Thursday, June 13, 2013

Feminist, feminist, what do you see?

Here's a little delayed reflection on Erick Erickson's hand-wringing over female breadwinners a couple weeks ago.

I used to be really irritated by the smug Erickson type. Their comments used to cause this little adrenalin surge that made me feel like fighting and arguing and citing sources that proved them wrong. I still think that their statements* need to be fact-checked, rebutted, and put into context. Of course this is an important part of bringing about change in the national dialogue. However, these days I just can't bring myself to get even slightly upset over these things that socially conservative pundits feel so compelled to say. I can't see them as threatening anymore. When I look at people like Erickson, I don't really see an adversary.

Instead I see a deeply insecure man whose self-worth and identity has been built on a once-dominant hierarchical worldview that gave him value, that validated his existence, that made him secure in the belief that he was superior and worthy of being dominant. And now that this worldview is losing its cultural hold, the resulting insecurity experienced by Erickson and his peers has got to be hard to deal with.  It's one of the prices of privilege. When you're the privileged one, you don't need to establish an identity and a sense of self-worth on your own - you inherit it from the system. But once that system begins to shift and change, your entire identity is threatened. Your value as a person was based solely on a paradigm that is disappearing in front of your eyes. And what do you have left? You put all your eggs in one basket, and that basket is beginning to crumble.

I know this sounds a bit snarky, but I sincerely feel sympathetic in a way. I would imagine that it sucks to have to reinvent yourself and find new ways of valuing yourself when that foundation you've relied on your whole life is cut out from under your feet.

As I watched the video of Erickson, Dobbs, and Williams discussing female breadwinners and the "science" surrounding the issue, I found myself almost cringing in sympathetic embarrassment for the sheer nakedness of his insecurity and desperation to cling to the old order of things. That kind of naked insecurity and vulnerability being displayed in such a public forum can't engender anything but compassion. And once you see it for what it is, it's hard to see that person as an adversary anymore.  Compassion replaces hostility.

Feminist, feminist, what do you see? I see a scared, insecure man looking at me.

*If they're making these claims as statements of fact. Of course, they are free to make any statement of opinion, religious belief, or personal preference that they want. They just need to differentiate the two, and not try to make their personal feelings and beliefs into statements of fact.