A good rule to follow if you want to avoid getting caught out there having said shit that you haven’t much considered is to keep quiet on those things. Like how someone who is a newbie to football should probably refrain from offering up an opinion on revamping the 3-4.
So it takes a special kind of hubris to offer up a piece that says you haven’t thought much about X and then decide to get your bloviation on anyway.
Here’s a textbook example, via Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry.
I don’t know about anyone else, but ever since I got married, I think a lot about women, and the role women play in society. Because of my wife, of course, but most importantly, because of the daughters I will one day (inch’Allah) have.
Every time I think about women, or “women’s issues”, I think about my daughters.
We lived for centuries in a world where technology and culture limited women’s possibilities. But sadly today, in the West, the most limiting factor in women’s economic fortunes is women themselves. For example, women without children have the same salaries as their male counterparts.
The idea that my daughters might, for just one second in their life, think that their potential is less than that of a man, that their horizons might be limited, fills me with a mixture of pain, sadness and fury.
Shirky’s post addresses this by calling on women to level the playing field with men. What I liked most about it is that it’s pragmatic. It doesn’t put forward a grand theory of gender backed by partial studies in neurology or genetics or psychology or cognition or astrology. It simply draws simple lessons from everyday observations: women don’t do nearly as much as men to advance themselves, and they should. …
So yes, actually, women need to man up. You don’t show up with a knife for a gunfight.
And I intend to equip my daughters with rocket launchers.
The condescension here is first-class. Women, you see, are too silly to aggressively advocate for their own interests, which is why they’re paid less and passed over for promotions! Why, if women would just man up, they could achieve economic parity with men in no time!
Emmanuel-Gobry writes that he wants to arm his hypothetical daughters with rocket launchers (I’ll leave the gender semiotics for someone else to dissect) but that assumes a world in which his daughters aren’t penalized as shrill harpies for doing so “the way a man would.”
It also assumes a world in which women and men don’t face different consequences for similar life choices. As long as women continue to bear the major responsibilities of child-rearing — disparities ironically re-enforced by workplace policies like maternity leave that are generally not extended to fathers — then the decision to start a family will have fewer professional repercussions for men.
This post, and the Clay Shirkey post that started it all, both ignore another real truth. Both writers bizarrely posit that powerful men earned their executive offices and salaries because they were cutthroat. But to the extent that’s even true, those men are being rewarded for that kind of behavior by other men who are already in power and see those traits as masculine.
Emmanuel-Gobry thinks that because he hasn’t seen sufficient drive among women in the workplace it must not exist, that women in the main are less motivated. The less arrogant take would be that his experiences are too limited and anecdotal to draw conclusions about a broad swath of people whose diverse experiences he admits he’s never really considered. I’m getting really sick of this Friedersdorfian, earnest-but-obviously-flawed -assertions-based-on-observations-made-from-my-townhouse-apartment-window schtick that seems to be all the rage among young conservative “cultural critics” because their nonsense is cloaked in the fabric of “reasonableness.” (See: Douthat, Ross.)
Sometimes you really just got to know when to shut the hell up.