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John and Steven, ft. the male gaze

Ahh, the patriarchy! 

We live in a society that has grown up fundamentally with the ‘male gaze’. The male gaze is the gaze of vision that society sees and perceives reality through. The ‘gaze' is inherently a power relationship that has dictated years of history of thought being told through the male understanding of the world. Although it may sound like it, this piece is not a criticism on men! They just don’t know any different, and are sometimes completely unaware of their own privilege. What this piece actually is, is a call for awareness. People must begin to understand the fundamental impact of this male gaze, as it has created a world where women have often existed as ‘the other’. The one without an opinion, or the one whose opinion is irrational. Paula Stone Williams explains this in her Ted Talk on what she’s learnt from transitioning to a woman. She says, “apparently since I have become a female, I have become stupid… I am constantly being subjected to mansplaining”, which drills exactly into the lived experience of a woman today. Obviously there are always exceptions and this is not going to necessarily be an everyday phenomenon, but it is in some shape or form a part of life as a woman. This piece is a short play representing the need for proper education in this department and begs for awareness about the reality of experience - expressed of course through satirical irony. 


 

John and Steven are two posh men who went to private school in London. They are in their mid 20s now. John has slightly more authority over Steven as he is the more intelligent and more good looking of the two. Although both men are quite ignorant to many things, Steven is even more so than John. He admires John greatly. The two are sitting on the patio of a bar in the country club they are members of, enjoying Bloody Mary’s for the summer as they watch a group of women playing tennis in the court across the patio.


J: Finally something worth admiring

S: Oh, I absolutely agree


J: And I absolutely agree with the fact that you also agree. that is remarkable

S: Why of course, it should be the opinion of the masses.


J: Nothing goes better with a cucumber sandwich than watching women play tennis before your very eyes.


S: Indeed, John!

J: So effortless! Oh and I love the hats, don’t you love the little hats Steven? [kind of sheepish and childish tone as he says this]


S: I take this opportunity to progress from indeed to absolutely!


J: The women are just [makes the shape of breasts with his hands as he looks for words] just .. riveting! [sounds hungry]


S: Oh John I know.. I would kill for a slice of her, wouldn't you?


[ BOTH NOD AND SMIRK AT EACH OTHER THEN GRUNT TOGETHER ]


J: Say, how do you think the women feel.

S: I do beg your pardon, whatever do you mean, John?


J: Well Steven, what i mean is, how do you fancy the women feel of us speaking this way about them?


S: I’m sure it hardly phases them at all to speak in the frankest of manners.


J: Well yes, Steven, it is frank how you speak [pause] but the women. do you think they speak of us in such regard?


S: Well, John - come to think of it - i hardly know the answer myself!


J: Well, it would be absurd for them to do so.. right.. [notices, Steven is gawking at the women]


[STEVEN STARTS TO DROOL AND CLICK HIS THROAT AS HE STARES ]


J: Steven?


S: Ah yes, John I was merely distracted for a moment. ah.. the women! well, i am almost most certain that they are probably not .. probably speaking of men is such a regard.. they are not!

J: You must be right.


S: I must be.


[ BOTH MEN SIGH WITH RELIEF. THEN START TO THINK. THEN LOOK AT EACH OTHER IN SHOCK. THEN COME TO THEIR SENSES AND LAUGH ]


J and S: Ha ha ha, women!


J: Say, Steven, I mean of course a woman would never objectify a man because a man would never intentionally objectify a woman! [clearly an obvious lie to the audience]


S: Say, JOHN, I could not have worded it better.


J: But I mean, well, we never actually asked the women if they spoke of us in such a way. Do you reckon we should Steven?


S: I think we could let the idea float about for a second or two don’t you think, John.. or perhaps a an hour or.. I can hardly seem to comprehend this all - actually maybe a week?


J: I just, can’t imagine a women saying anything objective about me without my formal consent to the objective comment that she feels she may easily toss at me to purposely hurt my feelings.


S: Oh John, don’t be upset now, women aren’t really like that!


J: Oh no, women are sensible.


S: Women are clean-cut.


J: Women are [beat] wholesome.


S: Women are sexy.


J: Women are promiscuous.


S: Promiscuous?


J: Have you not heard the word before, Steven - it is what I would call a niche word.


S: Oh, John, what an absurd question - of course I have! I only mean to ask why you would think that women were of a promiscuous nature?


J: Oh - actually yes, are they? Do women well, do they even think of sex?


S: Oh - I don’t know John.


J: I mean it must cross their minds - reproductively of course.


S: Reproduction - excellent point there, I’m giving you Steven points for that one. J: And they said I wouldn’t suit academia!


S and J: Ha ha ha academia!


[pause, Steven starts reading the paper]


J: But, but Steven.


S: Yes, John!


J: Then if women only think of sex as a reproductive procedure, do you think they don’t enjoy it when we are having sex with them?


S: Oh my, I hardly know.


J: They do feel - hormonal [appears to be a strange word to him] - do they not?


S: They do...


J: And therefore, they also feel sexually..


S: They must..


J: And therefore they must also enjoy sex!


S: And with such a well structured evaluation I cannot even think that they wouldn’t!


J: Women. like. sex. who knew?

S: Who knew. [sounds conclusive - begins to read the paper again thinking they are done with the conversation]


J: Women, and sex - wow they know much more than i ever would have realised.


S: To know sex is to know a lot.


J: Ah, where did you read that Steven?


S: Nowhere, John I just believe it to be of many truths.


J: So women know a lot then?


S: Apparently.

J: And they know a lot about objectification then too.


S: Oh are we back on this - look John they are not really like that, don’t you hear!

J: Oh heavens! but Steven, we sure might be!


S: What!!


J: What??


S: What. What, wait what why do we keep saying what?

J: Because .. well.. if this is true, which its not, but if it is, which it simply cannot be, then we.. the men.. are the cause of social injustice!

S: The entirety of social injustice do you mean?


J: Yes John, that is exactly and precisely and undoubtably what I mean.


S: But it can’t.


J: Oh but it can.


[ STARTS GETTING REALLY DRAMATIC AND THEY RUSH TO HUG EACH OTHER, AND THEN THEY REALISE IT’S WEIRD AND ADJUST THEIR SHIRTS AND STEP ASIDE ]


J: The whole time, I just like, wanted to say what I wanted to say without it all just being so socially judged.

S: And that is exactly how I feel, John. It’s.. outrageous - it's like we live in a world where everything is socially constructed to mean something so significant, you can’t say anything without it having complex social repercussions!


J: I mean, I just want to feel accepted in a time of need and now that I know that women may be speaking about men in a disgusting way.. I myself am also disgusted


S: It just does not add up - what have we done!


J: Well.. there is still unequal pay.. [pause] disproportionate amount of women in politics, business, senior positions, the expectation of motherhood and career abandonment,

[ STARTS MUTTERING TO HIMSELF SLIGHTLY AND THEN ALMOST BLURTS OUT HIS NEXT SENTENCE WHICH SURPRISES HIMSELF ]


[starts muttering to himself slightly and then almost seems to blurt out his next sentence]


J: as well as the historically ‘passive’ role of women, especially in regard to the anthropological study of biology in schools with the vagina being the passive receiver and the penis being the authoritative, masculine penetrator.. this passive and authoritative biology is kind of reflected in the society of men and women quite consistently, I mean men have pretty much in their stride to-


S: Don’t say it, John.


J: But.


S: Nope.


J: Take advantage!!


S: Okay and there it is.


J: It's out there - and now, the women fight back.


S: Well.. there is nothing more terrifying.


J: oh nothing more scary than..


J and S: toxic masculinity!!


[ ALMOST SOBBING AND YELPING AS THEY SAY THIS. WHINGING ]


J: Okay look, let's take a step back from it all.

S: John, that is the cleverest of ideas.


J: How about - we reconsider the idea of ‘the woman’.


S: Ah, but John, I feel as though we have very much already considered the woman at this point, in many regards.


J: Yes, Steven now that is where you seem to have misheard me, not your fault of course [very aware that Steven hadn’t been listening properly] - but I didn’t say consider, I said ‘RE- consider’ [containing anger] implying that yes we have considered but now we re-emphasise the notion.


S: Aaaah.


J: Ah [slightly annoyed] okay, I am going to be the woman. You the man.


S: But John you are not a woman!


J: Steven that is obvious - I mean to ask for you to pretend for a moment that I am the woman.


S: Hmmm, I think you full well know that I will find that difficult, John with especial consideration to the fact that- [cut off]


J: I am not a WOMAN, YES I heard you, and I am sympathetic to the fact that you will find it difficult [about to explode, but forces his calm] but just for a moment, won’t you try? Won’t you?


S: Yes.

J: [as a woman] Hello, darling, what do you think of what I’m wearing today?


S: You know how much I love you in that shirt darling, come here it and give it to me. [thrusting himself onto John]

J: No no no no no! What are you doing!


S: You said you were the woman! As attractive as you are John, I am merely only attracted the woman version you, there is no need to be mistaken.


J: But, the regard that you speak, Steven, is that how women want us to speak to them?


S: I suppose that is how I have been speaking to them my whole life [almost like an epiphany] - except of course - my mother! [finds this very funny - John looks weirdly at him] i mean I could speak to her in such ways if you felt that was how- [cut off]


J: And what luck have you been having?


S: Well, John I’m sure your question is one of an open-ended nature, I know myself that I do not measure luck or success quantitively, John, I measure these things qualitatively - as one should.


J: How many women have there been Steven?


S: Well it depends how you-


J: How many?


S: None. [disappointed] - so far. [suddenly hopeful]


J: And is that due to the nature of your tone towards these women?


S: John, I do mean to ask you - are you a therapist of any kind?


J: Not that I know of - should I be concerned?


S: It’s just that I never thought to question such things - it seemed to be natural that women were objectively spoken to by well ‘our kind’ as you probably call us now.


J: Our kind [scoffs]. Our kind [mocking himself]. Our kind [trying to vary the way he says this] Our kind.


S: I suppose it does have quite a ring to it, eh?


J: But Steven, no no boy, it just won’t be every single man, just a few of them.


[ BREAKING FOURTH WALL, SPEAKING TO AUDIENCE: ] J & S: We are the few.

S: And even if we said a few ‘bad’ things before, its not our fault.


[ TO AUDIENCE ]


J & S: It is our fault.


J: Sometimes its just a female thing, we don’t understand.


[ TO AUDIENCE: ]


J & S: It’s not a female thing, its a derogatory label thing.


J: Let’s apologise Steven come on.


S: But whatever should we say, John?


J: Well how about- [cut off]


S: Sorry.


[ STEVEN FEELING VERY PROUD OF HIMSELF, WINKS AT JOHN AND GIVES HIM THE THUMBS UP. JOHN THINKS ABOUT IT AND TILTS HIS SAID AS HE CANNOT THINK OF ANYTHING BETTER ]


J: That’ll do.


[ JOHN GETS UP TO LEAVE ]


S: Oh, stay for another drink won’t you John?


J: What’s the rush anyway? The women don’t seem to be rushing.


Offstage we hear a women: Bastards.


J & S: Ha ha ha, men!


[ THEY SIDEWAYS AIR PUNCH LIKE THE END OF AN AD FOR MEN ]

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