Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Challenge to #MeToo

Rana Foroohar is a serious columnist writing for a serious publication, the Financial Times. This to warn you that her column sits behind a paywall.

In a recent column she tackled the #MeToo movement and America’s culture of entitlement. She understood that readers would take great exception to her serious views. Any woman who dares deviate from the feminist party line puts her career at risk.

Is #MeToo overblown? Has it shown women at their professional best or has it shown them to be h*********. In the interest of decorum, I will not spell out the h-word.

Anway, Foroohar opens thusly:

The personal is political. It’s a truism that’s been on my mind recently, as I’ve pondered why I haven’t been as enthralled by the #MeToo movement as some of my younger colleagues and friends. … the idea that there is a toxic epidemic of male power at the heart of most of the world’s problems, which seems to be the subtext behind much of the political energy that has infused #MeToo, I find harder to buy.

She is trying, valiantly and largely successfully, to drag #MeToo out of an ideological web and into reality.

Yes, there’s a gender gap. Yes, many women still face discrimination or harassment. … But you could also flip the argument and say that we’ve had a massive shift in gender roles in the past four decades — which is a relatively small sliver of human history. Maybe all the Sturm und Drang of the past couple of years represent the jagged ends of some tectonic plates that are still settling. Maybe things aren’t quite as bad as we think.

This tectonic shift has been unfolding for over a century now. The reason is not that complicated. A century ago life expectancy was around 50. Now, for women is it over 80. And consider infant mortality statistics. A woman who expects to live to be more than 80 and who can expect that her children will easily outlive her has far more options. A woman who would barely outlive menopause had more incentive to marry young and to have numerous children. Better sanitation and better medicine have made it that women do not feel obliged to have numerous children. And they do not feel a need to have children while young.

As for how to handle improper office behavior, Foroohar recommends rejecting it, clearly and decisively:

In the one vaguely #MeToo moment of my office career (not in media but during a brief stint in finance), a colleague patted me on the bum at the tea point. I turned around, laughed at him and said, “Are you kidding me?” He slunk away and I can’t remember ever seeing him again. Now, I understand that many women in the same situation wouldn’t have had the power or professional privilege to do this. But to those who do and find themselves in the same situation, I say give it a try. Tough can feel good.

Obviously, if you are fighting off a half-naked Harvey Weinstein this might not work. And yet, she is correct to suggest that a woman should do better than to feel that she is a victim of sexual assault every time she encounters an errant hand. And she is also suggesting that it is better not to overdramatize all unfortunate and unwanted innuendo. It is certainly better not to conflate it all and to pronounce it all as rape.

Foroohar adds another salient point, one that, in slightly different form, I have raised on this blog. Ideologues  believe that the New Jerusalem and the Kingdom (or Queendom) of Justice will not be realized until women are represented proportionally at all levels of the corporate status hierarchy-- as well as in politics and government and professional football.

They are wrong, for two reasons. One, many women simply do not want to do what they need to do to climb the corporate status hierarchy. The other, is that many women are not natural born leaders.

I was, for example, a terrible boss before I took myself off the management track, at which point I’m sure everyone on my team breathed a sigh of relief. None of them could write well enough, or report fast enough, by my impossible standards. I’m much better as a lone-wolf columnist. When an editor is snappy, it generally rolls off my back. Bosses who scream? No problem, as long as they respect my work.

For her part, she has found a career path that suits her talents and that allows her to spend more time with her children.

One under-explored issue in the glass ceiling, in my view, is that many women simply aren’t prepared to make the same sacrifices for office life that men are. I don’t think that’s a bad thing — I rather like seeing the children I’ve borne at breakfast and dinner. I also like to see friends, work on side projects and exercise. Many men I’ve known in top jobs simply put all that to the side. I wouldn’t trade places with them.

Think about it... she is proposing, as I have on this blog, that we respect women's free choices. She concludes with a line that ought to be sitting on every woman’s desk:

Complaining about the way things are always seemed less compelling (and effective) than making the system work for me.


whitney said...

I cannot believe that you were promulgating the idea that people didn't live longer than 50 years of age a hundred years ago. The average lifespan span of humans that make it through childhood has been the same for thousands of years, 70 to 80 years. Socrates was in his 70's when he killed himself and nobody thought he was fantastically old because there were plenty of other old men . The average age span has to do with infant and childhood mortality rates. If you have two children and one dies and infancy and one lives to 80 the average lifespan of your children is 40. And after that the two biggest killers of men and women were war and childbirth respectively so if you made it through those, chances are you're going to live to be 70 to 80.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Life expectancy statistics do not mean that everyone died at age 50-- it meant that fewer people reached adulthood or even survived early adulthood. That being the case, a woman's life choices were limited by the risks of dying in childbirth, of having children who died young.

whitney said...

Yes that is correct but I do believe that this is a pernicious myth that is spread by intelligent and educated people sometimes unknowingly. You wrote this, "The reason is not that complicated. A century ago life expectancy was around 50." I have been hearing the same myth since I was in high school 35 years ago. And it's always the same, a hundred years ago people lived between 45 and 50. That's a 30% difference if it were an actual time we would adjust those times but because it's a myth there's no reason to. It just needs to be far enough in the past that you don't know anyone. I believe that this myth is used to delegitimize the past. To make young people think it was so alien and so different from today that there is nothing of value to be known or studied. I don't think it's just an error, I think it's propaganda

Malcolm said...

"I am an equity feminist: that is, I demand equal opportunity for women through the removal of all barriers to their advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women as inherently paternalistic and regressive. Women have rarely worked side by side with men in the way they now do in the modern workplace, whose competitive operational systems were devised by men for maximum productivity. Despite their general affluence, professional women of the Western world have been chronically unhappy for decades, and I conjecture that it is partly because they have been led to expect happiness from a mechanical work environment that doesn’t make men happy either...

In short, #MeToo from a historical perspective is a cri de coeur from women who are realizing that the sexual revolution that many of us had once ecstatically embraced has in key ways devalued women, confused their private relationships, and complicated their smooth functioning in the workplace. It’s time for a new map of the gender world.

Dr. Irredeemable Dreg said...

It's not a "myth". It's a probability. And I sympathize with the argument claiming average (mean) lifespan is less useful than the median or modal lifespan because the mortality distribution is not a bell curve. But I'm not seeing how this "delegitimizes" the nonexistence of germ theory, modern public sanitation, pasteurization, sterile surgical procedure, insulin treatments, referigeration, and antibiotics. I agree there is a danger, indeed a foolhardiness, in "presentism" and the assumption that people living today are somehow smarter, or "better", or wiser than people living in the era of the Pharaoahs. But the benefits of flush toilets are not among of those dangers, IMO.

Most folks aren't aware of this, but Ptolemy's geocentric astrophysics model was far more complex and mathematically challenging than Copernicus' heliocentric model. And Ptolemy's model worked. For some things. And Ptolemy was a stunning genius. But you can't launch satellites with it. That doesn't "delegitimize" its brilliance or its value to the people who used it, quite successfully, for maritime navigation. Before GPS. :-)

Ares Olympus said...

The "bum patting" example is instructive in the sense that it shows direct shaming may be a more powerful behavioral modification strategy than tattling to HR. Still, I'm thinking sexual predators like Donald Trump wouldn't be turned off by that, so a system of escalation must be considered. Perhaps the technique when Trump enters a dressing room full of naked women is to encourage him to stay, and get him to take down his pants before pointing and laughing?

Sam L. said...

I would have recommended that Ms. Foroohar tell that man that if he ever touched her again, she'd cut off his hand and have it bronzed and affixed to a plaque.

sestamibi said...

"Ideologues believe that the New Jerusalem and the Kingdom (or Queendom) of Justice will not be realized until women are represented proportionally at all levels of the corporate status hierarchy-- as well as in politics and government and professional football."

No, they want more than proportionality. They want the whole thing: a world in which a man in any position of power will be regarded as a quaint curiosity, reminiscent of far more unenlightened times.

Anonymous said...

A good discussion except for Ares, who as usual misses the point. One only needs to read and/or study history to note the intelligence exhibited by those who came before us.

Sam L. said...

Sooooooo, let the women go to work and we men can sit around all day eating bonbons and drinking martinis. Or beer. Or whisky. (/sarc; I mean, come on, nobody's gonna believe this.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding "Socrates was in his 70's when he killed himself..."

Socrates was sentenced to death by the court. The sentence was carried out by him drinking poison, as he was ordered to do. His choice to remain in prison despite opportunities to escape could be interpreted as "killing himself", but he did not commit suicide.

As for the gentleman who cannot repress referencing Trump, by doing so, he manages to discredit what otherwise might be an interesting point about shaming. One suspects that the topic serves as another vehicle to vent a Trump obsession, rather than as a means to shed light on a truth.

Alas. It's all politics at its worst, i.e. the practical application of sophistry, the sophistry that the above Socrates and Plato mercilessly attacked and lampooned 2,500 years ago. Not much has changed.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

He who references Trump is Ares. Barf.

I am struck by the number of Anonymous comments here, even sensible ones. This has been going on for many months now.

Dr. Schneiderman, it’s time to get off the Google platform. With how things are going with social media, all our thoughts (acceptable and otherwise) can be traced. Google requires Anonymous commenters to sign in.

Google is evil. Proclaiming not to be means that you are. It’s a slogan that serves as insurance for (a) the people who religiously use it, for the benefit of (b) those who support them.

Google doesn’t believe in the justice of shared information. It believes in the monetizing of information it gathers.

These people are all-in for the Democrat econonomic “sure thing” that happens when Democrats are in power (meaning, they are paid off). Maxine Waters expects a helluva payday from the banking interests she oversees. Ever wonder why?

Like Ares, Google is negatively impacting your outstanding blog.

Just sayin’. If you migrate, we will follow...