condition. But if you have to believe someone else is bad in order to believe you are good, you are drawing a very dangerous line. In many ways, these lines in the sand we all draw are stories we tell to ourselves so we can still believe we are good people.
9 November 2015, Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA
I can't thank Glamour magazine enough and Conde Nast and Cindi for asking me to be here. You just made this night so amazing. These incredible, inspiring women are doing so many things to change how we perceive women, and I hope Amy Schumer and all the other nominees that when you consider making your biopic, you'll give me the rights first, which would be great. Although Amy, I'll have to play your grandmother in the movie (by Hollywood standards), and you'll probably have to play your own mother.
I'm so excited that so many young women are here tonight.This all started for me when I was a little girl. I was 14 years old when I learned that I love acting, and I still do. Acting allows me to slip into the skin of all kinds of different women, and not in a creepy Silence of the Lambs way…but in a way that lets me explore the full spectrum of humanity. Every woman I've ever played is passionate and strong and flawed, except for Tracy Flick. She's 100% perfect, but she made me say that. But I also learned at 14 years old that I was ambitious. Really ambitious. Did I say that out loud? Let's talk about ambition.
I want everybody to close their eyes and think of a dirty word, like a really dirty word. Now open your eyes. Was any of your words ambition? I didn't think so. See, I just kind of started wondering lately why female ambition is a trait that people are so afraid of. Why do people have prejudiced opinions about women who accomplish things? Why is that perceived as a negative? In a study by Georgetown University in 2005, a group of professors asked candidates to evaluate male efficient versus female efficient in politicians. Respondents
were less likely to vote for power-seeking women than power-seeking men. They also perceived ambitious women as looking out for themselves. They even reported ambitious women as provoking feelings of disgust.
Now, in my life I have always found more comfort in being the underdog. Whether people thought I couldn't do something or they said it was impossible, I always rose to the challenge. I enjoyed reaching for the impossible. I remember when I was 18 years old and applying to
colleges, I had this male college counselor, and he said, "Don't even bother applying to Stanford, sweetie. Your SAT scores aren't good enough." But I did it anyway, and I got in. (But it wasn't because of my SAT scores!
When I got into the film business, I was doing dramas, and casting directors didn't know if I could be funny. So I did a comedy, Legally Blonde, and then my entire career I was pigeonholed. I did comedies, they didn't think I was serious. I did dramas, they didn't think I was funny. And I got older and they didn't think I could still be viable. So about three years ago, I found myself very curious about the state of the movie business. I really wondered how the digital evolution was affecting the landscape of filmmaking and specifically why studios were making fewer and fewer movies. So I started asking questions, and I decided to meet with the heads of each of the different movie studios that I had been friends with for years and I had made many movies with them. Each of the meetings started with something very casual like, "How are your kids?" and "Wow, has it really been that long since Walk the Line?" At the end of the meeting, I sort of casually brought up, "So, how many movies are in development with a female lead?" And by lead, I don't mean wife of the lead or the girlfriend of the lead. The lead, the hero of the story. I was met with nothing, blank stares, excessive blinking, uncomfortable shifting. No one wanted to answer the question because the fact was the studios weren't developing anything starring a woman. The only studio that was was turning a man's role into a woman's role. And the studio heads didn't apologize. They don't have to apologize. They are interested in profits—and after all, they run subsidiary companies of giant corporations.
But I was flabbergasted. This was 2012, and it made no sense to me. Where was our Sally Field in Norma Rae or Sigourney Weaver in Alien or Goldie Hawn in, you name it, any Goldie Hawn movie: Overboard, Wildcats, Private Benjamin? These women shaped my idea of what it meant to be a woman of strength and character and humor in this world. And my beautiful, intelligent daughter, who is 16 years old now, would not grow up idolizing that same group of women.
Instead, she'd be forced to watch a chorus of talented, accomplished women Saran wrapped into tight leather pants, tottering along on very cute, but completely impractical, shoes turn to a male lead and ask breathlessly, "What do we do now?!" Seriously, I'm not kidding. Go
back and watch any movie, and you'll see this line over and over. I love to ask questions, but it's my most hated question.
I dread reading scripts that have no women involved in their creation because inevitably I get to that part where the girl turns to the guy, and she says, "What do we do now?!" Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don't they tell people in crisis, even children, "If you're in trouble, talk to a woman." It's ridiculous that a woman wouldn't know what to do.
So, anyway, after going to these studios and telling people about how there's barely any female leads in films and the industry's in crisis, people were aghast. "That's horrible," they said. And then they changed the subject and moved on with their dinner and moved on with
their lives. But I could not change the subject. I couldn't turn to some man and say, "What do we do now?" This is my life.
I've made movies all my life, for 25 years, since I was 14 years old. It was time to turn to myself and say, "OK, Reese, what are we going to do now?" The answer was very clear. My mother, who is here tonight, a very strong, smart Southern woman, said to me, "If you want something done, honey, do it yourself."
So, I started my own production company, Pacific Standard Films, with the mission to tell stories about women. And I was nervous, y'all. I was spending my own money, which everyone in the movie business always tells you, "Don't spend your own money on anything." I was warned that on the crazy chance Pacific Standard would acquire any good scripts we would never make it past our first few years in business because there just wasn't a market for buying female-driven material. But like Elle Woods, I do not like to be underestimated.
I'm a very avid reader. In fact, I'm a complete book nerd. So is my producing partner, so we tore through tons of manuscripts and read so many things before they were published, but we could only find two pieces of material that we thought were right. We optioned them with our own money, and we prayed that they would work. Both had strong, complicated, fascinating women at the center and both were written by women. And lo and behold, both books hit number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. One is called Gone Girl, and the second is called Wild. So we made those two films last year, and those two films rose to over half a billion dollars world wide and we got three Academy Award nominations for women in acting performances. So that is year one. Against the odds, Pacific Standard has had a year two and year three. We bought five more bestselling books.
I think we are in a culture crisis in every field. In every industry, women are underrepresented and underpaid in leadership positions. Under 5 percent of CEOs of fortune 500 companies are women. Only 19 percent of Congress is women. No wonder we don't have the health care we deserve or paid family leave or public access to early childhood education. That really worries me. How can we expect legislation or our needs to be served if we don't have equal representation? So here's my hope: If you're in politics, media, the tech industry, or working as an entrepreneur or a teacher or a construction worker or a caregiver, you know the problems we are all facing.
I urge each one of you to ask yourselves: What do we do now? That's a big question. What is it in life that you think you can't accomplish? Or what is it that people have said that you cannot do? Wouldn't it feel really good to prove them all wrong? Because I believe ambition is not a dirty word. It's just believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.
25 September 2017, San Antonio, Texas, USA
I don’t think about some platform that I have. I’m an individual. I live in this country. I have the right to say and think what I want. It’s got nothing to do with my position. If it helps someone think one way or another about something, great. But the discussion has to take place.
Obviously, race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly, it’s not going to get better. ‘Oh, they’re talking about that again. They pulled the race card again. Why do we have to talk about that?’ Well, because it’s uncomfortable. There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change, whether it’s the LGBT movement, or women’s suffrage, race, it doesn’t matter. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable, and especially white people, because we’re comfortable. We still have no clue what being born white means. And if you read some of the recent literature, you realize there really is no such thing as whiteness. We kind of made it up. That’s not my original thought, but it’s true.
It’s hard to sit down and decide that, yes, it’s like you’re at the 50-meter mark in a 100-meter dash. You’ve got that kind of a lead, yes, because you were born white. You have advantage that are systemically, culturally, psychologically rare. And they’ve been built up and cemented for hundreds of years. But many people can’t look at it that way, because it’s too difficult. It can’t be something that’s on their plate on a daily basis. People want to hold their position, people want their status quo, people don’t want to give that up. Until its given up, it’s not going to be fixed.
Again, I'm just one dude walking around and that's how I feel.
(from start of video)
There’s a lot involved in that when you say culture and politics and sports. People write books about that. I would hesitate to take that on as a whole. It makes more sense to me to be a bit more specific, and I’ll just tell you what we say to our team.
Each one of them has the right and ability to say what they would like to say, and act the way they’d like to act. They have our full support and no matter what they might want to do or not do is important to them, respected by us, and there’s no recrimination no matter what might take place, unless it’s ridiculous egregious. There’s a line for everything. But we do live in a difficult time and it doesn’t do a whole lot of good ...
We all know the situation and it gets beaten up every day by talking heads, it starts to get personal. I think we all know why, we all know who the source where a lot of the division comes from, but to dwell on that is sometimes I think is the wrong way to go, because it’s so obvious now. It’s boring. The childishness, the gratuitous fear mongering and race baiting, has been so consistent that it’s almost expected. The bar has been lowered so far that I think it’s more important to be thinking about what to do in more organic roots based level. Thinking about the efforts to restrict voter registration, comments that demean cultures, ethic groups, races, women. Those sorts of things. What can be done in an organic way to fight that?
We know how everything happens, we know where the power in the country is, we know the racism that exists. But it’s gone beyond that to a point where I’m more worried about, and confused by, the people around our president. These are intelligent people who know exactly what’s going on. They basically were very negative about his actions but now it seems like it’s condoned. We saw it this weekend with his comments about people who should be fired or people who shouldn’t be allowed to do this sort of thing. I wonder what the people think about who voted for him, where their line is, how much they can take, where does the morality and decency kick in?
I understand very well they didn’t like their choice, economically. A lot of people had a problem. And he was the right guy at the right time to tap into that mood. But people overlooked one helluva lot to pull that trigger and vote in that direction, but it was because they wanted change, they felt ignored, they actually thought something would happen that would aid them. But at what price, is the question.
And as we see the actions over and over again, one wonders what is in their head. Have they come to the conclusion that they had the wrong vehicle? They might have had good ideas, good reasons why they wanted to go the way they went. But someone else that had a little bit more decency about how they approach other people and other groups might have served better. That’s what I worry about in the country.
You wonder about if you live where you thought you live. I just heard a comment this morning from a NASCAR owner and Mr. Petty that just blew me away, just blew me away. Where the owner described that he would get the Greyhound bus tickets for anybody to leave, and they’d be fired, and Mr. Petty, who said people who act the way we saw Sunday, they should leave the country. That’s where I live. I had no idea that I lived in a country where people would actually say that sort of thing. I’m not totally naive but I think these people have been enabled by an example that we’ve all been given. You’ve seen it in Charlottesville, and on and on and on. That’s not a surprise. Get over it. What do we do to get it done. To go to the grassroots and not allow this to happen again.
Our country’s an embarrassment to the world. This is an individual who actually thought that when people held arms during the game, that they were doing it to honor the flag. That’s delusional. Absolutely delusional. But it’s what we have to live with.
So we have a choice. We can continue to bounce our heads off the wall with his conduct, or we can decide that the institutions of our country are more important, that people are more important, that the decent America that we all thought we had and want is more important, and get down to business at a grassroots level and do what we have to do.
I guess that’s enough for now.
26 August 2017, Melbourne, Australia
Joel Creasey is a comedian, speaking at rally for 'yes' campaign in advance of a marriage equality postal survey being conducted in Australia by the conservative government.
My boyfriend he proposed to me.
He proposed that we see other people ....
But in that moment I realised that I truly do want to get married. It is my basic human right, I know I am such a diva these days ...
Like food, shelter, marriage, what’s next, clean drinking water, I am out of control ...
I heard somebody say the other day that gay marriage affects all Australians, it affects ALL Asutralians
Incorrect. It only affects the two people in love wanting to get married.
The only people being affected by gay marriage today is the Fitness First around the corner, because they are empty while every gay man and lesbian is at this rally.
And while I’m at it, can I just say, no. We do not want to marry THE SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE.
I had a one night stand with it once. It was terrible. Very needy, and stayed for breakfast.
Young people, of whom I am one, thank you Anthony, we need to get out to vote. We saw what happened only too recently in America, when people did not turn out to vote.
Jennifer Hudson was voted off seventh on the third season of American Idol.
I know it takes effort and young people and people of my generation and younger, we hate effort! I haven’t cooked a meal in three years. I won’t watch a youtube ad if there’s not a ‘skip ad’ option at the start of it. And I Ubered tothe gym the other day, and it’s in my building.
But this is one of those moments in our young lives that demands that effort.
Insta-story yourself voting if you must, trust me, it’s going to make great content.
But I’d like to speak directly now to those young people who might be struggling right now with their sexuality, made now only worse by this plebiscite, this amazing, non binding, postal plebiscite ... well it’s a survey really, probably done by the same people who do Family Feud.
Survey says - you screwed up Prime Minister.
And I’d particularly like to talk to those young people who are perhaps living in a smaller town, where being gay isn’t particularly common place. Let me assure you, it does get better.
And to please, stick in there, find an ally, find somebody you can talk to.
To the young people let me assure you, the best part of being an adult is youcan make your own decisions.
You don’t have to be friends with the bullies you share maths classes with.
You don’t have to talk to those family members who don’t accept you for who you are.
Christmas can just be you and a couple of hotties sipping Mai Thais in Hawaii if you want.
You don’t have to hang out with Uncle Peter who constantly asks, ‘when you decided to be gay’ .
The gay community is a family, and we are waiting for you, here in Melbourne, and in Sydney and in Adelaide and there’s three in Perth, we are waiting for you all around the world, waiting to embrace you, and tell you that you are loved, and important, and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.
And if I’m perfectly honest, when you get here, I’ll probably try to crack onto you on the dance floor of the Peel.
That said, we’re talking about small towns as well, if a footy club in the regional town of Hamilton Victoria can paint their fifty metre line rainbow, then anything is possible. And do not lose a skerrick of hope.
Now I know Seb said earlier not to speak directly to the No campaign, but I’m a comedian and I can’t help myself, so I’d just quickly like to talk to those people who printed the laughable ‘STOP THE FAGS’ posters. First of all, hello I’m on the television and I’m famous, so isn’t that exciting. Probably never spoken to one of those people before. And yes, I agree, smoking is revolting. And no I’m sorry, we are not going anywhere. That is not going to happen. We are going to fight. We are going to achieve marriage equality, we are going to be allowed to marry the person we love, regardless of gender and sexuality.
We are going to win, in SICKENINGNESSand in health.
And I’m finally going to be able to sell my ten page bridal spread to New Idea, like I’ve dreamt of all my life.
And finally, PS Stop the Fags, your graphic designer sucks, I’ve made more compelling posters on Microsoft Paint.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen,
Love is love.
21 January 1931, London, United Kingdom
When your secretary invited me to come here, she told me that your Society is concerned with the employment of women and she suggested that I might tell you something about my own professional experiences. It is true I am a woman; it is true I am employed; but what professional experiences have I had? It is difficult to say. My profession is literature; and in that profession there are fewer experiences for women than in any other, with the exception of the stage--fewer, I mean, that are peculiar to women. For the road was cut many years ago--by Fanny Burney, by Aphra Behn, by Harriet Martineau, by Jane Austen, by George Eliot--many famous women, and many more unknown and forgotten, have been before me, making the path smooth, and regulating my steps. Thus, when I came to write, there were very few material obstacles in my way. Writing was a reputable and harmless occupation. The family peace was not broken by the scratching of a pen. No demand was made upon the family purse. For ten and sixpence one can buy paper enough to write all the plays of Shakespeare--if one has a mind that way. Pianos and models, Paris, Vienna and Berlin, masters and mistresses, are not needed by a writer. The cheapness of writing paper is, of course, the reason why women have succeeded as writers before they have succeeded in the other professions.
But to tell you my story--it is a simple one. You have only got to figure to yourselves a girl in a bedroom with a pen in her hand. She had only to move that pen from left to right--from ten o'clock to one. Then it occurred to her to do what is simple and cheap enough after all--to slip a few of those pages into an envelope, fix a penny stamp in the corner, and drop the envelope into the red box at the corner. It was thus that I became a journalist; and my effort was rewarded on the first day of the following month--a very glorious day it was for me--by a letter from an editor containing a cheque for one pound ten shillings and sixpence. But to show you how little I deserve to be called a professional woman, how little I know of the struggles and difficulties of such lives, I have to admit that instead of spending that sum upon bread and butter, rent, shoes and stockings, or butcher's bills, I went out and bought a cat--a beautiful cat, a Persian cat, which very soon involved me in bitter disputes with my neighbours.
What could be easier than to write articles and to buy Persian cats with the profits? But wait a moment. Articles have to be about something. Mine, I seem to remember, was about a novel by a famous man. And while I was writing this review, I discovered that if I were going to review books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom. And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem, The Angel in the House. It was she who used to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her. You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her--you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it--in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all--I need not say it---she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty--her blushes, her great grace. In those days--the last of Queen Victoria--every house had its Angel. And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: "My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure." And she made as if to guide my pen. I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself, though the credit rightly belongs to some excellent ancestors of mine who left me a certain sum of money--shall we say five hundred pounds a year?--so that it was not necessary for me to depend solely on charm for my living. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex. And all these questions, according to the Angel of the House, cannot be dealt with freely and openly by women; they must charm, they must conciliate, they must--to put it bluntly--tell lies if they are to succeed. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. She was always creeping back when I thought I had despatched her. Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was bound to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.
But to continue my story. The Angel was dead; what then remained? You may say that what remained was a simple and common object--a young woman in a bedroom with an inkpot. In other words, now that she had rid herself of falsehood, that young woman had only to be herself. Ah, but what is "herself"? I mean, what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know. I do not believe that you know. I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill. That indeed is one of the reasons why I have come here out of respect for you, who are in process of showing us by your experiments what a woman is, who are in process Of providing us, by your failures and successes, with that extremely important piece of information.
But to continue the story of my professional experiences. I made one pound ten and six by my first review; and I bought a Persian cat with the proceeds. Then I grew ambitious. A Persian cat is all very well, I said; but a Persian cat is not enough. I must have a motor car. And it was thus that I became a novelist--for it is a very strange thing that people will give you a motor car if you will tell them a story. It is a still stranger thing that there is nothing so delightful in the world as telling stories. It is far pleasanter than writing reviews of famous novels. And yet, if I am to obey your secretary and tell you my professional experiences as a novelist, I must tell you about a very strange experience that befell me as a novelist. And to understand it you must try first to imagine a novelist's state of mind. I hope I am not giving away professional secrets if I say that a novelist's chief desire is to be as unconscious as possible. He has to induce in himself a state of perpetual lethargy. He wants life to proceed with the utmost quiet and regularity. He wants to see the same faces, to read the same books, to do the same things day after day, month after month, while he is writing, so that nothing may break the illusion in which he is living--so that nothing may disturb or disquiet the mysterious nosings about, feelings round, darts, dashes and sudden discoveries of that very shy and illusive spirit, the imagination. I suspect that this state is the same both for men and women. Be that as it may, I want you to imagine me writing a novel in a state of trance. I want you to figure to yourselves a girl sitting with a pen in her hand, which for minutes, and indeed for hours, she never dips into the inkpot. The image that comes to my mind when I think of this girl is the image of a fisherman lying sunk in dreams on the verge of a deep lake with a rod held out over the water. She was letting her imagination sweep unchecked round every rock and cranny of the world that lies submerged in the depths of our unconscious being. Now came the experience, the experience that I believe to be far commoner with women writers than with men. The line raced through the girl's fingers. Her imagination had rushed away. It had sought the pools, the depths, the dark places where the largest fish slumber. And then there was a smash. There was an explosion. There was foam and confusion. The imagination had dashed itself against something hard. The girl was roused from her dream. She was indeed in a state of the most acute and difficult distress. To speak without figure she had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say. Men, her reason told her, would be shocked. The consciousness of--what men will say of a woman who speaks the truth about her passions had roused her from her artist's state of unconsciousness. She could write no more. The trance was over. Her imagination could work no longer. This I believe to be a very common experience with women writers--they are impeded by the extreme conventionality of the other sex. For though men sensibly allow themselves great freedom in these respects, I doubt that they realize or can control the extreme severity with which they condemn such freedom in women.
These then were two very genuine experiences of my own. These were two of the adventures of my professional life. The first--killing the Angel in the House--I think I solved. She died. But the second, telling the truth about my own experiences as a body, I do not think I solved. I doubt that any woman has solved it yet. The obstacles against her are still immensely powerful--and yet they are very difficult to define. Outwardly, what is simpler than to write books? Outwardly, what obstacles are there for a woman rather than for a man? Inwardly, I think, the case is very different; she has still many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome. Indeed it will be a long time still, I think, before a woman can sit down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against. And if this is so in literature, the freest of all professions for women, how is it in the new professions which you are now for the first time entering?
Those are the questions that I should like, had I time, to ask you. And indeed, if I have laid stress upon these professional experiences of mine, it is because I believe that they are, though in different forms, yours also. Even when the path is nominally open--when there is nothing to prevent a woman from being a doctor, a lawyer, a civil servant--there are many phantoms and obstacles, as I believe, looming in her way. To discuss and define them is I think of great value and importance; for thus only can the labour be shared, the difficulties be solved. But besides this, it is necessary also to discuss the ends and the aims for which we are fighting, for which we are doing battle with these formidable obstacles. Those aims cannot be taken for granted; they must be perpetually questioned and examined. The whole position, as I see it--here in this hall surrounded by women practising for the first time in history I know not how many different professions--is one of extraordinary interest and importance. You have won rooms of your own in the house hitherto exclusively owned by men. You are able, though not without great labour and effort, to pay the rent. You are earning your five hundred pounds a year. But this freedom is only a beginning--the room is your own, but it is still bare. It has to be furnished; it has to be decorated; it has to be shared. How are you going to furnish it, how are you going to decorate it? With whom are you going to share it, and upon what terms? These, I think are questions of the utmost importance and interest. For the first time in history you are able to ask them; for the first time you are able to decide for yourselves what the answers should be. Willingly would I stay and discuss those questions and answers--but not to-night. My time is up; and I must cease.
1 April 2017, Los Angeles, California, USA
This award is so much larger than me. This moment is about visibility and about representation. What and who we see in the media defines our perception of the world around us. And so, to see ourselves in this picture of what is normal and what is acceptable and what is beautiful is absolutely vital. In saying that, so much of the work that has contributed to our progress as a community is far less glamorous than the work that I’m being honoured for tonight.
About a year or two ago, I watched a documentary called "How to survive a plague." I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. The doc is about the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the efforts of organisations like ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group. Within the characters in the doc, I saw myself, and I saw my friends, and I saw my colleagues, and I saw my boyfriend. These kids were young, smart, active fighters. I saw that wit, and that humour, and that resilience that I’ve grown to love so much about my community.
They were just like my friends and I. I know I'm being super humble. Like this smart and everything, just like me. But I saw myself in these characters, and the difference was that these people were attending a friend’s funeral on a weekly basis. This was in New York City, not ever 40 years ago. They were fighting for medical treatment, they were fighting for visibility and they were fighting for their lives. It was a life or death situation.
It was this kind of sacrifice and activism that paved the way for all of us to be here tonight. While I'm so thankful and fortunate to have this award, I would like to share it with the warriors who made it possible but maybe didn't get one for themselves. This award is for Peter Staley. One of the featured activist in "How to survive a plague." Peter was one of the driving forces behind ACT UP, the founder of the Treatment Action Group, and a personal hero of mine. This is for Marsha P Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera. The Godmothers of the Stonewall Riots, who also founded a transgender rights group, in the 1970s.
This is for ... You can keep going on the teleprompter. This is for Bayard Rustin. Bayard was an openly gay civil rights leader, who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr, and was largely written out of history as a result of homophobia. This is for Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag. A symbol of pride. Who we sadly lost yesterday. This is for the Edie Windsors and the James Baldwins and the Frank Kamenys of the world. And the list goes on.
Though times and our needs may have changed, this ethos and spirit still persist in our community today.
27 September 2016, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium
The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. That is what I want us to understand today. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Stalin. It isn’t Jews alone who suffer under ISIS or Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad. We make a great mistake if we think antisemitism is a threat only to Jews. It is a threat, first and foremost, to Europe and to the freedoms it took centuries to achieve.
Antisemitism is not about Jews. It is about anti-Semites. It is about people who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures and have instead to blame someone else. Historically, if you were a Christian at the time of the Crusades, or a German after the First World War, and saw that the world hadn’t turned out the way you believed it would, you blamed the Jews. That is what is happening today. And I cannot begin to say how dangerous it is. Not just to Jews but to everyone who values freedom, compassion and humanity.
The appearance of antisemitism in a culture is the first symptom of a disease, the early warning sign of collective breakdown. If Europe allows antisemitism to flourish, that will be the beginning of the end of Europe. And what I want to do in these brief remarks is simply to analyze a phenomenon full of vagueness and ambiguity, because we need precision and understanding to know what antisemitism is, why it happens, why antisemites are convinced that they are not antisemitic.
First let me define antisemitism. Not liking Jews is not antisemitism. We all have people we don’t like. That’s OK; that’s human; it isn’t dangerous. Second, criticizing Israel is not antisemitism. I was recently talking to some schoolchildren and they asked me: is criticizing Israel antisemitism? I said No and I explained the difference. I asked them: Do you believe you have a right to criticize the British government? They all put up their hands. Then I asked, Which of you believes that Britain has no right to exist? No one put up their hands. Now you know the difference, I said, and they all did.
Antisemitism means denying the right of Jews to exist collectively as Jews with the same rights as everyone else. It takes different forms in different ages. In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, the state of Israel. It takes different forms but it remains the same thing: the view that Jews have no right to exist as free and equal human beings.
If there is one thing I and my contemporaries did not expect, it was that antisemitism would reappear in Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. The reason we did not expect it was that Europe had undertaken the greatest collective effort in all of history to ensure that the virus of antisemitism would never again infect the body politic. It was a magnificent effort of antiracist legislation, Holocaust education and interfaith dialogue. Yet antisemitism has returned despite everything.
On 27 January 2000, representatives of 46 governments from around the world gathered in Stockholm to issue a collective declaration of Holocaust remembrance and the continuing fight against antisemitism, racism and prejudice. Then came 9/11, and within days conspiracy theories were flooding the internet claiming it was the work of Israel and its secret service, the Mossad. In April 2002, on Passover, I was in Florence with a Jewish couple from Paris when they received a phone call from their son, saying, “Mum, Dad, it’s time to leave France. It’s not safe for us here anymore.”
In May 2007, in a private meeting here in Brussels, I told the three leaders of Europe at the time, Angela Merkel, President of the European Council, Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament, that the Jews of Europe were beginning to ask whether there was a future for Jews in Europe.
That was more than nine years ago. Since then, things have become worse. Already in 2013, before some of the worst incidents, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that almost a third of Europe’s Jews were considering emigrating because of anti-Semitism. In France the figure was 46 percent; in Hungary 48 percent.
Let me ask you this. Whether you are Jewish or Christian, Muslim: would you stay in a country where you need armed police to guard you while you prayed? Where your children need armed guards to protect them at school? Where, if you wear a sign of your faith in public, you risk being abused or attacked? Where, when your children go to university, they are insulted and intimidated because of what is happening in some other part of the world? Where, when they present their own view of the situation they are howled down and silenced?
This is happening to Jews throughout Europe. In every single country of Europe, without exception, Jews are fearful for their or their children’s future. If this continues, Jews will continue to leave Europe, until, barring the frail and the elderly, Europe will finally have become Judenrein.
How did this happen? It happened the way viruses always defeat the human immune system, namely, by mutating. The new antisemitism is different from the old antisemitism, in three ways. I’ve already mentioned one. Once Jews were hated because of their religion. Then they were hated because of their race. Now they are hated because of their nation state. The second difference is that the epicenter of the old antisemitism was Europe. Today it’s the Middle East and it is communicated globally by the new electronic media.
The third is particularly disturbing. Let me explain. It is easy to hate, but difficult publicly to justify hate. Throughout history, when people have sought to justify anti-Semitism, they have done so by recourse to the highest source of authority available within the culture. In the Middle Ages, it was religion. So we had religious anti-Judaism. In post-Enlightenment Europe it was science. So we had the twin foundations of Nazi ideology, Social Darwinism and the so-called Scientific Study of Race. Today the highest source of authority worldwide is human rights. That is why Israel—the only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East with a free press and independent judiciary—is regularly accused of the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide.
The new antisemitism has mutated so that any practitioner of it can deny that he or she is an antisemite. After all, they’ll say, I’m not a racist. I have no problem with Jews or Judaism. I only have a problem with the State of Israel. But in a world of 56 Muslim nations and 103 Christian ones, there is only one Jewish state, Israel, which constitutes one-quarter of one per cent of the land mass of the Middle East. Israel is the only one of the 193 member nations of the United Nations that has its right to exist regularly challenged, with one state, Iran, and many, many other groups, committed to its destruction.
Antisemitism means denying the right of Jews to exist as Jews with the same rights as everyone else. The form this takes today is anti-Zionism. Of course, there is a difference between Zionism and Judaism, and between Jews and Israelis, but this difference does not exist for the new antisemites themselves. It was Jews not Israelis who were murdered in terrorist attacks in Toulouse, Paris, Brussels and Copenhagen. Anti-Zionism is the antisemitism of our time.
In the Middle Ages Jews were accused of poisoning wells, spreading the plague, and killing Christian children to use their blood. In Nazi Germany they were accused of controlling both capitalist America and communist Russia. Today they are accused of running ISIS as well as America. All the old myths have been recycled, from the Blood Libel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The cartoons that flood the Middle East are clones of those published in Der Sturmer one of the primary vehicles of Nazi propaganda between 1923 and 1945.
The ultimate weapon of the new antisemitism is dazzling in its simplicity. It goes like this. The Holocaust must never happen again. But Israelis are the new Nazis; the Palestinians are the new Jews; all Jews are Zionists. Therefore the real antisemites of our time are none other than the Jews themselves. And these are not marginal views. They are widespread throughout the Muslim world, including communities in Europe, and they are slowly infecting the far left, the far right, academic circles, unions, and even some churches. Having cured itself of the virus of antisemitism, Europe is being reinfected by parts of the world that never went through the self-reckoning that Europe undertook once the facts of the Holocaust became known.
How do such absurdities come to be believed? This is a vast and complex subject, and I have written a book about it, but the simplest explanation is this. When bad things happen to a group, its members can ask one of two questions: “What did we do wrong?” or “Who did this to us?” The entire fate of the group will depend on which it chooses.
If it asks, “What did we do wrong?” it has begun the self-criticism essential to a free society. If it asks, “Who did this to us?” it has defined itself as a victim. It will then seek a scapegoat to blame for all its problems. Classically this has been the Jews.
Anti-Semitism is a form of cognitive failure, and it happens when groups feel that their world is spinning out of control. It began in the Middle Ages, when Christians saw that Islam had defeated them in places they regarded as their own, especially Jerusalem. That was when, in 1096, on their way to the Holy Land, the Crusaders stopped first to massacre Jewish communities in Northern Europe. It was born in the Middle East in the 1920s with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Antisemitism re-emerged in Europe in the 1870s during a period of economic recession and resurgent nationalism. And it is re-appearing in Europe now for the same reasons: recession, nationalism, and a backlash against immigrants and other minorities. Antisemitism happens when the politics of hope gives way to the politics of fear, which quickly becomes the politics of hate.
This then reduces complex problems to simplicities. It divides the world into black and white, seeing all the fault on one side and all the victimhood on the other. It singles out one group among a hundred offenders for the blame. The argument is always the same. We are innocent; they are guilty. It follows that if we are to be free, they, the Jews or the state of Israel, must be destroyed. That is how the great crimes begin.
Jews were hated because they were different. They were the most conspicuous non-Christian minority in a Christian Europe. Today they are the most conspicuous non-Muslim presence in an Islamic Middle East. Anti-Semitism has always been about the inability of a group to make space for difference. No group that adopts it will ever, can ever, create a free society.
So I end where I began. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Antisemitism is only secondarily about Jews. Primarily it is about the failure of groups to accept responsibility for their own failures, and to build their own future by their own endeavours. No society that has fostered antisemitism has ever sustained liberty or human rights or religious freedom. Every society driven by hate begins by seeking to destroy its enemies, but ends by destroying itself.
Europe today is not fundamentally antisemitic. But it has allowed antisemitism to enter via the new electronic media. It has failed to recognize that the new antisemitism is different from the old. We are not today back in the 1930s. But we are coming close to 1879, when Wilhelm Marr founded the League of Anti-Semites in Germany; to 1886 when Édouard Drumont published La France Juive; and 1897 when Karl Lueger became Mayor of Vienna. These were key moments in the spread of antisemitism, and all we have to do today is to remember that what was said then about Jews is being said today about the Jewish state.
The history of Jews in Europe has not always been a happy one. Europe’s treatment of the Jews added certain words to the human vocabulary: disputation, forced conversion, inquisition, expulsion, auto da fe, ghetto, pogrom and Holocaust, words written in Jewish tears and Jewish blood. Yet for all that, Jews loved Europe and contributed to it some of its greatest scientists, writers, academics, musicians, shapers of the modern mind.
If Europe lets itself be dragged down that road again, this will be the story told in times to come. First they came for the Jews. Then for the Christians. Then for the gays. Then for the atheists. Until there was nothing left of Europe’s soul but a distant, fading memory.
Today I have tried to give voice to those who have no voice. I have spoken on behalf of the murdered Roma, Sinti, gays, dissidents, the mentally and physically handicapped, and a million and a half Jewish children murdered because of their grandparents’ religion. In their name, I say to you: You know where the road ends. Don’t go down there again.
You are the leaders of Europe. Its future is in your hands. If you do nothing, Jews will leave, European liberty will die, and there will be a moral stain on Europe’s name that all eternity will not erase.
Stop it now while there is still time.