In case you haven’t heard: Elon Musk sent a pretty powerful rocket up into orbit – but not without decking it out with a Tesla car inside complete with spaceman and accompanying soundtrack. (*Cue me rolling my eyes endlessly forever*) The spaceship itself is really cool and I know Elon Musk will save us all with his Mars colony once the Earth is a fiery mass, but his antic really just rubbed me the wrong way.
I know – it’s stupid, right? It’s a car in a spaceship! But it’s not really Elon Musk that makes me mad, to be honest. I think his whole stunt reminds me of a lot of other conversations I’ve been having with my friends about men, privilege, and what our culture is willing to indulge when it comes to the male ego. Let me catch you up…
PC: The Guardian
I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that our culture excuses men for things that suck. Obviously a lot of this has been spawned by the Time’s Up movement, the Aziz Ansari article, and the almost daily revelations of sexual harassment and abuse by one famous man after another. I’ve seen a lot of people make excuses for these men because they make great movies or are very successful businessmen, but that’s the kind of thinking that protects them. The whole idea that someone’s contributions to the world can somehow protect them from the consequences of their own actions is pretty fucked up.
I’ve also been have a lot of discussions with friends about the expectations we have of men in relationships. One friend is taking classes to prepare for her new baby and over and over again she hears the refrain: women are primarily responsible for domestic labor and we should praise men for picking up a dirty dish. Our culture doesn’t expect men to take care of themselves or, God forbid, take care of a family. We laugh it off saying that men are just messier than women or don’t care about that sort of thing instead of setting the bar higher for men. We just don’t expect men to step up in the way that is inherently expected of women, especially in domestic spaces and relationships.
A friend sent me this article recently that talks about “the price of genius” and I think it sums it up pretty well: when men shirk their duties and damage their relationships in the name of their work, it’s considered the price of genius. In fact, we lift up this behavior as being the ultimate sign of dedication to their work – so what does that say about women who aren’t typically afforded the same opportunity to wall themselves up if they so choose? That they aren’t dedicated? That they don’t care as much? But women don’t get to have it the other way, either – when a women shirks her duties, particularly domestic duties, she’s a bad mother and heartless bitch. There’s no way for her to win so work-life balance becomes a daily struggle for women, but weird that men never get asked questions about how to “have it all?”
PC: The Chicago Tribune
Okay, so you’re probably thinking “Maddie, you’re really just going on a rant about how much the patriarchy sucks and this has basically nothing to do with Elon Musk.” And like, you’re not totally wrong lol – I have been especially existentially exhausted by being a woman recently…
BUT I can’t help but see this pattern again and again of how we, as a society, make excuses for men in so many arenas of life. It’s fine that my male partner never does the dishes because he works a lot (as if I don’t?). It’s fine that Woody Allen sexually assaulted a child because Annie Hall is a masterpiece (as if that makes up for it?). It’s fine that Elon Musk shot his own car into space for the hell of it because he’s such an incredible businessman (as if it wasn’t an obnoxious ego trip?). Obviously there’s a huge spectrum here and I’m not trying to conflate any of these things together, but, to me, these are all examples of how society lets men get away with things that women would be criticized for or not allowed to do in the first place.
At the end of the day, it’s not about Elon Musk. It’s the fact that we indulge Musk’s ego trip as a fact of life and don’t question it because he’s a rich white guy. It feels like the same indulgence afforded to so many other men for so many other reasons. They all fall on varying degrees of the same turn-the-other-cheek mentality society has when it comes to men. Women can’t make any mistakes, while men just have to do one thing right.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about the last couple of days lol. You can take the woman out of the women’s college, right? Cheerier stuff coming to the blog soon, but I really want to use this space as a place to process a lot of the shit that’s going on right now. I’m not always going to get it right – and maybe you think this is a stretch – but I’m just synthesizing a lot of the things I’m noticing about the world. Thoughts welcome!
(P.S. Elon – you wanna put a woman on the BOD of SpaceX? Or more than one person of color? Just sayin’.)