Tag Archives: sexism

The Meritocracy Myth

I love the idea of meritocracy, don’t get me wrong; everyone gets what they earn, no more and no less.  I just wish we lived in one.  And I wish we didn’t have such a flawed, fanatical sense of what it means to live in a meritocracy.  I would even posit that we hold the meritocracy–the sense of getting what you deserve and deserving what you get–closer to our collective American heart than the democracy.

Meritocracy leads to False Entitlement

The problem with the idea of a meritocracy is that we act as though EVERYTHING is given based on merit.  If someone wins the lottery, falls in love, gets a good job or is thin and attractive, they say, “What did I do to deserve this?”  Most people eventually determine that they “must have done something right.” This ignores luck, familial ties, social/institutional advantages, gender, race, geography and genetics.  This then leads to thinking that if you have something, and it’s because you deserve it, then those who don’t have something must be lacking because they don’t deserve it.  Inevitably, this leads to major judgments (often of the moral variety) of those who are overweight, single, homeless, unemployed, less educated, poor, you name it.  Of course, for most Americans, this whole thought process takes place in less than a minute. 

We’re Not Really a Meritocracy

A meritocracy is great, but unfortunately we don’t really live in one.  Age, height, attractiveness, gender and race all have significantly more to do with your successes or failures than your actual hard work (or the other guy’s).  I think the people who don’t believe in this, in institutionalized and sub-conscious racism, sexism, elitism etc are the ones who have a hard time believing that quotas and Affirmative Action can be a good thing.  Instead of looking at facts and our flawed system (and minds), they cling to the emotional narrative of the hard-working white man who is constantly bypassed for promotions in favor of women and minorities.  Never mind that this man (your son, father, husband or friend) may not actually deserve the promotion, the person must have been less experienced, less educated, less deserving and with less seniority, and they must have “gotten away with it” because of their minority status.

If we let go of that emotional narrative, and see that white men by and large have the most advantages of anyone in our society (especially if they’re tall, have their hair, and are attractive), then we can see that perhaps other people deserve a chance.

I leave you with this, from the talented and blissfully succinct Jessica Hagy:

Play around with her site (link above) for more gems.

Buen Dia de las Mujeres

Today is Women’s Day, something I honestly had never heard of until Maria’s breakfast rant today.  We’ve been getting “felicitaciones” all day from men walking past us, and even some freshly picked flowers.  What exactly are we being congratulated for, though?  Being born female instead of male?  Opting not to switch genders (which is covered by Cuban health care, by the way)?  Although I must say, the more time I spend here, the more I think of being a Cubana as an accomplishment of some kind.

“Are you a woman, or a book?”
-Leonardo, Cecilia

“A woman can bear anything but curiosity”

“You can fix the worst things here with drums and beer”
-Rachel, La Bella del Alhambre

“A woman in politics is like a man in the kitchen”

“You want to take care of all the problems in the world, but what about your husband and house?”
Retrato de Teresa

“It is good to have what you do acknowledged.”
Retrato de Teresa

“Because I’m the man of the house, forget about your little job.”
Retrato de Teresa

“There’s one law for women and another law for men.”
Retrato de Teresa

“But I’m a man, it’s different!”
Retrato de Teresa

“Learn to clench your teeth…like your mama did.”
-Teresa’s mother, after admonishing her daughter for wanting equality, Retrato de Teresa

“I don’t care what they say, a woman is a woman and a man is a man.  Not even Fidel can change that.”
-Teresa’s mother, Retrato de Teresa

“Your husband and children aren’t enough, you always wanted to be you, too”
Teresa’s husband, Retrato de Teresa

“If I look for her again, I’m not a man.”
Fresa y chocolate

“There are functions for men and functions for women.  This is not the function of women.”
-Hector Perez, speaking of women and tambores (playing the religious drums)

“What are you doing to celebrate Women’s Day?”
“Working, of course.”

And I leave you with this, from Brittan:
“But when is Men’s Day?”

The Hillary List

Lately, there has been many a rumble in lady-land.  I have been reminded again and again that there are certain rules that should never be broken by people who are any combination of a) female, b) in authority, or c) driven, straightforward and intelligent.  I have come to think of this, aptly, as the Hillary List.  Love her or hate her, we’re all going to be treated like her, so we may as well learn a lesson or two.

  1. Everything you do will be subject to far more scrutiny.  Rather than complaining, accept it and adjust accordingly.
  2. Never let them see you cry.  This is imperative. See: Sex and the City
  3. If you lose it, everything you say will be discredited.  You’ve just given them an excuse to do what they already wanted to.
  4. Know when to hold em, when to fold em, and when to walk away.
  5. Own shoes that are comfy and shoes that are sexy.  Know when to use which ones.  Bonus points if they are in fact the same pair
  6. You will be called a bitch.  You can’t stop it, so don’t try.  Just deal with it, and see #2.
  7. Blow sunshine up their ass.  This is great advice from my mother
  8. Also from my mother: if you ever need to get out of something, bodily functions are an excellent excuse.  No one will want to chat about your period, and you simply can’t argue with the runs.
  9. Follow the rules.  You can get away with a lot if you stay within the lines, especially if it’s not that big of a deal for you to do so.
  10. Be cautious about who you trust, or: don’t air dirty laundry in public.  You don’t want to be considered a gossip, and many females will actually go out of their way to make you look bad.  Think very carefully about what you are saying (and to whom) before you speak.  Even if you disagree with something, be careful who you air that disagreement with.  Nobody likes someone who complains about their own team/boss/friends/whatever to people who aren’t involved

Break these rules at your own peril.  And remember, sometimes you just have to settle for Secretary of State.

Originally posted Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 10:01 PM