Posted by IrresponsibilitySometimes I start swelling up and turning blue, Violet Beauregard style, and have to remind myself to breathe. Also, to use short, declarative sentences rather than spraying expletives across the page like a malfunctioning firehose. Here goes: Malcolm Gladwell of The Tipping Point fame has written a new book about extraordinary people called Outliers: The Story of Success. None of his protagonists (who include Bill Gates, Mozart and Oppenheimer) are women.
That a man fails to recognise any female achievement in living history as being worthy of his attention should shock no one. Depress, yes; surprise, no.
Three women writers, instead of responding to this phallocentric asshat by laughing out of the bookstore the notion that there can be a definition of “success” which erases half the population of the planet, actually engage this fuckhead on his terms.
On HarperStudio’s blog Julia Cheiffetz is keen to defend Mr Gladwell from any accusations of, well, being a total fuckhead. “Until we get in the ring and start claiming our own big ideas in book form, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised if current discourse leaves us on the sidelines,” she coos, batting her eyelashes in the general direction of the father-oppressor.
Alison Flood, in the Guardian Books blog picks up Ms Cheiffetz’ post and runs with it. She pooh-poohs the notion of trying to “shoehorn” Susan Faludi and Naomi Klein into the ranks of big thinkers before giddily concluding: “men are more likely than women to want to pin their ideas down… that’s just my feminine intuition.”
Finally a blogger at Feminocracy charges in with the best of intentions but fails to grasp this particular nettle, falling into the trap of using the personal to try to argue the political. “I find writing fiction harder than writing nonfiction…. My partner has a much easier time writing fiction, and truly struggles with academic writing…. So right here is a couple whose writing abilities don’t fall along the supposed gender lines suggested by this article.”
What the hell? Can we please stop squinting at trees and take a look at the forest?
Why are we thinking so small that Guardian blog commentators ask: “Is it that women must first deal with… their inherent femininity before moving on to matters of global/universal concern?”
Sisters. Seriously. WE ARE PART OF THE UNIVERSE. Ergo, our concerns are universal concerns. Yes, the rules are made by and for men. But they can’t magick us out of existence. Not with their books, or their guns, or their songs, or their politics, or their beauty standards, or their laws.
Refusing to discuss things in men’s twisted terms is only a small step, but it’s important. Instead of wondering why more women aren’t “big thinkers” in the Gladwell-approved mould let’s give a rousing “fuck you!” to the notion he has the right to decide who’s hot and who’s not.
Next time some blustering dong gets on a soapbox and starts telling the world that half its citizens are zeros, not heroes, let’s razz them off with the playground taunt: who died and made you god?
We live in a cock-worshipping culture but that doesn’t mean we have to suck it.
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