Friday Musings: Women's and Men's Progress Are Not Mutually Exclusive

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement, spurred by the torrent of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment charges leveled against director Harvey Weinstein. Since then, a cascade of high profile men fell from grace after their past misdeeds saw the light of day. American’s watched in shock as everyone from Matt Lauer to Mario Batali were stripped of power and relegated to the shadows. Comforted by the movement’s strong social approval, evermore women found the strength to come forward revealing America’s, often overlooked, history of powerful sexually predatory men. Before #MeToo, most men had little idea about the fears and horrors women commonly experienced. What was once considered a rare periphery problem was finally brought to the forefront of American consciousness where we could work for progress.

A year later, the movement continues, but has largely lost its capacity for thoughtful discussion and unifying values. As is often the case, the tide of public outrage quickly turned a necessary public conversation into an “us vs. them” battle of dogmas, absent of nuance or balance. #MeToo moved from its indisputably pure desire to empower victims of sexual abuse to a full-scale assault on any who’d question or add context to the dogmas of modern feminism. Distinctions between degree were blurred by false equivalencies and “gotcha” debate tactics, as logical leaps grew more extreme.

Amongst its most vehement disciples, poor humor elicited the same contempt as sexual misconduct. Thoughtful opinions offered in an attempt to move the conversation forward, elicited anger and outrage. Matt Damon was lambasted for stating the obvious:

"I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behavior, right? And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?"

Before you knew it the environment was so muddied with knee-jerk accusations of bigotry that balanced views scattered, leaving only the most compliant and agreeable. The only acceptable orientation became a witch-hunt for any hint of patriarchy or sexism, which is now detected in even the most benign and innocent beliefs. Characteristic of today’s social justice dogmas, an undeniably good cause has been so perverted by hyperbole and an inability to perceive nuance that we are left with only two extreme poles dominating the public debate.

“What causes what should be a diverse portfolio of ideas to collapse in terms of the diversity where everyone starts representing the same point of view with tiny variations?” –Eric Weinstein

This unfortunate formula has come to define identity politics and the army of social justice warriors that subscribe to them:

  1. The movement starts in response to a real issue that warrants public discourse.

  2. True bigots come out in vehement opposition to this movement.

  3. The movement moves extreme as it lumps any who’d disagree in with the truly prejudiced. Fewer opinions are allowed. Balanced views and common sense are met with accusations of bigotry, as the loudest voices display an inability to make fairly obvious distinctions about degree or intent.

  4. The public grows numb, hearing only the extreme gossip while gradually less capable of nuanced, progress-oriented dialogue.

The greatest inhibitor to collective progress is our inability to honestly dialogue in pursuit of truth over ego. Truth is complex and requires a lot of work. It is far easier to attach to simplistic dogmas than do the hard, vulnerable work of confronting personal ignorance.

Too often the public dialogue is driven towards a false dichotomy. In this instance, the common idea is that you are either for women or against them. Even more, to discuss modern male challenges and to desire pro-male reforms is often misconstrued as anti-female.

Texas State dance teacher, Lynzy Lab, was featured on Jimmy Kimmel the other night to perform a song she made, titled: “A Scary Time.” Her performance, cleverly identifies the challenges many women have silently faced for decades, while making a mockery of the notion that men could claim it is a scary time to be male. Lab’s case is well made and should be eye-opening to any men who listen. Still, I can’t help but detect the subtext of “girl’s rule and boys drool” that so often drives a wedge between conversation on gender.

 

What is Good For Women is Good For Men and Vice Versa

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We must dispel of the notion that male progress and female progress are somehow mutually exclusive. The sexes aren’t battling for a finite reserve of power. Rather, each sex benefits from the other’s progress. Males and females are symbiotic. Males should care deeply about living in an environment where women feel safe, respected, and empowered towards their dreams, just as women should care that men, on average, are in worse health, dying far younger, while falling behind academically.

 “We need a new diversity—not one based on biological characteristics and identity politics but a diversity of opinion and worldviews.” –Ayaan Hirsi Ali

 All humans do best in an environment of honest expression and mutual respect. In this spirit, I’ve come up with a couple directives for greater unity and improved dialogue, regardless of topic:

  • Break out of the echo-chamber and seek other opinions, face to face. Research repeatedly shows that our minds have an amazing proclivity for confirmation bias. We are constantly finding reasons to prove our old mental map correct. As the Zen teaching explains, you can’t add tea to a full cup. The new tea just pours out over the edge. Likewise, dogma and ego-driven certainty close the mind removing our ability to learn, adapt, and grow.

  • Be less outraged. Make the charitable assumption.

  • Un-charge your rhetoric. This takes work. People are imperfect, but, typically, amazingly receptive when they are not on the defensive.

Now I’ll repeat the question of the week I posed Tuesday: What is the greatest contradiction or hypocrisy commonly exhibited by your own tribe?  What inconsistent over-simplifications are common amongst those you tend to gravitate?

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