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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A Rebuttal/Call to Action for Scott Gilmore

There's been some negative reaction to Scott Gilmore's article on why women must run for office.  I can understand why; despite mentioning societal issues that discourage women from running, he doesn't address them.  Instead, much of his article reads as a lecture to women on how they should behave.

At the same time, it can't be disputed that Gilmore has some points.  Much like John Tory, Gilmore is simply offering advice to women that reflects the reality of political culture.  It's solid advice, if you want to get ahead in the game. 

This is an important fact to recognize, because if we don't we're just picking at the players instead of questioning the rules of engagement.

Gilmore has invited rebuttals in true Socratic fashion.  Upon receiving criticism, he has opened the floor for people to explain what they disagree with from what he's said.  He's offered to post criticisms (or at least refer them to : ).  In fact, he's even offered to donate his pay for the piece in question to @EqualVoiceCA for a response.

I wouldn't call this a rebuttal, so much as a teachable moment, but I'd be happy to see him make that donation regardless.  The suggestion on who should write the rebuttal comes later.

So, completely discounting the pressure of 700 words and the need to spark a conversation to build audience for my publisher, here goes:

Gilmore's approach is stereotypical mansplaning - ie, explaining to women the way the world works and suggesting they need to act, in essence, more like me to get ahead.  We'll return to this point in a second.

From a female perspective, this can be completely condescending, as could be his replies to criticisms on Twitter - "tell me where I got it wrong" is an abdication of responsibility to be empathetic.  "I'll post your piece (ie offer you free promotion in this man's world)" comes across almost as salt in the wound.

The "I'll donate my money to a women's rights cause" is even worse - it's like that scene in The Godfather where Sonny destroys a reporter's camera and then throws money at the guy as compensation.  The basic message is "hey hun, this is just business.  Tell me who to write the cheque to and move on." 

Of course, the frame of response Gilmore suggests actually is how the world works; we do put the economy before people and focus on transactions over relationships/exchanges over responsibilities.  The recommendations he lays out in his article for how woman can get ahead are equally how business and politics work - hustle to get ahead, don't take no for an answer, Always Be Closing.

This is how the world works, but who made those rules?  Men did.  They did so using their sensibilities, their priorities and more than a little of their genetic predispositions.

In general, men don't look at the world the same way women do.  Part of this is culture, but even the sociological aspects simply drive behaviour, which is emotionally-based.  Emotions are the product of hormones - cortisol gets you jittery, dopamine makes you gregarious, testosterone makes you aggressive. 

In general, women and men have different hormonal balances.  Men have more testosterone; it makes them more aggressive, more narrowly focused, more inclined to hunt and kill than to communicate and nurture.

We're back to where Gilmore's missing the point.

As rules have changed and it's become easier for women to run for office (as Gilmore himself has indicated) and occupy senior positions in the private sector, we have seen an increase in the number of women in these positions.

By and large, these women are tough, confident, focused and competitive.  In short, they're more like the average man in their dispositions.  They're interested in growing their career and willing to put in the time to do so, even at personal cost. 

How many of these women have families?  How many of them are content to pay for someone else to do their parenting for them, in true transactional fashion?  This is worth thinking about for a second. 
Is it a good thing for both parents to be at work 12+ hours a day and to be focused on work when they're home?  Do we want all children to be raised by nannies or daycare employees?  Is that the next step in laissez-faire capitalism - the outsourcing of parenthood?

With this in mind, let's look at some of Gilmore's specific suggestions:

They may be pushy strivers, but women can and must do the same.

Get out there and convince people that you matter more than they do or, at the very least, that you make for a compelling meal ticket.  Get the kiddies flocking you to hand out their business cards.  Put yourself and your brand first, before all else.

Nevertheless, it’s a simple three-step process: Pick up the phone. Ask someone for money. Do it again.

It's not about building relationships - it's all transactions.  It's like picking up at a bar; go to the pretty girl and ask her if you can buy her a drink.  Then ask for her number.  Then ask her to go home with you.  It's as simple as that - if you're a man.

Lack confidence? Find it. Sadly, men come by it naturally.

Exactly.  It's called testosterone.  To ask women in general to simply build more aggressive confidence is a bit like telling short people to grow taller or albinos to just develop more pigment - or to tell people suffering with depression to "just get over it."

Confidence, it must be noted, does not equate with competence.  Doug Ford is confident.  Mike Duffy and Dean del Mastro are uber confident.  So is everyone on Wall Street.  Watch The Wolf of Wall Street and remind me again how confidence is the be-all for success?

They make a conscious choice to sacrifice time with their family for time on the campaign trail. Men don’t believe you can have it all.

Of course not.  That's why the wife's supposed to be at home, watching the kiddies.  Perhaps Gilmore is suggesting women who want to run for office need to convince their partners to take on additional parenting burden.  Perhaps he's suggesting all elected officials (including trustees) should make enough to afford daycare.  Perhaps politicians shouldn't have kids at all - but then, how representative of society could they possibly be? 

Or are youth not to be prioritized in this success-first world?  That could explain a bit about our youth employment problem as well.

Gilmore closes his article with a call to action directed at women:

If you are a woman who believes there needs to be more women in politics, then do something about it.

Got it.  Political culture is the problem, women need to fix it.  The people there right now clearly aren't able to, but they're apparently not responsible for changing themselves or taking on different perspectives, either.

Write a cheque. Volunteer on a campaign.

What if you're a woman struggling to pay the bills and take care of the kids because your husband is out hustling for work and position?  You have neither the time nor the money.

Yes, blaming sexism isn't going to change things, but expecting women to play as men in a man's game isn't going to change things, either.  If anything, the laissez-faire approach taken by Gilmore - as well-intended as it may be - is part of the cultural problem that is chipping away at our society from all levels.

There is no question that our current models of politics, governance, employment, etc. are leaving far too many people shut out.  Shouting "heal yourselves" from the office towers and ivory towers doesn't help; if anything, it's merely a way for those at the top to abdicate responsibility for others.

When the unemployed give up on looking for work, when crippled infrastructure is ignored for more "low-hanging fruit" policy wins, etc, what results is a tragedy of the commons.

The solution isn't for more women to act like men to gain selfish success in a man's game; it's to change the rules of the game and start putting people before position and profit. 
Now, here's Scott Gilmore's call to action.

Instead of donating money to @EqualVoiceCA for a rebuttal of his article, Gilmore should do this.  He should do some homework and make an effort to understand why so many people are upset with the frame he presented.  Then, he should write a rebuttal to his own piece from the opposite perspective (free of charge) and then give it to @EqualVoiceCA to publish.

If he's willing to that, he'll have become part of the solution.

And I bet there'd be a host of women and men willing to celebrate him for doing so.

UPDATE 7 April, 2015

Men can certainly overplay their hand and alienate negotiating counterparts.  However, in most published studies, the social cost of negotiating for pay is not significant for men, while it is significant for women.

Think about that for a second.

If a woman marches into the boss' office, forcefully demands a raise based on how important they and their work are to the company, odd are high the boss will think to themselves "what a bitch" and the woman in question will suffer.

We want more women as CEOs, running for office, leading boards.  At least we say we do.  When women play by the existent rules to get there, though, we find them offensive.

The answer is easy. We need to change the rules of the game.




Men can certainly overplay their hand and alienate negotiating counterparts. However, in most published studies, the social cost of negotiating for pay is not significant for men, while it is significant for women.

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