A discussion of the Republican Debates, gender, and how things can be both “poison and medicine.”
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Lisa Hickey: I want to talk about two events that happened last night. One was not the Republican debate—and one is. But I also want to frame those two things in “identity” by asking you a question up front.
The question I want to ask as a frame: “When I ask you about ‘identity’, is man the first thing that comes to mind and then others follow?”
For example—I’m a lot of things. I’m a CEO, I’m a mother of four children. I could be thought of as old—and sometimes others think of me as old– but I don’t see that as part of my identity. I’m an author, a poet, a bike-rider, a creative person. I’m a lot of things other people are NOT. But when I think what defines me FIRST—it is almost always that I am a woman. I don’t think that piece of my identity is most important, just that it comes first. And I’m really really interested in whether other people see their gender identity as the first part of their identity.
As for the 2 events of last night that I would like to talk about:
The first was that we had another live storytelling event last night. It was awesome. There were six storytellers—four men and two women. And while some of the stories were gender neutral, some could ONLY have been told by men. When thinking about this frame work, as “do you see your gender identity as the first part of your identity”, you could see that—for some of the storytellers their identity as a man (or a woman) were part of their story.
The other thing about the storytelling event—which was what I thought about it the last time we did it—was the bravery of the people who participated. We always talk about the bravery of the people who write for us—how “putting yourself out there” is an act of courage.
But putting yourself out there, and telling your story in front of a live audience could is as much or even more courageous than putting yourself out there in writing. You can’t edit what you say, you have to look people in the eye, you hear immediately related to you or not.
And the event that we competed against was The Republican Primary. So I missed it live, but I saw highlights and have been watching it on and off.
And probably predictably, I want to start by talking about gender identity in the presidential race. Out of the 22 candidates who have officially announced they are running for president, 2 are women. Just about everyone knows that one of those woman is Hillary Clinton. The other is a Republican candidate, Carly Fiona. She did not participate in the Big 10 debate last night, but she did sit at the kids table in the early debate for those who weren’t the frontrunners. And as I tried to find some background on her, one of the first things I found was this gem of a sentence from The Atlantic:
“Mainly, though, she [Fiona] strongly criticized Hillary Clinton, and some Republican strategists like the optics of having a woman to criticize Clinton so as to sidestep charges of sexism.”
So—really? One of the best things someone can say is about a Republican woman candidate is that she is helpful in not making the Republicans look sexist?
But I do want to talk about Trump for just one minute.
There is something REALLY important about Donald Trump. He is the most openly racist, sexist and homophobic Presidential candidate I know. He might in fact be the most openly racist, sexist and homophobic PERSON I know. You can find quotes everywhere about how is against gay marriage/marriage equality. About how he is unapologetically racist—he literally refused to apologize for his “Mexicans are rapists” comment. And as for sexist, I would like to point you to this exchange from the Presidential Debate last night between Trump and Megyn Kelly:
KELLY: “You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”
TRUMP: “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”
KELLY: “No, it wasn’t.”
KELLY: “For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.”
TRUMP: “Yes, I’m sure it was.”
KELLY: “Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president…?”
TRUMP: “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.”
And so this is what I think is so interesting. At The Good Men Project we very overtly say “You cannot be racist, sexist or homophobic.” It’s in our Editorial guidelines, it’s in our commenting guidelines, it’s on our About page, it’s in our Submissions guidelines.
What we don’t say is: “you have to be politically correct”. Because, to us, what politically correct means is that you are racist, sexist or homophobic but you are simply not saying those things out loud.
But what we are saying at The Good Men Project is not only wouldn’t you say racist, sexist or homophobic things out loud, but you wouldn’t actually BE any of those things, at the core of your identity. And we realize that social conditioning is so strong, that almost everyone has some actual prejudices at their core. But what we mean by “not racist, not sexist and not homophobic” is simply that you recognize those prejudices inside you, and work to change them. And—where possible, work to change the ingrained systemization of those prejudices. Voting in favor of gay marriage, for example, is one way to change the systemization of homophobia. Supporting the use of body cams for police officers on social media might be a way of fighting systematized racism. You don’t have to run for office or march in parades to fight the systematized marginalization of others—you simply have to be aware and be supportive of the efforts to change it.
But what someone like Trump is actually saying is: “It’s OK to be racist, sexist and homophobic. That is my identity. That is who I am.” And it is pretty clear that he also thinks there are enough people out there who are ALSO racist, sexist and homophobic that they would vote for him for president.
OK, I’m going to open it up now to the group.
Cynthia Barnett: So glad you brought this up. Here’s what occurs to me. In the same instance you mention, Donald Trum interrupted Megan Kelly when she brought it up. That is what happens to women. There’s a societal accptance, particularly in the political arena. And when he said the line about Rosie O’Donnell there was immediate and hearty applause. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised he had so many supporters, but I was. And I was especially shaken by the insight that insults to women. are especially hurtful when we are called an animal as a result of our looks. There’s no similar insult with regards to men….in fact if you call a man an animal, sometimes they will not even see it as an insult.
Rick Gabrielly: As a 53 year old male—I’ll say this: All the guys in my family have been called animals. So the first thing we should do is get to a place where we don’t call anyone an animal. With regards to Trump—I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, but I do think it’s refreshing for a politician to be unapologetic. I don’t agree with him—however I appreciate him not putting on a facade. He says, if you vote for me at least you know what you’re getting. Maybe this will usher in a new era of “reality politics”.
Roger Tonneis: I support that he is completely unqualified to be president but in someways he’s doing us a service. Egomaniacs think everyone else things the way do they. So this does two things for us as a society. First, it’s clear that you get what you get. Second—its like surfacing the poision from the wound. When you have an infection, sometimes it’s deep below the surface level. Here, we are surfacing the attitudes so we can disinfect it. Egomaniacs think “It’s OK for me to say what I think” — which allows us to give a clear message that it’s not appropriate. Surface the poison to the top of the infection to clean it up.
Theresa Byrne: Does Donald Trump remind anyone else of Archie Bunker? Two old crotchety curmudgeons. And in the same way that show did—I agree with Roger to bring up the poison so we can create healing.
Mina Blackburn: I find this conversation so interesting—in fact, I find it fascinating that people can find something positive in Trump. I can’t see how we could vote for him as as leader when he is marginalizing big groups of American people. I see it as a circus act. It just doesn’t seem real that he could say those things on this platform.
Roger Tonneis: I’m an engineer. When I look at from an engineering standpoint, the Rebublican part needs a re-boot but Donald Trump is not the one to be re-booting it. If you want to to re-boot the party, you need someone like Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt, arguably two of the greatest Republicans ever. But instead—this is a clean killing of the Republican Party. They don’t realize it yet, but they are going to lose. None of the Republican candidates can lead or reflect the values of America at this moment in time. That’s why it looks like a clown car.
Mike Stiller: Is there anyone on this call who believes Trump or any of the Republican candidates could actually win?
Cynthia Barnett: The fact that there are a record number of candidates actually speaks well for the election. There are 17 people in one party who are saying “I can do this.” There are people who are intelligent. Fiona has no political experience but came across as highly intelligent and well-versed on the issues. I find it encouraging that there are 17 people who wanted to run.
Rick Gabrielly: You’ve gotta take it seriously. People like Jimmy Carter were previously unknown. Half of the country could still vote for any one of the Republican candidates. It’s exciting and scary.
Kozo Hattori: I want to get pack to what Roger said about Trump and poison. There are plants that are both poison and medicine. And we have to remember—we’re all in the same cane here. We’re not going to have the country we want if we just try to exterminate some people as if they are poison. We need to view this as an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s an opportunity to see what is on the hearts and minds of America. Why do they have these views? Why are they hating women? Why are they lacking compassion? It’s like…I recently found out I had cancer. They just wanted to cut it out. But I want to do more. I want to find out what is causing this to grow in my body? We have to get down to the root causes. Where can we heal? Is it in education? Is it in family dynamics? I would encourage people to see that something can be both a poison and a medicine.
Cynthia Barnett: I’m blown away by that Kozo. It reminds me of a story. There was an obnoxious person in an office and no one liked working with this guy. There was only one person who treated him in a kind and respectful way. Others said: “How can you be treating this guy who is so obnoxious like this?” And the nice guy said, “I can’t get to heaven without him.” Another way of looking at is is “we’re not all guilty but we’re all responsible.”
Kozo Hattori: Some of us have hatred for Donald Trump. And your story was beautiful Cynthia, you can’t get into heaven without him. And I think heaven is here on earth. So to me…you can’t get into heaven here on earth if you have hatred in your body. Saints…love everyone. When I see racism I try to switch from hatred to compassion.
Theresa Byrne: What if Donald Trump was one of our grandparents? You can’t fight hate with hate.
Kozo Hattori: That’s just it. Perhaps we could sit down at the piano with him and connect with him.
Theresa Byrne: Something happened to Donald Trump to give him this distorted view of the world and that is what I’m interested in. He pushes our buttons so we don’t look at his core wound.
Patty Beech: I think we need to be careful because Trump gets equated with some good leadership qualities and then those spill over. He knows how to do business. He knows how to get attention. But we have to look past those at his core values.The Republican Party has, in the past, been cohesive and unified and has been on one page. A lot of splintering now. How can we get involved so we choose a candidate who really does reflect our values. One thing that Roger Tonneis and I are doing is examining the V-Factor of all the candidates. The V-Factor is how versatile people are in combining both masculine and feminine qualities. Having really aggressive characteristics might skew the candidate towards the masculine. On the other hand, fo example, you might think Hillary Clinton has a high V-factor because she is a woman in a filed of men. But actually Barack Obama has a higher V-Factor than Hillary has.
Cynthia Barnett: We also have to remember that strong leadership skills get applied to dictators.
Todd A: I really appreciate everyone’s perspective, and I’m interested in learning more about the V-Factor. However, I don’t believe with the characteristics you are saying our masculine. I don’t identify the aggressive characteristics as masculine—that insults me as a man.
John: There was a book in which the author studied the CEO of a company—and the CEO was also a psychopath. And the CEO explained away every one of his psychopathic traits as being the qualities of a good leader. He saw them all as positive qualities.
Patty Beech: To address Todd’s point—what we are saying is that there are strong masculine positive qualities and strong positive feminine qualities. And there is the shadow side to both. So being assertive might be seen as “masculine”, and a good thing—certainly it’s good to courageously say what you believe. But when you those same qualities go overboard, when you are overly aggressive or saying what you believe in order to hurt—that is the shadow side of those positive qualities. For feminine qualities, it might be “listening” has been perceived as feminine, and that’s a positive quality. But if you go too far, to the shadow side, and become a doormat, that is not good.
And I’m not saying these qualities have to have a gender per se, more that they have a shape which is based on archetypes. This has it’s roots in Jungerian psychology—we’re not just making it up.
Todd: I’m not taking it personally, I just find it interesting.
Rick Gabrielly: I bet most people who run for President would perform well on the psychopath test.
Cynthia Barnett: I have another story, this time about Margaret Thatcher. One very famous European leader worked closely with Margaret Thatcher. And others were asking about what it was to work with her. And this European leader said that he always looked forward to meeting with Margaret Thatcher because of her leadership qualities, and the ones he listed I’m sure would be very traditionally masculine. But then he said: “But what we really loved about working with Margaret Thatcher is that she made us feel so cherished. She asked about our health, she made sure we had food and drink, she wanted to make sure our core concerns were taken care us. She treated us as a mum, and we loved it.
Patty Beech: It could be that naming these qualities as masculine and feminine is not as helpful as it could be. But one place where it does help is that we can see where they overlap with gender. For example, if you have a Board of Directors where there are 3 women on the board—not just a token women—the whole way in which the Board operates is changed. We are really looking at balance and ways to balance these characteristics which have historically been viewed as masculine or feminine. We understand there are societal expectations of men and women. How can we get at those qualities where both are expressed. The way they are changing is both fluid and confused.
Todd: I totally agree with the idea of balance and that is also where some of the confusion comes from. I work as an engineer, in a male dominated field, where, for example, some of the men are really entrenched in sports. And I see women sometimes who try so hard to fit the mold that they really emphasize their masculine qualities to their detriment I believe.
Photo: AP / John Mincello
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