A Modest Proposal: Men, Please Step Aside

For eliminating the scourges of racism, misogyny, nationalism and materialism, and for making our institutions of governance, education, the economy, and religion fundamentally more beneficial to the public:  MEN, STEP DOWN!

Thought Experiment

Albert Einstein unraveled the theory of relativity as a brilliant thought experiment, not experimentally in a high-tech lab utilizing the scientific method.  So, in the spirit of Einstein, I ask you to seriously engage in the following thought experiment:  Imagine how the world would be different if men  (mostly White) were no longer occuplying nearly all positions of power in the world.  But instead, imagine the world under the tutelege of nothing but women.

We men have had about 2,000 years to have proven our worth.  We’ve run just about everything for all that time.  How have we done?  Can we see the correlation between who’s in charge and the deleterious effects of all that power?  Imagine if men ended the oppression of women totally, and escorted them into the boardrooms, the university presidencies, the legislatures, executive offices, judicial benches, and the Pentagon.

Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal

Jonathan Swift’s 1729 AModest Proposal  suggested the solution to child poverty in Ireland was for the wealthy to eat them.  Unlike Swift’s proposal, I’m not being satirical.  I’m serious.  I ask you to consider what the world might be like with women in power, everywhere.  

Baby Boomers Saw Some Miniscule Progress

We Baby Boomers have seen a lot of change in the emancipation of women, first given the right to vote in the US 100 years ago.  Nine women had served in the US Senate by the time the oldest of us were ready to enter high school in 1960.  Forty-eight more have been elected since then, reaching the high-water mark at present with 26 women now serving.  Two women (Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin) ran the gauntlet of male-dominated political parties and made it to the status of vice presidential nominees, and one (Hillary Clinton, sigh) to President.  And we’ve had a grand total of four women serve on the US Supreme Court in 240 years.  

While these numbers are greater than the zeros that filled all of these columns until quite recently, they hardly manifest anything approaching equality.  But I’m not proposing equality; I’m proposing a total takeover of power by women.  Go ahead, say I’m crazy.  But I ask you in all seriousness to envision the extreme of men stepping aside to allow women to rule.  Go through the thought experiment.  

What Might Change?

  • Listening would no doubt become a dominant feature of all organizational decision-making.  Is there anyone among us who hasn’t noticed a gender difference between men, who can opine at the drop of a hat, and women, who are much more prone to listen, question, then opine?  Have you ever noticed at dinner parties (dinner party:  noun: a pre-pandemic event people used to hold where people of varying genders gathered to sup, drink and socialize) how men tend to dominate discussion, sometimes barely taking a moment to breathe, let alone listen?
  • How about mansplaining?  Can’t you imagine how men, now out of power in classrooms and offices, might lose their pulpit from which to pontificate? I’m sure most of us, male and female, have had our own experiences of alpha males ‘splaining something to us that we fully understood without their condescending lecturing. I know I have.  Recently.  Did you ever stop to think why women rarely invite men to join their book groups?
  • How about asking directions driving while lost?  Maybe younger readers will scratch their heads.  Lost?  You can’t get lost with Waze.  Well you should have seen it in the old days when Dad(me) would drive around in circles for miles rather than stop to ask someone for assistance.  That was unmanly. Imagine if women were in power and willing to ask for directions on occasion.
  • Sexual harassment?  I know there have been cases of women in power harrasing men.  Maybe it’s just that there aren’t as many women in power positions over men, but do you really think that’s the whole explanation?
  • Gun violence? While gun ownership in the US is somewhat skewed to men (43%-17% in a recent survey by statista.com), men perpetrated 113 mass shootings to 3 by women since 1982.
  • Racial violence?  How many female leaders of the KKK have there been? Or the Aryan Brotherhood, Peckerwood, or Boogaloo? Or how many women led the 8,000-10,000 lynchings in the Jim Crow South?  I’m just asking.

 

Pick any of them…or ask for a redo of 2016!

The White House

So let’s continue the thought experiment.  Imagine that Donald Trump is not President, but was replaced by a woman. (We had our chance, but the obvious misogyny in the US electorate wouldn’t have it.) Or go one step further.  Try to imagine, as a tweeter named A.R. Moxon posited, men’s reactions if it was known for a fact the next 45 presidents would be women, and after those 240 years, a man running was considered “identity politics.” We would lose our entire minds. We take women’s patience far too much for granted! 

US Army’s first women four star generals

The Joint Chiefs

Or think of the Joint Chiefs of Staff entirely “womaned” by females?  Can’t you conceive there would be a different willingness to send kids off to war? To conduct raids with massive civilian collateral damage (read bombed apartments, refugee camps, hospitals), or to readily use military means to settle diplomatic fights?

A future US Supreme Court?

The US Supreme Court

Now to the Supreme Court.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (may she outlast the present administration!) was once asked how many women it would take on the court to satisfy her. “There will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine,” Ginsburg said.  Try to imagine men’s reactions, were it known that of the next 113 SCOTUS justices, only 4 would be men, and none of those will be appointed before 2205, and even then women’s complaints about male appointees would be “why don’t they just appoint the person best qualified?”

An all-woman board of directors?

Corporate Boards

Do you believe that all-female corporate boards of directors would, like the men who sit there today, seek huge federal tax cuts to fund company stock buybacks that feather the nests of major (largely male) shareholders? Or would they not be more likely instead to further the interests of the corporations they led AND the communities in which they operated by increasing wages, improving working conditions, adding company childcare facilities, taking environmental protection measures, or undertaking other stakeholder improvements?

Pope Joan

The Church

And, how can I forget religion, no doubt the first-class perpetrator of male chauvanism?  In an all-woman fantasy written about in The Cut, for example, 2,000 years of subjugation of women were replaced by a “Church [that] has finally dealt with its legacy of sexual abuse by replacing all parish priests with dissident nuns. Talk about a crusade!”  Viva la Papo Joan.

The Modest Part

Ok, so the upheaval created by a half a million or so men walking out of their corner offices, and the oval office, and the Supreme Court Chambers and Vatican City, and the Pentagon, and the Kremlin, to be replaced overnight by women, ain’t gonna happen.  But now for the more “modest” part of my proposal.  What if we merely expanded the notion of affirmative action to mean ANY time we replace a man in power we were to witness a serious effort to hire a woman?  And we should not stop with one or two women on the board.  If we succeeded just 10 percent of the time, that could mean 50,000 or so newly empowered women each year.  And in one generation, we could see a balance finally tipped.  What a thought experiment!

Or even, if every time we look at our ballot, we vote for the woman unless she is evidently, demonstrably worse than the man.  Ever since I first voted in 1968, when faced with two unknown candidates, a man and a woman, I invariably voted for the woman.  Often, even if it meant crossing party lines.

Short of these modest proposals, what if the men in power could somehow simply be encouraged to be entirely self-conscious of their responsibilities toward the entirety of the society they sat atop of, and could take it upon themselves to be aware of the tremendous impacts of their traditional masculinity, both on the women immediately around them, and upon the society at large.  Furthermore, what a grand experiment it would be if ALL men in power practiced mindfulness about how their learned behaviors could and should be altered to be more like their mothers and their spouses.

Writing this has caused me to reflect on my own life.  I think back on one time when I got a job because I was a friend of the male executive who was doing the hiring.  I was an Ivy Leaguer, in the same male networks as he, and the job I was competing for was to liaise with the all-male senior executives in the organization.   He no doubt felt comfortable with another man and hired me.

After I got the job, I found that the female number two in the department had also applied for the job and had been by-passed in my favor.  Looking back, it should probably have been her, not me.  Furthermore, she spent the next two years gamely being my deputy, helping me find my way, patiently and modestly training me for the job she should have had.  Never an ounce of outward resentment, rebellion, or subterfuge.  I’m going to call her and apologize.

Hannah Gadsby:  Nanette

One last suggestion:  If you haven’t seen the incredible Australian comic Hannah Gadsby’s great film of her one woman show, Nanette, SEE IT.

 

 

Comments

  • Steve, all of what you’ve written here has been on my mind for the past month or so. During that time, I’ve narrated two books for Audible. The first was “Synchronicity: The Epic Quest to Understand the Nature of Cause and Effect.” On the surface, it’s a history of physics going back to the Greek philosophers, but throughout, it demonstrates how cause and effect has ruled our lives for millennia, including the world-shaking decisions that have ALWAYS been made by men. The next book was “Reinventing Masculinity: The Liberating Power of Compassion and Connection.” It posits that men exist within two categories of masculinity – confined and liberating. It was sobering to discover how, no matter how enlightened I might have believed myself to be, I’m still not beyond many of the traditional constraints of confined masculinity.

    • I’m glad you were willing to engage with the thought experiment, and that you brought your own wisdom to bear on it. At least we can all try to be mindful of what our masculine perspectives are doing to our decisions, and to be very aware that WE CAN CHANGE THOSE PERSPECTIVES!

  • I think you’re on to something. It’s always difficult to establish cause and effect, but take a look at the Nordic countries. They have more women in positions of power than most other countries of the world, certainly way more than the U S. If you look at the performance of the Scandinavian countries in terms of education, social safety nets, longevity, infant mortality, and even “happiness” (whatever that is) they rank near the top. One has to think that the women in power have had something to do with this outcome.

    • As a thought experiment, I’m glad you agree with its worth. Clearly 99.99% male is wrong, wrong, wrong. Every step towards more women will be best FOR US ALL!

  • Steve – Thanks for sharing this with me on FB. Unfortunately, the FB messenger linked disappeared (the Russians?). With respect to the reflection on your own life, wow – ancient history! Still appreciate the thoughts and glad to see you’re still kicking in these strange times. Would love to catch up sometime.
    k.

  • An important step would be revocation of male suffrage. Look at how men and women poll differently on elections and on important issues.

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