In Anna Ziegler’s new play “The Last Match,” opening in Manhattan Oct. 24, she uses the rivalry between two male tennis players – think an American Roger Federer and an early Novak Djokovic – to tell the story of life at deuce, never advancing without retreating, never retreating without advancing.
Perhaps the reason the world is at deuce is because the people who created it – primarily men – are at deuce. (It’s the score in tennis, at 40-40, from which the player must win two points in order to win the game.)
Think about it: Most of the world’s great creations were made by men (as men like to point out as a way to explain their superiority to women). All but 49 of the 923 Nobel laureates have been men.
And yet – you know there’s always an “and yet” – they have consistently destroyed the worlds they have created. You could say that this is the human condition, but in fact it’s the male condition. This isn’t on women. Women didn’t kill 58 people and injure some 500 by shooting them up, like fish in a barrel, from a window in the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Women didn’t get fired from their company for sexually harassing the opposite sex for years (Harvey Weinstein). Women didn’t have to step down from Congress because they were an anti-abortion candidate who nonetheless advocated that his potentially pregnant mistress have an abortion (Tim Murphy). Women are not the megalomaniacal leaders of North Korea, the Philippines, Venezuela, Turkey and, particularly sadly, the United States – who can bring their earth to the brink of war.
So, you’d have to say, a wash. Yes, the first responders (male) were heroes for forming an ad-hoc S.W.A.T. team to take on Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock – rushing in where angels fear to tread – but then they wouldn’t have had to rush in had Paddock (also male) not shot up a country music concert.
What’s going on here? Might the qualities that make men risk-takers who dare to dream and create greatly also contribute to their destructiveness? Might women have taken the same paths had they the power and the opportunities men have? Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto prime minister of Myanmar, has not exactly covered herself in glory with her country’s handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Or are women really different from men? Consider the phenomenon of breast cancer awareness, a movement that is celebrated this month and was created by women. There’s nothing comparable for prostate cancer. Consider the AIDS epidemic. Men like President Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have touched that with a 10-foot pole but Dr. Mathilde Krim, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa were some of the women who did.
Are women better a cooperative group activities and men at individual ones? Or has culture created such a distinction that is then hard-wired into our DNA?
These are questions for which I do not have the answers, but I do think we need a balance of power between the sexes so that women don’t feel as if they have to trade their beauty for power – which is clearly what has happened on the Harvey Weinstein casting couch. We need an educational system that teaches women how to be emotionally and financially independent so that they can walk away from abuse. We need a new aesthetic that celebrates male beauty and takes the pressure off women as the representative beauty.
We need to understand that even with all of this there will always be an imbalance of power between men and women, because men have superior upper body strength. It’s just the way it is.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t work to improve the situation so we can say Advantage, women.