The tech world was rocked (not actually) last week when (now former) Google employee James Damore’s “manifesto” was leaked to the Internet.
In his screed, Damore claims, essentially, that women are biologically “different” (read: inferior) and that he is being oppressed by not being allowed to openly make such claims in his workplace. We’ll get to his claims in just a moment, but first, a brief diversion into the perpetual victimhood of Manmerica.
Every one of us who is a parent, or who is older, knows one truth: that every younger generation (that includes us) repeats the same behaviors of the older generations, all the while believing they are the first to undertake such revolutionary behaviors. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just something every generation does.
Remember back to your childhood, when you rebelled against your parents, convinced your parents couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to be young, to yearn to be free, to want to fuck and drink and watch rated R movies without adult supervision. We didn’t know it, then, but our parents pulled the exact same shit with their parents when they were teenagers. We all do it. Every generation does it.
When my generation went out and bought albums by the Ramones and The Clash, we thought we were sticking it to the man, but Joey and Johnny and Dee Dee, as well as Mick Jones and Joe Strummer weren’t blazing new ground. They were carving their own space out of the treads worn by the Stooges and MC5, who, themselves, were following the same footprints left by Bill Haley and the Comets; and Little Richard, themselves following John Lee Hooker and Wynonie Harris, etc.
None of us are original. None of us are doing anything that hasn’t already been done before.
James Damore isn’t blazing any new ground. He isn’t revealing any heretofore unspoken “knowledge” about the sexes or gender or biology that hasn’t been trod hundreds of times before him. He just doesn’t know it. Just like I didn’t know that Joe Strummer was not the first person to sing “I Fought the Law.”
We teach children because we don’t want them to have to reinvent the wheel with every generation. We pride ourselves on learning from the mistakes of our ancestors, and using the knowledge gained from those mistakes to move forward, and prevent ourselves from running in place culturally.
We also know, sadly, that sometimes, we forget the lessons of history, and, as George Santayana said, we are doomed to repeat them. We are living in a moment of history where we seem to have gladly forgotten the lessons learned in defeating ignorance-born bigotry.
We are seeing an uptick in anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, and racism in general. We failed to carefully curate the lessons of our fights against hatred, and carelessly tossed those lessons into a forgotten crate somewhere in the recesses of our collective wisdom. And now come our cultural children, intent on making those same mistakes all over again. There seems little we can do to circumvent these people from making these same mistakes in a terribly triumphant manner.
The James Damores of the world just can’t seem to understand what all the fuss is. Here James is, toiling away in what some might consider a dream job at a dream company, with seemingly plenty of time to wonder why there aren’t more women in positions of power over him.
Does his ruminations lead him to conclude that, perhaps, he finds himself in an industry that is hostile to the notion of women in positions of power? No. He concludes that their absence is self-evidence of their inferiority. He seems to think, “Well, if they were smarter, they would be my boss.”
Now, James Damore wants to discuss this cogitation with other like-minded folks, and quickly discovers that he exists in a world where those kinds of things are not discussed. He wants to know why they aren’t discussed. They just aren’t, he is told. Those ideas are wrong. We don’t talk about them.
Here is where James elders have failed him. They either do not want to retread that same ground again, or they do not know why such ideas are considered wrong, and in their impatience, give him a pat answer. James has no context to frame his discussion, or his ruminations, and no one can provide that context for him, so he concludes that he must be the perpetrator of a thoughtcrime, and a thoughtcrime is committed by someone who poses a threat to the entrenched power. This is where James begins to believe that his ideas must be dangerously true. If he could just get them out there! If only he could find a sympathetic ear! He could change the whole world!
Just what are those ideas?
Well, James rambled on for about 10 pages, but he said one thing that struck me as indicative of just how badly he doesn’t understand what feminism or equity or gender roles are all about. Let’s take a look at what that one thing is (emphasis mine):
Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles.
James believes that the goal of feminism was to let women stop being women, to put it even more simplistically than James did.
James views gender roles as innate, and that the struggle for gender equity is all about letting people deny their innate roles. This is the crux of sexism—the notion that our gender roles are innate, that they are biologically preordained, and that we are compelled by our biology to heed them.
James went on to make the standard, ridiculously juvenile case that women can’t handle the stress of management, that they prefer social or artistic-type jobs, that they are concerned more with aesthetics, that they are more neurotic.
It would appear that James derived most of his “knowledge” of women from internal employee surveys. In other words, women working in a highly misogynistic career field express more anxiety and stress than men do. At this point, James has a decision to make. He can conclude that women express such sentiments because of they are subjected to misogynistic ideas, or he can conclude that they express such sentiments because women are just that way.
Naturally, James concludes that’s just the way women are, and so he engages in confirmation bias to reach his conclusion.
There are two problems with James’ (and by this point, James is no longer just our manifesto-authoring antagonist, but is representative of the entirety of all things related to “Men’s Rights” and all the other victimization worship being practiced by resentful men) situation:
- James is not alone. Millions of American men feel the exact same way he does. His lazy intellectualizing finds a wide base of support from many other men who can’t seem to get past the idea that women owe them something, and that something seems to be, more than anything else, their obsequiousness. These men labor under the impression that women adopt the geisha role—compliant, docile, sexual, and servile.
- James found a lot of internal support at Google for his manifesto. In fact, it seems more than likely that, much like the Boys’ Club that ran out of Fox News headquarters, had this manifesto not been leaked to an astonished public, James Damore would still be gainfully employed with Google.
So, the question, for me, is: why is this okay again? What happened in our culture that allowed these aggrieved men to feel entitled to begin speaking publicly about women in such a way, and to insist that such outrageous sentiments be met with an approving nod and an invitation to have a “serious conversation” about the role of women in society, as if those conversations haven’t already been had thousands of times with the conclusion being, “because women are not here to carry out your impulses and vagaries”?
Why do these men feel emboldened to publicly call for women to be raped if they express an independent or contrary opinion that threatens the fragile exo-barrier to men’s egos? (No, James’ manifesto did not call for women to be raped, but his manifesto gives voice to an ideology that, when followed through to its “logical” conclusion, ends with the subjugation of women, and such ideas often are accompanied by such aggrieved men to conclude that the only appropriate response to a woman who dares challenge their entitled position is to call for their rape.)
I call for a new left that is unapologetic in its decimation of such abhorrent ideas about the re-subjugation of women, but I also demand that we not encourage the rise of Men’s Victimization by refusing to even allow discussion about why we don’t need to rehash all the angst-ridden diatribes of the Afflicted Man. We’ve been through this before. We just need to dust off the boxed-up records and not hide them away. Problems don’t go away by ignoring them.
In a more fitting twist of irony, when I googled “feminist response to trump election” looking for an appropriate tweet to end this entry on, I found many sites promising “the best tweets about trump’s win”, only to find them all coming from men. With that in mind, and with my irony firmly set to Self Aware, I’ll let Patton Oswalt have the last word:
What I've learned so far tonight: America is WAAAAAAAAY more sexist than it is racist. And it's pretty fucking racist. #ElectionNight
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) November 9, 2016
Here’s your trump picture (remember: “I moved on her like a bitch”):