For a brief and shining moment, I thought perhaps the New York Times had paid attention to my pleas and decided not to pursue its quest to rid the nation of toxic masculinity. Such hubris.
This is the first of a weekly column.
A few weeks back, some old friends invited me to appear on their podcast. They are two stand-up comedians in their mid-30s — I know, the podcast comes as a shock — and their show is a kind of micro focus group, investigating how to be better straight white dudes by picking the brains of guests who don’t fit that description.
They want to know what people like me, for instance (fat, female, feminist) need from people like them (plausible extras in a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial). It’s sweet and, I think, encouraging.
See? I wasn’t being mean in the title. West describes herself as fat, and who am I to deny her lived experience?
“How to build a better white guy” is a conversation that could turn academic fast, replete with all the jargon that the sneering class finds so tedious: intersectionality, emotional labor, systemic oppression, the dreaded “privilege.” But when I sat down with my friends, only one question sprang to mind, and it was personal, not pedantic.
“Do you ever stick up for me?”
By “me,” Lindy West means her. Her better white guy is a white guy who puts her first, not because she’s a delusional narcissist who believes she is the center of the universe, but because . . . okay, she’s a delusional narcissist.
“Do you ever stick up for me?” sounds childish, but I don’t know that gussying up the sentiment in more sophisticated language would enhance its meaning. It isn’t fun to be the one who speaks up.
Au contraire, mon Lindy. Not childish. It would only sound childish coming from a child. From an adult, it sounds psychotic. The problem is not, as the voices in your head tell you, that it “isn’t fun to be the one who speaks up.” Nobody gives a damn about being the one to speak up, if speaking up is what they choose to do.
It’s you, Lindy. You are not the center of their universe. You are not the center of everyone’s universe. White guys don’t want to be reinvented to please Lindy West. It’s not because you’re fat, though you are. It’s not because you’re female or a feminist, the latter of which is doubtful. It’s because you are not the center of a white guy’s life.
Yet, I will speak up for you, Lindy. Should someone try to prevent you from speaking your mind, I will defend your right to speak. If someone tries to burden you for being a woman, I will speak up against sex discrimination so that you have the same opportunity to succeed or fail, as anyone else. If a person tries to physically attack you, I will not just speak up, but come to your defense.
But I would do these things for anyone, regardless of color, genitalia or delusions. I would not do any of these things because Lindy West, fat, female and feminist, matters. That’s how this white guy is built, and, with all due respect, I don’t give a flying fuck how Lindy West would like to rebuild me. Not that you care what I think, but then, you care about nothing but you.