Two disturbing headlines kicked off the week:
What makes them disturbing, if you lean Blue, is their undercurrent of tribalism: the reflexive fear and loathing among Us of whoever’s Not Like Us.
Yet with salvos like “Consider Firing Your Male Broker,” we bleeding hearts reveal our own tribal tendencies. In this Opinion piece, the author (a female broker, natch) argues that women make better financial advisors than men because women are intrinsically more cautious.
It’s tempting to embrace these essentialist rationales. It’s also acceptable sport to demonize men publicly, because they’re in power.
But to me, this sort of casual dismissal of an entire class of people on account of their chromosomes sounds scarily similar to James Watson’s assertion that whites are intrinsically smarter than blacks on account of their genetics.
Sure, I want to give women a leg up. Yes, I want to level the playing field for the historically disenfranchised. Just not by resorting to the tactics of the oppressor.
I remember a political campaign back in the ‘80s waged by a candidate eager to represent Greenwich Village in New York’s City Council. Her brochure (this was before social media) read, “She’s Gay & an MBA.” That language likely won her votes, given the demographics of the Village then and now. But I daresay it would not have been okay for a candidate representing the Upper East Side to resort to the same tactics. We would surely have protested if he campaigned for office on the basis of being “Straight, White & Male.”
Let’s agree that playing the beleaguered-identity card is just as lame—and potentially offensive— as playing the hegemonic-identity card. Being different might indeed help make someone distinctive, but difference is no more intrinsically an asset than likeness is inherently a liability. Let’s not insist that gender be considered a fundamental credential, unless we are also willing for it to be used as a nonnegotiable disqualifier.
And if insisting we not discriminate on the basis of gender strips me of my feminist credentials, then so be it.