Two great artists passed away in the last week — Sinéad O’Connor and Paul Reubens. Both were taken before their time.
On the surface, they appear to be polar opposites. One was intensely serious, focusing her art on sorrow and heartbreak and fighting injustice, and the other was a wellspring of joy — a brilliant adult mind channeling the unfettered imagination of a child.
But both of them, by their very nature, were a challenge to the patriarchy. Because there are unspoken rules in our society about power and how it works.
People don’t generally talk about those rules, and may not even be consciously aware of them. But people obey the unspoken rules of power — because if they don’t, there will be trouble.
Yet neither of these two artists bowed to the unspoken authority of heterosexual male privilege. As different as they were from each other, they were defiantly unafraid to challenge its orthodoxies, and to stand up for its victims.
And for that, they were both punished. Only years later did people realize the true nature of the battle, and the power that Sinéad and Paul were up against.
So let’s celebrate them both, and raise a glass in their honor. Unearned privilege needs to be challenged, and its victims need to be acknowledged. In every generation there are too few heroes willing to take up that challenge.