I saw a lot of people talking about this piece today, mainly because of the habitual scorn of men in it that seems so common in feminism today that was, but I found the confused arguments in this meandering atrocity of a column to be more intriguing — mainly because it shows that the Left will embrace anything that has a hefty dose of man hate in it, whether it makes sense or not.
If parents were giving their children virtue names today, as the Puritans used to do, nobody would choose Charity or Grace or Patience. Instead, half of all baby girls born in America would be named Empowerment or Assertiveness.
For women in this cultural moment, assertiveness is perhaps the ultimate in aspirational personal qualities. At the nexus of feminism and self-help lies the promise that if we can only learn to state our needs more forcefully — to “lean in” and stop apologizing and demand a raise and power pose in the bathroom before meetings and generally act like a ladyboss (though not a regular boss of course; that would be unladylike) — everything from the pay gap to mansplaining to the glass ceiling would all but disappear. Women! Be more like men. Men, as you were.
…So perhaps instead of nagging women to scramble to meet the male standard, we should instead be training men and boys to aspire to women’s cultural norms, and selling those norms to men as both default and desirable. To be more deferential. To reflect and listen and apologize where an apology is due (and if unsure, to err on the side of a superfluous sorry than an absent one). To aim for modesty and humility and cooperation rather than blowhard arrogance.
It would be a challenge, for sure. Pity the human resources manager trying to sell a deference training course to male employees. She would need to paint all the PowerPoint slides black and hand out Nerf guns just to get started. As long as the threat of emasculation is a baseline terror for men, encouraging them to act more like women still instinctively feels like a form of humiliation.
…Promoting qualities such as deference, humility, cooperation and listening skills will benefit not only women but also businesses, politics and even men themselves, freeing them from the constant and exhausting expectation to perform a grandstanding masculinity, even when they feel insecure or unsure.
So H.R. managers and self-help authors, slogan writers and TED Talk talkers: Use your platforms and your cultural capital to ask that men be the ones to do the self-improvement for once. Stand up for deference. Write the book that tells men to sit back and listen and yield to others’ judgment. Code the app that shows them where to put the apologies in their emails. Teach them how to assess their own abilities realistically and modestly. Tell them to “lean out,” reflect and consider the needs of others rather than assertively restating their own. Sell the female standard as the norm.
Perhaps some capitulation poses in the bathroom before a big meeting might help.
Here’s what is so bizarre about this piece.