Creative corner

    Maleing it in: Masculine Mystique & the Savior Complex

    Elaine Chao, Washington veteran, noted at Politico's recent "Women Rule" that, 'Men don’t prepare that much, so why do we have to?' and continues "“I prepare so much more than some of my male colleagues,” Chao tells POLITICO editor Carrie Budoff Brown in the latest “Women Rule” podcast interview. “And I know women who are prepared more and we get ridiculed and it's like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She's just preparing so much. She's such an automaton. Can't she just like, wing it?’”"

    The reason, of course, is our millennia-old mythos of men being born for glory and greatness, ready to roll, walk-ons for greater things. We call this "The Natural", like that Robert Redford movie.

    You might think of it as Magic Johnson vs. Larry Byrd - roughly comparable skill & success, but in popular lore largely "the guy with the screaming God-given talent vs the Hoosier who always had to work so hard". 

    Jesus didn't just go to school - he lectured his teachers as a young upstart. Buddha was born with good looks, wealth, and struck out on his own, to make his own path. Joseph even sold of into slavery couldn't be kept down - instead becoming vizier and telling the Pharoah what's up, the equivalent to Tim Robbins' rise from the Hudsucker mailroom to lead the company.

    Even that story is another exercise of the myth - Robbins is another idiot savant, pulling out genius inventions from his naive unprepared innocence. He's Forrest Gump, the slightly rebranded Gomer Pyle that accidentally inspires half the memes and trends of the 60s and 70s, or the Chauncey Gardiner who informs his abrupt & mistaken political rise with anecdotes from days pruning the flowers and tending to the greenhouse.

    Our image of women at work is baseline - taking care of the kids and housework in which nothing startling happens, or a not-too-earth shattering secretary or nursing job, in which the ideal was long to meet a man and "retire" to the 24x7 homebody role. Mary Tyler Moore was one of the first to bypass this expectation, but it still didn't make her presidential material or even the boss.

    Marissa Mayer *did* become boss, arguably salvaging Yahoo's stock price against their worsening position in the search market & finally selling it off for a still substantial sum after years of none-too-surprising decline. As such, she was savaged for doing what many a male CEO has done - taking a huge paycheck with options as his company failed - even though her failed acquisitions were extremely modest compared to frequent tech billion dollar Hail Mary shots and she failed nowhere near as badly as say Stephen Elop, who drove Nokia into a ditch and then got rewarded with an Exec VP slot to fail at.

    "You've Got Mail" summarizes all this perfectly - the young white dude with the annoying demeanor but the hugely successful business sense and more than enough time to play with his dog, vs. the overly nostalgic, impractical woman who'll do fine as a wife instead of a small bookshop owner. You can multiply that tale about a million times for Silicon Valley.

    Our current political morasse is caused by this same cultural mythmaking - the outsider who can come in and make it all better, common sense rising past any and every gap in experience. We saw this in 2008 when we elected a charming & inspiring young 4-year Senator to lead the nation, with little discussion afterwards of how his relative inexperience impacted his performance. However, to be fair, I would guess that Obama was almost always worked to prepare. Which to reward our dumb luck, we then voted in someone who had no intention of preparing, who thinks ad libbing is work, who possibly even has a reading disorder that keeps him from understanding more than the basics in a few images. In his version of Horatio Alger, his father drops a million dollars in his lap and says, "Go forth and prosper", while his son-in-law does him one better, inheriting the family property as his father's being hauled off to jail.

    What's even better is that the sales world and business in general encourages this kind of "success", what with aphorisms like "fake it till you make it" and "blue lies", the habit of "lying for the common good", meaning your own collective or those like you - you know, the ones in the board room. How else would the (soon to be ex-)CEO of United think it's okay to drag a customer out of a plane bruised and bloody and then 'splain it away as a lack of cooperation? It's simply know-nothing, blank talking head taking over what its best at - filling in the form of authority and competence rather than the actual functions.

    See, the modern work world doesn't require a Charles Goodyear spending years globetrotting to find the right ingredient for rubber - this generation's breakthroughs are done not in Hewlett Packard or Microsoft's garage, but in Google's dorm room, or for Twitter & Facebook, in a virtual cloud somewhere. Good looks might be appreciated (Sergey Brin being better than Mark Zuckerberg), but after Ari Onassis or Bill Gates or Ross Perot and now Donald Trump, it's certainly not required. Men don't even have to even dress - I knew a guy who ran several telcos & invariably showed up in ratty white t-shirt - while women spend hours attending to requisite wardrobe - not too tarty, not too prude - and personal effects when not writing those pre-meeting reports - all to be told they didn't get the job, but it was useful, honest, and hey, we should do drinks sometime...

    Guys are the fun types, like Christopher Hitchens or Hunter S. Thompson, who can laughingly pull out a questionable story while nursing a 3-day bender. It just adds to their mystique. 

    One of the problems we have is our attitude is so ingrained, we hardly even notice until it's so excessive or simply through contrast. When Reagan became President, he was a vacuous actor, but he'd played his role as Governor, and well, it seemed like play, so why not? Similar with W. Bush - he even bought a ranch to out-Reagan Reagan, while his governor's duties largely ran themselves. But when Sarah Palin entered the ring, we started to see just how low we'd fallen. It wasn't that she was that much dumber than the typical male candidate spouting off about grain pyramids or comparing gay marriage to bacon-warapped shrimp in a deli. It's that she said it in a high-pitched female voice with pumps and a wink. I mean, there was just no way she was going to walk into the office and pull off success - unlike Dan Quayle, she didn't know how to cover up her deficiencies.

    And then there's that Ivanka Trump gushing over Justin Trudeau bit - male privilege? they own the routine - cultivated for power, ready for a walk-on starring role, no need to work your way up, another family dynasty.. What's a mystery is why it doesn't come apart, but then again, there's usually someone in a supporting role holding it together. Feminine Mystique? yeah, it's a wonder they don't kill more often. But I guess that's what makes them the softer sex - it's just not that complex.

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    Leaders no longer have to even lead anymore - they just have to show up male, preferably tall and white and tentatively good looking, and just say stuff however detached and contradictory. The machine will paper it over and the believers will keep on believing. There's a certain advantage when most on your team believe that a guy who pissed off a lot of people and ended up nailed to a tree was a resounding success that saved us all and got promoted to God. It's a perfect recipe for failing up. How can you lose with low expectations like that?


    They not only no longer have to lead...they can say and do, and tweet idiotic BS on a daily basis; but let them (him) to one thing that seems halfway humanly sensible, and POOOF!  He is presidential.  He has changed, pivoted, suddenly has a "view," a "plan," maybe even a "doctrine."  

    If anyone (male) from either party performed in the debates as well as Hillary Clinton did (talk about PREPARED!) There is no question who would have won.  BTW, Elaine Chau is Asian, and we all know that they are meticulously prepared -- what I don't get is how she can wake up next to her pathetic husband, who is prepared only with hypocritical blather.  Oh!  And I think that Bill Gates is attractive.

    But seriously.  What you say is true.  Men are rarely in the position of having to make choices about home life/work, or children/travel, and definitely not for household chores.  Not true of all men -- absolutely, but I'm talking about expectations rather than a voluntary choice.  For women not only are the choices imposed, but also the judgment of others.  Many people I knew applauded the fact that I went to a play that my kids were in in the 2nd grade one day after my first breast cancer surgery.  There was no mention of their dad (the doctor) not showing up.  

    If Hillary couldn't change it I don't know who could.  But so many people just hated her.  Sad.


    As the saying goes, @don't just do something, stand there'.

    Yes, supermom complex, congrats, you now get to work twice as hard (but at least you survived)

    Bill Gates is certainly more attractive now than in his teens.


    My Magic vs. The Bird may not be the best example, noting  a HuffPost piece on Chris Schilling where "Natural Talent vs. Works Hard" is often a racist meme, whereby black athletes have it easy, gifted natives and all, while white athletes have to practice and show the right stuff to get where they are.

    Still, I think in other situations in politics and business, it's that tall youthful photogenic leading man that shows up to make it all right, and everything out of his mouth is golden until he screws up & is given a golden parachute to CEO another company. What with all the Venture Capitalist money and dog-and-pony shows, it's becoming a given that those fresh mid-to-late 20-somethings are the vanguards of the future, however bleak that might be if this persists. Experience in IT? pshaw.


    It is basically the Alpha Male thing. Short or fat or pear-shaped geeky or shy men have to prepare more too. Tall, deep, relaxed, dominant with deep voice and broad shoulders wins, is top dog. There are tons of dating advice videos on You Tube on how to be like "George Clooney" to get women and basically be a winner in everything else, even explaining how George Clooney himself wasn't like that but trained himself to be this Alpha. Including specifics about how to present with shoulders looking broad, body language, easy languid walk, giving off the air of not having to defend oneself, not saying too much, etc. etc..

    And yes we are all, or most of us are, complicit in being affected by the "mystique", it's probably still a genetic response for some of us to give such types preference. Though we're probably in the midst of changing that preference to high intelligence over height, confidence, broad shoulders and geniality.

    Yes, it's the Tony Robbins thing, and that's why my reaction when I see him doing his pep talk shlock has always been to roll my eyes and I wanna puke: easy for you to say, you're a tall man with broad shoulders and a deep voice. Some would add "white" to the tall, and while I would agree that colored skin is negative factor, it doesn't always hurt that much if you've got all the other factors. Obama is a preparer but I'd venture a guess he could easily not just pass without preparation but present as powerful just because he has the "right stuff."

    Mentioning Obama brings this up: within possible Alpha-dom, there are at least two types: those built for it and those not, they are laid out in that old simplistic Type A vs. Type B personality theory.  We all know of men who have all the physical attributes to be able to schmooze their way to status, fortune and fame Tony Robbins style, but instead worry themselves to death. So even being gifted with the right physical stuff is not enough. You've got to have the right nervous system, too. I'd venture a guess that Obama is the preparing type because: he'd have an anxiety attack if he didn't.

    Edit to add: to me, no coincidence Obama was a smoker who had a hard time giving it up. But that's a whole nother thing I'd rather not get into with you as I know your feelings about the habit from other posts of yours. Just suffice it to day it's an indicator of someone who needs to have nerves calmed.


    I don't think I'm that thin-skinned on smoking. If it weren't so deadly, I'd likely smoke myself - it's a relaxing habit. I used to take all the smoke breaks with the alphas because that's where alpha decisions were made. As for deconstructing Obama, well, no, I don't think he's that self-confident, and what I perceive is a less-than-natural penchant for it is probably a plus.

    As for switching to brainy over good looking, probably not. We still comparmentalize the nerd thing for mating & voting purposes - useful to run you a report, not to be in charge or in your bed (unless has lots of money from being brainy - God knows we love that real-world business success/fortunate inheritance, however many grandmas ya gotta run over).


    Just plopping without comment: Hillary recently mentioned this sort related meme in jher interview with Kristof from his April 8 NYT op-ed summarizing:

    Now she’s out of her shell, freed by defeat, and far more willing to speak bluntly.

    “Certainly misogyny played a role” in her loss, she said. “That just has to be admitted.”

    She noted the abundant social science research that when men are ambitious and successful, they may be perceived as more likable. In contrast, for women in traditionally male fields, it’s a trade-off: The more successful or ambitious a woman is, the less likable she becomes (that’s also true of how women perceive women). It’s not so much that people consciously oppose powerful women; it’s an unconscious bias.

    And this too, especially as there may be more elaboration in the video, I haven't watched it:

    Clinton characterized the mind-set of some Trump voters as, “I don’t agree with him, I’m not sure I really approve of him, but he looks like somebody who’s been president before.” She did indicate that there were many other factors that contributed to her loss — including her own mistakes.


    I needed to  read something like this on a Monday! Great job!


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