Monday, 24 July 2017

The Devil is in the bargain bin

Here’s the thing, if you want to increase the diversity in businesses by adding more representation (of what…exactly? Customers? The public? A particular suburb? Your house?), go ahead. But you have to take responsibility for all the consequences, both good and bad.

Consider this direct quote from the Ministry of Women’s website: “Since 1986 the female labour force has increased by more than 50% and internationally New Zealand’s female labour force participation rate is above the OECD average.”

That’s fine, and I applaud the individual success of each and every one of those women. Yet the latest OECD Economic Survey of New Zealand shows this country’s labour productivity consistently dropping every year since that time.

Am I saying there’s a correlation? You bet. Is the diversification of gender at workplaces at fault? Who knows? But to pretend the push for diversity is an unmitigated good for society is disingenuous at best and manipulative at worst.

Are there plenty of mediocre men in the workplace who would be thrown out on their asses if more women challenge them? Absolutely. But the framing of this question assumes every time a woman is hired to replace a man it necessarily, by some magic, increases the quality of that workforce, when this simply isn’t true.

You’ll also notice that since about 1987 or so, consumer spending has gone waaaaay up as well. Hmmmm, how interesting. At the risk of sounding sexist, heavy consumption is a stereotype of women. Is this a victory for diversity in the workplace as well? Or does that not fit the narrative? Only in this culture do we want the system to force us to do the right thing so we can take the credit.

When they ask for more women CEOs, feminists miss the only important question: why is it always about access? Why don't women just, you know, invent their own things? The system isn’t stopping women from building anything. Instead, they want to be given power, rather than take it. By all means, write a story people will be telling in a thousand years. But to think you're better than someone who wrote a story 2000 years ago that you’re still reciting only broadcasts your resentment and incompetence. Wouldn't it be better to encourage women to participate in STEM for the sake of construction itself? Dispense with the power games already. You don't even like guns, but you're gonna need them eventually if you're going down that path.

In The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway gets a job in her chosen field, and although she performs the job just fine, she is treated poorly because she doesn't share Meryl Streep's values.

Hathaway is beaten down by Streep until she upends her values, abandons her personal life and destroys her relationships in order to placate her abusive boss, who in return belittles her for not knowing the history of the colour of her sweater. So what? Hathaway has Stockholm syndrome? That's the easy criticism. No - listen closely to Streep's words:

"This... 'stuff'? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. 
"And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic "casual corner" where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of 'stuff.'"

Yeah, well, two can play at that game, Streep. Did you know that the width of European rail tracks can be traced back to the average width of a Roman horse butt? Romans built a lot of roads for vehicles designed to be drawn by two horses, which determined the axle length. Over the years, they left grooves, so everybody who came after them made carts the same width because otherwise, it was a bumpy ride.

When train cars were invented, engineers naturally used existing carts as a model, so the size of the subway car Streep took to that fitting room was a result of horse breeding decisions made thousands of years ago. Like she said though, small things can propagate across time. It does not, however, make ancient Roman horse butts inherently important.

Hathaway is in the firing line, but the joke is on Streep because even with all that work and effort in fashion, the cerulean sweater still ended up in a bargain bin. All that effort, for what? Did you make some money? Get some prestige? Did you win sex? Because those are the reasons men work insane hours on freezing cold oil platforms deep in the Bering Sea.

Being a CEO isn't about the creativity for men. Or, more precisely, if being creative didn't earn men sex, would they still work like this? So then why are women fighting to get to more work if they don't even know what the reward is? I get that women want to be allowed to work. But 60 hour weeks, constant litigation threats and multiple million-dollar loan repayments? Really, you want that? You do realise men don't care about powerful women, right? The singer Lorde is probably filthy rich, but I don't know any guy who wants to bang her.

Streep is a just tool for the system. She smirks in superiority because she "knows" how the system works. But she is only allowed to know this because her enlightenment poses no threat to it whatsoever. She might act like she's got it all figured out, but she has no idea what forces were acting on her and what these forces wanted from her that elevated her to celebrity status. Most men don't even know what those forces are - and they set the system up this way.

No one seems to acknowledge the uniquely male aspect here either. Clothes that are traditionally male constitute a smaller set than clothes that are female. Women can wear men’s shirts, jeans, t-shirts, tactical gear and are still women. They can also wear dresses, skirts and more conservative clothing and still code as a woman.

So you might say the mainstream believes girls dressing as boys and doing boy things is an upgrade for girls, whereas boys dressing as girls is a downgrade for boys. It’s not. The consumers are women, the rest of you just pad the numbers. You have your sexism backwards. People imagine "sexism" as institutional power directed top down against women, oppressing them with sexist jokes. But it's much more illuminating to understand sexism as just another tool to increase consumption. Even Streep knows it costs more for women to dress professionally, even as they probably get paid less.

Do you understand the infrastructure necessary to cause people to disavow something that they know with total clarity, just to keep the money flowing? Replace "feminism" with "civil rights" and "executive positions" with "votes." It doesn't matter. This is a game that can be played forever. The form of the question is about whether The Beast is being fed. You have to defeat consumerism or your social change will be for nought - frantic energy dissipating like a car up on the blocks, gunning its engine in furious self-righteousness as it passes hundred dollar bills to the gasman. Yes, I'm aware how quickly that metaphor collapsed.

I just think anyone who says diversity is only about “treating people fairly” should keep in mind that the system doesn’t see you as a person, it only sees you as a battery. It doesn’t care about your sex, gender, religion or political belief. It only cares that you act in the required direction. All you’re good for is how much you can produce and consume.

The problem is female CEOs never stop to ask, “hey, why did they let so many me in?...”

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