Friday, May 8, 2020

Crybabies, Inc.

The game is on. The competition between the West and Asia is engaged. In this corner, the United States of America. In the opposing corner, China and Co. 

Unfortunately, America is now being coached by an intrepid band of feminists. Led by one Jessica Bennett, they are proposing that America start out by shedding a few tears. Our opponents are more than happy to see it.

You got that one right. The girlification of America proceeds apace. Feminists believe that tear-shedding is a social construction, or some such. They are thrilled to see male leaders shed tears in public. They think that vulnerability, an effeminate side, will make them better leaders. And will make it easier for women, who are apparently more likely to cry in public, to assume leadership rules.

So, you do not need to work your way up the corporate hierarchy. You do not just need to work hard to produce. You need to show how vulnerable you feel. You need to shed a few tears.

Now, you can see, while the Chinese warrior is standing in his corner awaiting the opening bell, he sees his American opponent crying. If he sees that his American opponent is a female-- which is perfectly plausible since strength is nothing but a social construction-- he will surely be trembling in fear. 

Maybe not trembling in fear-- he will leave that to the American crybaby-- but fully confident that he can go at his opponent aggressively, without fear of reprisal. Whatever Bennett thinks of leaders who cry, one thing is sure, their opponents lose respect for them. Crybabies elicit aggression. 

Unless being  crybaby is a ploy designed to dupe an opponent, it is a genuinely bad strategy.

Have you ever seen an athletic team or a military commander cry in public, demonstrate vulnerability in public, show weakness to an opponent. If he does, he will surely demoralize his troops. And one thing you do not want as you go into battle or start the game is a bunch of demoralized troops.

I do understand that certain supposedly serious thinkers believe that vulnerability is an asset for leaders. Or for people who are undertaking consequential tasks. Do you think that Sherlock Holmes ever cried? 

People who can take action, who can address a problem, who can inspire their troops do not cry in public. Or even in private. If you know what to do you do it. If you do not know what to do or believe that there is nothing you can do, you cry.

Most often we associate crying with grief. When someone you love dies, you might well cry. It is appropriate to the circumstances. It makes sense because there is nothing you can do to undo what has happened. Not being able to do anything, not being in charge of the situation, you might well cry.

Bennett offers the following observations of American political leaders in the time of the coronavirus:

Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, broke down while speaking about the death of his best friend’s mother.

Eric Garcetti, the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, choked back tears while discussing the coronavirus’s impact on his city.

Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, has been crying frequently in meetings with White House staff, while Andrew M. Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, has teared up on more than one occasion during his daily televised coronavirus briefings.

After Howard Stern asked Mr. Cuomo about it — “Yes” he has cried, the governor said — a local radio show revisited the subject. “I was a little surprised by the question,” Mr. Cuomo said, noting that his father, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, was reluctant to admit he cried. His son was not. He had cried, he said, “about the death toll.”

Of course, some of these intrepid leaders cried at someone’s death. We sympathize and offer our condolences. And yet, a chief of staff crying during meetings. Does this give you the impression that the man is in control, in charge, at work on getting us out of the problem.

Do you think that Xi Jinping is crying in Beijing? Was Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with the virus, crying? Were Emmanuel Macron or Benjamin Netanyahu crying about their inability to do their jobs? I will promise you, if Donald Trump ever shed a tear in public, the pro-crying brigades would be all over him, like a rash. They would never let him live it down.

But, we, having been thoroughly feminized, feel obliged to make a public display of weakness, vulnerability and fecklessness. 

As it happens, crying in public used to be considered bad for political leaders:

Crying has derailed political careers. “I used to say, Kleenex should sponsor me,” said Patricia Schroeder, a former congresswoman from Colorado, who somewhat famously broke into tears while cutting short a presidential bid in 1987, and was still receiving hate mail decades later.

Tears at work have long been discouraged: People who cry risk being perceived as less professional and less competent than their more stoic peers.

And crying has long highlighted the complicated dynamics of how people view emotion — and who gets to publicly express it. “Both genders seem weak when they cry, but for men it is much worse because it is so strongly against norms,” said Elizabeth Baily Wolf, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Insead, a business school near Paris.

It really is not about who is more stoical. It is about having a command of the situation, having a plan of action and knowing what to do in order to implement it. And it also means, being able to accept the risks involved. No plan is perfect. No leader knows how the plan will work out until it is set in motion. All leaders are good at measuring risk.

And yet, it happens that women are more likely to avoid risk than men. They feel weaker and more vulnerable, and thus they are instinctively risk averse. At times this a good thing. At times it makes you play defense long since it has served any purpose.

Or, as an old song had it: Big Girls Don’t Cry.

Bennett adds this:

When a woman cries at work, she confirms the stereotype of women as emotional, hysterical, unable to perform under pressure. But when a man does it, he is defying the stereotype for men — strong, decisive — which can damage him even more.

Like most good feminists Bennett imagines that this stereotype just arose out of the overheated mind of a patriarchal oppressor. But, what if it comes with the territory? What if it tells us something about the differences between men and women?

Anyway, crying has become de rigueur for leaders in today’s feminized America:

The chief executive of Marriott gave an emotional broadcast to his employees that has been praised as a “lesson in leadership.”

Newscasters like Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon and Erin Burnett are breaking down while discussing the toll of the virus. Frontline workers are crying on the job, quarantined workers at home at their desks.

“This is about the saddest thing we’ve been through,” said Marc Tell, the chief executive of a restaurant supply distributor in New York, who said he broke down during a call with his staff last week. He has run his company through four downturns and Sept. 11, he said. “Even the toughest guys on my team — and there are some tough guys — I know that we all cry in private,” he added. “So why can’t we cry together?”

Funny that the newscasters chosen all work for CNN.

The most pathetic example also comes to us from CNN:

“I think I’d be worried about anyone who hasn’t teared up in the last month,” said Brian Stelter, the host of the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” who recently described on Twitter how he had “crawled in bed and cried for our pre-pandemic lives.”

Crying for our lost pre-pandemic lives is not the same thing as crying when your mother dies. 

It’s nice to see that these leaders have real emotions, but it is surely true that they are not inspiring any confidence in their ability to manage a major crisis. They seem more likely to be willing to give up. 

Now, Bennett thinks that crying in public is a relatively recent cultural invention. I have some serious doubts about that. Do you think that Julius Caesar cried before battle?

It was only in the 19th century that the idea of male stoicism emerged, and it was not until the mid-20th century that tears were used to suggest that “candidates for public office were not manly or stable enough” to be there, Mr. Lutz said.

Which might help shed light on why, while little boys and girls cry equally when they are young, men tend to cry less than women as adults — and far less than women at work.

According to research conducted in the 1980s by the biochemist William H. Frey, women cry five times as often as men, for an average of five times per month. They also cry for longer lengths of time. Newer research has yielded similar results.

There are myriad reasons for that crying gap, including cultural conditioning — it is more acceptable for women to cry — and the fact that women’s tear ducts are anatomically shallower, leading to spillover, which makes their crying more visible.

Still, the societal expectations of men in public life — especially in politics — have traditionally been pretty clear on the crying front. Namely, do not do it.

“Crying is a nonverbal way of saying, ‘I need help and support,’” Professor Wolf said. Tears can make a leader appear more relatable and “warmer”; they can also make a leader seem helpless and less competent, she said.

Yes, indeed, blame it on the anatomy of tear ducts. Crying shows that you are not in charge and that you do not know what to do. Being relatable is not an especially useful quality in leaders. Confidence is. Having a plan is. Showing competence is.

It also depends on what the emotion is about.

Religious tears tend to be OK, as do heroic tears (think: war, sports). Patriotic tears are generally welcome, while personal tears are more risky.

“In professional life,” said Mr. Lutz, the author, “you can now cry to show empathy and concern, but you can’t cry because your feelings are hurt, or because you are frustrated, or even because you are angry — however acceptable we might find such tears in our friends and family. This is true for politicians as well: They can cry for others, but not for themselves.”

There are tears of joy. There are the tears that accompany failure and that show shame. You do not cry over a victory in battle. You show humility and praise your troops.

And, of course, there’s Andrew Cuomo, a leader whose star has been tarnished by the simple fact that New York City and New York State have become the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic. In other instances, Cuomo seems to have been crying wolf a few times too many. He demanded far more ventilators than he could have used. He wanted a hospital ship that was largely left unused. And he will suffer from the scandal of sending pandemic victims to nursing homes. There is more to leadership than the ability to emote on cue. 

Bennett comments:

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Governor Cuomo’s briefings on the virus have featured updates on death tolls and other hard facts.

“This is not about emotion,” he said last week, of his timeline for reopening his state.

And yet, it is precisely the typically uncharacteristic displays of emotion by Mr. Cuomo and other leaders that have earned them praise, often in stark contrast to the leadership style of Mr. Trump.

She continues:

Pam Sherman, a leadership coach based in Rochester, N.Y., said she found Mr. Cuomo’s “authentic emotion” to be “required viewing” and indicative of a change in what people want from elected officials.

“The days when a politician cried and it was over for them — that’s over,” she said. “Things like empathy, vulnerability, emotional connectedness — these are the things that define today’s leaders.”

Applied to Governor Cuomo, these qualities seem to define today’s failed leaders, the leaders who failed to contain the pandemic in their own states. As for “authentic emotion” I would prefer a little less authenticity and a little more fakery-- as long as it accompanies a job well done.


UbuMaccabee said...

I have long considered how I might make myself valuable to the coming Chinese overlords, much like Titus Flavius Josephus. What insights could I offer them about my culture that would help them to better understand our deep internal divisions and capitalize on them? Something to allow them to rule our broken government by influencing our culture without having to make the effort to conquer us?

Could I get a good deal from the Chinese in exchange for preserving what is most valuable in our culture from complete destruction? How to get the Chinese to hasten the process of our internal Civil War to the benefit of normal, original America and to the destruction of leftist America. How to get the Chinese to see that it is in their self-interest to support the bifurcation of America.

They are already well acquainted with our irrational terror of the race card and how to play that tool to great effect here. Nice to see black racist wahmen on the TV here proclaiming the racism of the term "China Flu" as a service to the Chinese government. Well played, China. But there is so much more you could do to get Americans to hate one another.

I'll take mercantilist, authoritarian, neo-Communist, nationalist China over effete, feminized, self-loathing leftist America every time. That America, the America of the NYT and Jessica Bennett is not worth preserving. It will not survive anyway, weak entities always end up as slaves. And China already knows this. I don't believe they fully understand the depths of our discontent, and I think I can monetize that.

China cannot hold a candle to original America, and that idea is far from finished. I think it is possible to reclaim what is so precious in the original United States, just not as united states. That experiment is over. It is not possible for me to accept the rule of Groot (the mayor of Chicago); I'll take Xi Jinping.

We actually thought that by calling weakness virtue, and trumpeting it to the world for decades, that we would be applauded as noble, and nations would emulate our self-abasement. It only emboldened them to overtake us and we became the international sucker.

Our end began with permitting women the franchise.

It's time to split the empire into two parts, an Eastern and Western regime. China gets a weakened international hegemon, and I get my birthright, my original Constitution, back.

370H55V said...

President Ed Muskie could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Mabuse said...

Sherlock Holmes *nearly* cried, just once: when Watson was shot in front of him, and he was afraid that he'd been mortally wounded. Modern adaptations can't wait to turn Holmes into a bawling neurotic sissy, but Conan Doyle wrote him as a strong, controlled gentleman with nerves of steel.

David Foster said...

I don't think that showing more emotion necessarily means being more sincere...Was Bill Clinton really sincere when the "felt everyone's pain?"

There are certainly women who use tears, or just looking very hurt, as a way of getting what they want.

Men are probably still more likely to show emotion in the form of anger. I remember one business negotiation in which I was already plenty pissed off at the other party, but deliberately ramped up my portrayal of anger to signal extreme seriousness about what we were going to do if they didn't get more reasonable.

urbane legend said...

Dr. Mabuse,
Quite so.