Recently, something magnificent happened to me! A gifted writer with a great deal of following, upon whose article I commented earlier on, actually replied to me! You heard right. He not only replied, but also managed to, even if (slightly) patronizing me in his response, still connect with me on LinkedIn! Oh, the omnipresent and positive power of social media… What happened you ask? Well, before you’ll see my brilliant if I say so myself response, let me catch you up first:
This writer wrote a fabulous & empowering piece “Letter to My Fellow Men” where he questioned the ingrained gender-specific, ok let’s call them sexist, stereotypes, behaviors and views. It started with him noticing the treatment/ behavior his wife was getting from the men in Silicon Valley. So needless to say, from the get-go, I was a fan! It cut right into politics and democracy, into the make up of the 2015 U.S. Congress, it went right through to the issue of true representation of women in city/county/state or federal governments or to the dismally low number of nurses, for example, being elected to hospital boards. His Letter took a strong stance on gender, politics, sociological conditioning and the distribution of political power therefore on the learned, ingrained and enforced stereotypes we all face in everyday society. Right up my alley, yes?
The follow-up to the Letter, was a long article discussing a variety of issues among which was a paragraph commenting on the current heightened trend – if I may call it that – of supporting girls or ‘looking after girls’ and their empowerment, and how as a society we are now more cognizant of gender issues with #HeSheHero campaign. Still good, right? After the girls empowerment, he went on to list the shortcomings of the boys; how boys are medicated with Ridillin (no kids, no idea about the spelling) at much higher rate, how boys read at much lower grade level, and how boys don’t do well at school. At the end of this part he asked: so who is “looking after” the boys?
With that one sentence, my teeth started to grind especially since our ‘gender-barring friendship’ was going so well.
That one question stopped me in my tracks and while realizing we were perhaps on our way back to “Gender-Stereotype Central“, it all started to (not) make sense. One thing, however, was clear: if an educated man who publicly stands up, questions, critiques and calls upon his fellow men to end their gender stereotypes and sexist behavior, if he thinks that the current support for girls or the attention to girls empowerment (hurray for #GirlsLead) threatens the boys status or existence -> we have a very long way out of the frequently-jammed and traffic-impacted Gender-Stereotype Central. Perhaps I am not doing him justice, perhaps it was not meant like that. Perhaps. But on the other hand, why would you pose such a question?
So I gathered my courage to face fears of being publicly criticized and/or not liked, and I wrote: “…yes, and even with such dismal statistic, the “poor boys” still manage to make it to the top and control the power, money and influence.” And this is where the marvelous thing happened – he replied! Then however came the next round of courage in reading his response…
What I read was a slightly patronizing reply about how making comments like mine lead to no other purpose than to gender discourse and/or to the perpetuation of sexism, or something to that sense. He went on to say that he found my use of the phrase “poor boys” offensive or smarmy and was quite frankly surprised to hear it there, or from me, I can’t remember the exact wording. HUH?
As a good ol’ feminist broad with a keen feminist mind for analysis, I immediately started to count the ways in which he just patronized / offended me based on nothing but my gender… Yes, my Women’s Studies professor was thinking about me and didn’t know why… 🙂
…so here you have it, folks, all she wrote (well, not quite). You have been caught up.
=>> So Before you scroll down and read my brilliant and utterly awesome response, please do let me know if I am wrong (or how much wrong), if you encountered perhaps a similar situation, or felt like talking back or speaking up somewhere on a gender issue? What would you have said? Do you agree OR disagree with ascertaining that comments like mine, or similar in nature, serve no other purpose than to incite gender discourse or bias or sexist behavior?
I always enjoy your comments, I appreciate other people’s point of view, I learn from it. It is only through communication we truly learn <<=
So, HERE WE GO: (due to word limited replies on LinkedIn, I had to edit my piece down and posted the second half only)
“Thank you Louis for your response.
I do appreciate it, and I’d like to welcome you to my professional network. Happy to have you as a part of mine.
I’ll take a wild stab here when I say I am not alone here; a woman, an immigrant, with an accent, without influential friends in Ivy colleges (or Towers but I would want some), fighting her way in men’s business every step of the way. Trust me when I tell you there was no offense or smarminess (is that a correct word?) intended in my comment because I know how it feels since I have been on the receiving end. As a discussion leader in Women’s Studies classes at a university, I brought the men in to talk about issues, I asked their opinion, I shielded them from emotional and un-constructive attacks and I always included them. So you are way off the mark here.
You take an offense at me using phrase ‘poor (as in underrepresented in politics, money, power and government) boys‘ but rest assured, I do not take offense at your shall-we-say smarmy or even-slightly patronizing response. I like your article, I enjoy reading your stuff, I love your Letter to Men and I think there should be more men, thought-proving leaders and husbands like you. Having said that….
My use of the ‘poor boys‘ phrase was meant not as an offensive derogatory terminology, but as an incredulous response to your question of who is looking after the boys. That quite frankly, I could not believe I was reading!
Men control if not all, than almost all, of U.S. power and money, in 2015 we’ll have still-a-laughable-number of mere 100 women in U.S. Congress, women make up 51% of population yet less than 24% of elected officials in city and/or county governments, and while nurses (majority of women) make the largest pool of healthcare professionals, they still make only 6% – 9% of elected hospital board members.
Taking it one step further, before the Mid-Term 2014 Election, even “Liberal” California has elected only I believe around 180 women in total during its entire political history to the CA State Legislature, furthermore, speaking of California, women candidates / possible legislators even lost several seats here. And I could go on….
So when your article asks who is looking after the boys, yes, the poor (as in underrepresented in politics, power and money) boys since we are now finally looking after the girls, I must ask if we are talking about the same playing field, because I do see little disparity here, don’t you? And that was THE intended point of my comment. I thought THAT could be something a great writer such as yourself with an impressive following could look into and write about. People would listen and attitudes would change! What happens that even if having such dismal initial statistics, as you write, boys (i.e. men) still end up at the top, controlling the power, wealth and the seat of influence? What happens?
That was the point I was trying to make, and clearly badly.
PS: Boy do I like this! Thank you for such a great topic and for this discussion.”