What I learned this week. We have a diverse set of phone calls at the Good Men Project every week. And I always learn things! For example, this is what I learned this week.
SLR call with Kat Starr — This past Monday, we talked about compliments. And I learned how to give better compliments — ones that really seem to resonate with people. Ones that are specific to the person and feel right coming from me. For example, to me, complimenting someone on their looks seems a bit lazy and insincere. It doesn’t mean I don’t do it. But it does mean I think a little more about whether that person cares about their looks. And I try to say something specific. Or add in a part of their personality (“I love the way your smile lights up a room.”). I’ve also learned to be more gracious about accepting compliments about my looks, even though there is an almost zero percent chance I will believe it is true. But mostly — I learned that what is great is complimenting people on either their actions or their worldview. Actions are objectively true. If I climb the headwall of Tuckerman’s ravine on Mt Washington, I know I have climbed it. I have the photos and the route on an app to prove it. So if someone compliments me on that — I love it! But I also love it if someone compliments me on my worldview. For example, we have a Diversity & Inclusion program, and we are trying to get into corporations and give workshops about systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. And when I talk to the Diversity & Inclusion people at these corporations — people who have been doing this work for a decade or more — what they often say to me is “You know more about the difference between systemic oppression and individual bias, as well as the intersection of the two than almost anyone we know.” And I love that compliment! But that is also from coming to these calls for years and truly TRYING to understand those. So that compliment is really meaningful to me.
And the other thing I’ve been thinking about ever since that Monday call is “What can I compliment someone on that they don’t usually get complimented on?”
So learning about compliments — really talking them through and thinking about them — has changed my life in so many ways. Both giving and receiving compliments. That is not an overstatement.
#StopRacism call with Ashok — these calls always help me to think about racism in different ways, to better understand both systemic racism and individual bias, and to work with a diverse group of people to try to continue to dismantle white supremacy. The stop racism calls are the reason I am comfortable talking about racism wherever I go. And often people say to me “But what can we do??? Racism is never going to go away.” And my response to that is always the same. It may be true, but I don’t care. I’m going to fight it anyway. And here is an example. In order to fight racism, we need to fight both individual bias and the actual systems of oppression. The systems are hard. Our educational systems, banking, housing, government, criminal justice — all have to be re-imagined in order for racism to go away. But instead of being overwhelmed by that, I look for places I can start small. My daughter and her husband are liberal. They are also both teachers. So I whenever I have dinner with them, I talk about what I have learned on the #StopRacism calls about how to dismantle racism in the educational systems. Things like teaching history correctly. Or microaggressions. The school to prison pipeline. I talk about these things the way other people would talk about the weather. And my hope is that they can start to dismantle racism from inside their educational institutions. And there was a tiny story — they have two-year-old and a five-year-old. And they bought their 2-year-old daughter a baby doll that has black skin, and their daughter absolutely loves it. So much so that she brought it to the lake with her. And a little 6-year-old girl named April saw black playing with the doll and asked if they could play together. And April was awesome, and they played for an hour. And then our families got together and introduced each other socialized. And yeah, maybe my son-in-law would have bought that baby doll without me talking about racism at the dinner table, and maybe April would have come over to play anyway, and maybe we would have met that family without all that. But I would like to think it all helped.
On Wednesday we talked about gender roles. The question on the table was “Do traditional gender roles exist?” And my overly simplistic answer to that question was “Yes they exist. But a better question might be SHOULD they exist?” And I realize that some people are gender abolitionists. I am not there yet, in part because I want to support trans people who want to change their gender. However, I am a gender role abolitionist. I don’t think there are ANY traits that should be “masculine” or “feminine”. That is, it is ridiculous to think about things like strength, logic, stoic, muscular, ambition as masculine, or empathy, crying, kindness or nurturing as feminine. As an article on The Good Men Project (Masculinity and Femininity, WTF states: “And if your response is that men and women can have both masculine and feminine traits, then what is the point? Why gender these traits? What makes ambition masculine?” It is also ridiculous to think of job roles as masculine or feminine — whether it is nurse, CEO, caregiver or politician. So I think all gender roles should be abolished, and even if we think “that’s impossible” — I am going to do it anyway. I believe the most important thing is to envision a world where these things are possible.
And then, on yesterday’s Climate Change by the Elements Call, we talked about geoengineering. At its most extreme, geoengineering — which is the deliberate large-scale interventions in the earth’s systems to counteract climate change. And it includes things using technology to put a cover on the sky to try to deflect the sun’s rays back and stop the overheating of the earth. Most of us are against that sort of geoengineering. One is because there could be unintended consequences. Two because if people think there is an easy technology solution to counteract pollution, they will continue to pollute. And what I was thinking about after the call is that it also reminds me of people who say after a hurricane or tornado “I thank god for saving my life.” I never could understand how you could say that God was kind for saving your life when it also killed 5 of your neighbors down the street. How is that kind? So putting your belief that a magical thing in the sky is going to save you sounds a whole lot like this form of geoengineering.
However — there are some things that are called geoengineering that are NOT as extreme and I think should be considered. For example, rewilding. iI’s not using technology or magical thinking — it’s bringing places on earth back to their original state. Some people, for example, think all dams should go away. “Let nature take its course.”
And when I think about all these calls — what I love about them is the way they help individuals change AND help create social change and change to abusive systems.
You can’t change systems overnight, but you can “start somewhere, start anywhere” as I like to say.
Ok, I am going to open it up now. Thanks!
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