With Herman Cain’s candidacy on suspension and Occupy Wall Street protests being shut down (though not silenced), I got to thinking about some things. Things like inequality, male privilege, and the circumstances that allow them to continue–and which are the forces that tie such seemingly disparate things as political sexual scandal and outrageous economic inequality together.
Let’s start with the sex. (This ain’t my first time to the rodeo: I know how to keep a reader engaged.) What do you think it is that allows a man to pull a woman’s face to his crotch with the smooth line, “You want a job, don’t you?”, cheat on his wife for 13 years–in a relationship that sounds to amount to little more than a cool exchange of goods for services–and then to run for the highest office in the land–basically offering himself up for scrutiny under the most intense microscope in the land–with nary a worry that he’ll be caught?
Some might say arrogance. I’d tend to agree. And I’d go further: when it comes to arrogance, the corporate world as it currently exists may be the greatest enabler around. In the context of the workplace, arrogance–and its close cousins: aggressiveness, ambition, and risk-taking–is rewarded. Power is a great big ego-stroke: people treat you differently when you’ve got it; you believe you’ve earned that special treatment. And that sense of entitlement leads to behavior of epically bad proportions.
The same could be said on the macro level: power (and money) is viewed as an end unto itself–what an organization might actually do with this wealth and influence is viewed as beside the point. He who dies with the most toys wins, right? And if that’s the paradigm, is the inequity encapsulated in Occupy’s rallying cry–we are the 99%–any wonder?
How did that happen? A case can be made that this inequity is a result of a totally lopsided definition of power and a completely unbalanced way in which it is valued and exerted. In a world where, for centuries, men have held the bulk of the power and built the very structures of this society unchecked, it’s not difficult to see how we’ve arrived at this point: What we’re seeing is the result of an overvaluation of the masculine strengths — machismo — run a-freaking-mok.
How can we be anything but completely out of balance when a man thinks it’s somehow appropriate to suggest a blow job in exchange for a job-job? When the top 1% of the people in the country control over 40% of the wealth?
When the woman who dares to speak out about her experience with the man in power is subjected to a complete autopsy of her “character,” while the man is allowed to deny–no matter that his accusers outnumber him by a factor of–well, what is it now? 6?
When women continue to be paid unequally for the same work (in DC, a woman makes 89 cents to the man’s dollar; in Wyoming, only 65 cents)? When
After the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, men continue to earn more than women in 361 metropolitan areas in the country, an annual survey by the Census Bureau found. If current trends continue, it will take 45 years for women’s salaries to equal that of men’s, research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows.
So what would it take to bring things into balance? To redefine what it means to have–and wield–power in the world? To value compassion and equality as much as status and market share? To realize that a properly functioning human being has some measure of all of these opposing qualities–both the feminine and the masculine–and that a properly functioning society should, as well?
To quote Gloria Steinem:
‘Sometimes people say to me, at my age, well aren’t you interested in something other than women’s issues?’ she said. ‘And I say ‘show me one. Show me one that isn’t transformed by including both halves of the population.’