Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On women ruining the world (as usual)

Okay, so we all know that women can't be trusted with complicated and challenging tasks such as government leadership, scientific research, military service, and corporate management. (The reason we can be trusted with childrearing is that it's such a simple, basic, uncomplicated task and because Daddy will come home at the end of the workday to correct our mistakes.) But it seems we're just not bright enough to consider one incontestable truth, which is that we're too dumb and emotional to have been trusted with the right to vote in the first place.
From the beginning of time women have been the emotional nurturers of society while men have been the logical protectors and managers. It was the men who had to do the dirty deeds that required more logic then emotion. Men have always debated and discussed what it is they thought was best for their communities. There has always been strong women have stood behind their men and supported them in the tough decisions they had to make. Behind the scenes these strong women would prod and nudge because they thought the men moved to slow at times.

However it was that slow and methodical thought process that allowed for an orderly progression that worked for thousands of years. And please do not bring up all the wars men have gotten us into. The biggest war in history was WWII, and it happened with men elected after women around the world won the right to vote.

Unfortunately men eventually abdicated their God given responsibility and allowed their emotional partner an equal footing in deciding the country’s fate. From that day forward, men have been vying for the emotional vote of the women and worrying about their reactions after they got in office. Thus they have become more emotional in their legislating then logical.

Damn. I had no idea. But then, I'm not bright enough to be trusted with ideas anyway.

The author holds the women's vote responsible for such "feel-good" decisions as child safety-helmet laws, child-labor laws, World War II, efforts to offset the effects of global warming, and, one can assume, 9/11. These decisions were, of course, made by men, but it's still the women's fault! See, since women have gotten the vote, men have been forced to pander to them from a girly, emotional standpoint, and that means passing girly, emotional laws. Merely by passing the 19th Amendment, men have essentially castrated themselves by allowing women to castrate them, which I guess implied some castration beforehand, or else they wouldn't have allowed weak little emotional women to do it. So they pre-castrated and then re-castrated. Or something.

Anyhoodle, the reason given for why women should sit home and let the men make the decisions for them is that men are inherently logical. Women are driven by their emotions and tend to cry and pout and hold grudges and pass laws to protect cute things. Men, on the other hand, tend to logically shout and beat each other up over sporting events and start wars because someone threatened their deddy and pass laws to protect fetuses. Pay equity, ecology, and the feel-good preachings of Jesus? Gooshy women stuff. Witch-burning, the Spanish Inquisition, and killing Jesus? Manly man stuff for manly men.

What we need is a logical, manly-man president like Ronald Reagan! Now there's a man who threw aside all of that gooey emotional crap to campaign on a platform of hard facts and harder analysis.

Now, those are some hard-hitting violins!

Commenter Falconer made the point that author OneVike is looking to assign men the uber-logical role of Mr. Spock and women the uber-emotional role of Dr. McCoy. He points out that what that oversimplification lacks is a Captain Kirk to hang around as the synthesis of logic and emotion, ration and intuition.

I'll expand on that: Spock never started a war. Spock never got pissed off and beat someone up. And, to my knowledge, Dr. McCoy was never reduced to trembling tears on the floor of the infirmary and unable to do his job. Despite being driven by opposing motivations, they still manage to get the damn job done.

I've already expounded on the double standard for men and women where emotion is concerned. And that still stands. We accept the stereotypical testosterone-driven manly-man emotion because it's manly-man! It comes from men! And thus it must be right! Girly-girl emotion is not the same, and thus must be wrong. Such dichotomies ignore the fact that any excess of emotion such that it clouds one's judgment is a bad thing.

One more thought on the subject, and I don't know why I didn't just lead off with this: Men didn't get the vote because they were inherently logical or superior in their thought processes. They got the vote because it's a patriarchal society and they were in charge. They demanded the vote in the first place because they felt that they deserved some say in the runnings of the government that heavily influenced their lives.

Women don't deserve the vote--and take positions of leadership in government--because we're inherently superior. It's not because our attributed emotions and soft hearts make us more compassionate leaders. It's not because our social conditioning toward nonviolence makes us less likely to start a war. That's all stereotypes and bullshit. It's because our lives are heavily influenced by our government, and we deserve a say-so in how that happens, whether some stupid Freeper posting from his parents' basement and probably only knows what he thinks a woman would deserve if he ever were to meet one agrees or not.

God knows that if we handed out the right to vote based on rational decision-making capacity rather than citizenship, the voter rolls would be a hundred names long and most of them would own computer-repair shops in Michigan.

And for the record, I am a big fan of little kittens.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On a policy that is, if not best, at least pretty good

"Regular honesty is for pussies. I'd still like to sleep with you, though."

Okay, so today marked Day Two of my "radical honesty" experiment, and honestly (see what I did there?), it was kind of a letdown. When you're exploring a new resolve, there's this urgency about being tested, about not eating the doughnut in the breakroom or working out in the morning even when you're tired or not snorting that rail of coke even when the stripper's behind is right there in front of you. If it's always easy, you feel like it's not worthwhile.

There's another thing, though: Being totally honest makes you feel kind of like a dick. It did for me, anyway. The things we keep to ourselves usually aren't the good things; no one sits around thinking, "Wow, I really like her shoes. Those are great shoes. God, I wish I could tell her. She needs to know how great her shoes are." And then they finally let it slip, and it's all, "Okay, I'm sorry, I wasn't going to say this, but those are really awesome shoes. I like the strap across the instep... Whew. Whoa. I'm really glad I got that out. Whew. That felt kind of good, actually. Wow."

No, the stuff we never say is the stuff that might be painful to take, like, "Those are awesome shoes, and if you could just fix that jacked-up blouse, you'd look great," or, "I wish you'd get bedroom furniture, because your room, as it is, really needs some furniture." And saying that, for some people, might be a relief, a release of something they've been holding inside for some interminable time. For me, it just makes me feel like a dick, because it sounds like bitching and it wasn't that big a deal in the first place. It's just spitting negativity out there with no other purpose than to stick to a doctrine.

So I think this is where the Radical Honesty Experiment ends. It hasn't challenged me all that much, and it's made me feel like a bad person. Plus, as The Boyfriend has pointed out, it can have some seriously career-limiting implications, and I think that not being unemployed and living in a refrigerator box and feeding my dog cold ramen noodles is worth the occasional white lie.

That's not to say the experiment was a failure, though. Far from it, in fact. The conversation I had with my mom the other day was a good indication that I don't always trust people to take things the way I intend them. I should have more faith in the people I'm close to that if I throw out some potentially controversial topic, they can handle it. Remembering that may lead to some interesting and illuminating discussions that I might not otherwise have.

Also enlightening was that pause that occasionally came between the question and the honest answer. If I have to stop for even a moment to think up the truth, it means that my stock answers tend to be the not-truth. That's not to say that the absolute truth is always an appropriate answer, but actually considering a question before going to the stock throwaway answer could be a beneficial exercise.

Also enlightening was the number of times I gave the absolute, brutal truth and no one raised an eyebrow. It made me realize how many times I do, in fact, give the unvarnished truth about things and people don't realize it because they think I'm being funny. It's kind of sad that we're so unused to people telling us the truth that when we hear it, we think it must be a joke. And I don't know what to do about that. Maybe work on my delivery.

One more enlightening--and gratifying--discovery was that I don't actually lie all that much. I'm sure I'm still well in compliance with the three-lies-in-ten-minutes average, but I tend to be more likely to fudge details than fundamentals. And that's something that's easy to work on.

So those are my takeaways from an ultimately valuable experiment. Trust the people close to me to be able to accept honesty. Give the unvarnished truth where possible, and varnish it where necessary. Be open and honest where possible, but don't just barf out negativity for its own sake. Answer questions like they mean something, even if it doesn't seem like they do. Keep people's feelings in mind. Bill my slack-off time like everyone else does, because doing otherwise makes me a target.

And I'm keeping the note, for a couple of days, anyway. It's a good reminder that honesty, when not "radical," is a good place to start.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On the best policy

Okay, so I'm going to try to bring Practically Harmless back from the dead, because I crave attention and external validation and am not getting a lot of it at work. I spend a lot of time bored and unproductive, and I may well be able to take some of that time to produce something halfway worthwhile. I may also decide that being lazy is easier for me than being un-bored, and I'll just let the blog languish and die the way I did before. There's no telling.

Just being honest.

Honesty is my new thing. I've become addicted to a new show with Tim Roth, Lie to Me, which is so good it's bound to be canceled. The show is about (in short) a guy who can consistently tell if people are lying by their facial expressions and vocal stress. One of the characters is an assistant who practices "radical honesty," in which he always tells the complete truth and never holds anything back ("I would like to sleep with you," he says to a woman in one exchange).

From the beginning, I thought the concept was interesting. Then I read that the average person tells three lies in a ten-minute conversation (I'm sure that number rises in the workplace). Thinking back, I realized that I probably equivocate, fudge, embroider, or full-out lie at least that much, if not more; I'm a writer, to begin with, and I definitely hate my job, which means I lie every time someone asks, "How's your day?" I decided it was time to try the honesty thing, and I chose yesterday, a Monday, one of the toughest days of the week, to try it.

Honestly (and I just realized that "honestly" is a thing that liars say a lot, but it stays), it was kind of a let-down. I didn't really come into contact with anyone but The Boyfriend for the first several hours, and I tend to be unflinchingly honest with him. Then I was commenting on a blog and found myself... cleaning. Not flat-out lying, but editing my comment to eliminate details that may raise off-topic issues on the comment thread or be less pertinent to the topic. And that didn't fall into the category of radical honesty. So I wrote myself a note.

The next test came during a conversation with my mother at lunchtime. I feel comfortable not disclosing the entirety of the conversation on this blog, because I feel that my efforts to always be me-honest don't extend to outing other people and being them-honest. But at one point, the conversation veered in a direction that had me almost making a comment that would take us to the topic of sex, and that's not one that you really want to discuss with your mother. But it was in my head, and I had to do it.

There was a brief silence on the other end of the phone. And then, "Well, I don't want to completely gross you out here with the idea of your parents in that situation, but... yeah, I'm kind of going through that, too."

And we ended up having a lengthy and illuminating conversation about not just that but other topics about relationships and habits and a dozen other things. That first moment after I let it out was fairly scary, but the fact that I did let it out opened up a new depth of discourse that we might not have found otherwise. Pat on the back to me.

Buoyed by that experience, I decided to keep going. I found myself in an elevator with two coworkers who said, in response to my polite inquiry, "Proud to be here. How are you?"

"I have nothing to do at work, and I'm really bored. I'd rather be at home."

Again, a brief silence. They looked at each other. I explained the radical honesty thing, and they nodded and advised me that it could be kind of dangerous in the workplace. I told them it was something I'd considered. They still looked a bit concerned on my behalf, but one of them did comment that that kind of honesty could make staff meetings a lot more interesting. Maybe it's something I need to try.

I continued being bored at work - I only have a few things to do, and it's reasonable to try and stretch them out so I don't find myself with no billable hours one day, but a lot of my slacking off is because I just don't care - and then another coworker came in with some work. She explained it, and I nodded, and she asked if I had any questions or notes.

"I'll get to it, but it really seems kind of pointless. The notes [our boss] gave to us are pretty much entirely contrary to the creative direction we were given in the beginning, I don't think it's going to resonate with our target market, and it doesn't really matter anyway, because [the client] is going to make so many changes it's going to be unrecognizable by the time we deliver. But I'm at a place right now where I'll just do whatever y'all want."

She kind of laughed and agreed, because we've bitched about such things before, but it felt good to be completely forthright and sincere about it. Would I have the stones to say such a thing to our boss if she asked? Wouldn't radical honesty dictate that I tell her whether or not she asked? Good questions. I'll let you know if it comes up. I did bill seven hours to "Other" on my time sheet instead of spreading it around to "Training" and "Clerical" like I usually do, so that conversation may come up sooner than I'd like.

The rest of the day was fairly quiet on the honesty front. There was one conversation with The Boyfriend where I was obliged to say something I usually kept to myself ("I think that a lot of the time, you're not really thinking about 'education' when you impart your 'educational experiences'"), but he took it in the spirit in which it was intended and there wasn't any real conflict because of it.

Later that evening, though, he said, out of nowhere, "It kind of bothers me that you don't think my 'educational experiences' are actually about education." I told him that it was merely my opinion and that I couldn't really know his thought processes at the time. He admitted that sometimes he couldn't either.

And that was that. I came out with one more unsolicited revelation - that the dog (who had been playing enthusiastically with a friend's dogs and came out of it with a limp) needed veterinary attention and I knew it, but that I was afraid of asking my boss for any more time off to take him to the vet - and there wasn't a lot more controversial conversation. I went to bed kind of disappointed that it wasn't more difficult, that my ability to come straight out with the truth wasn't challenged more. That's when I decided to take it to Day Two.

Things I discovered on Day One: A couple of times, I really had to pause for a moment before answering a question, because I had to think of what the truth really was. I spend so much time delivering pat, inoffensive answers that coming up with the truth took actual effort. I also discovered that being honest can bring out things in other people that you'd never seen before and that other people often respond to your honesty with honesty of their own. I also discovered that the prospect of sitting down with my boss and giving her the straight poop scares the crap out of me.

And that's the God's honest truth.

Monday, March 23, 2009

On happy returns

Okay, so by popular demand, Dave.