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Clay Shirky + Status Quo + Patriarchy

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Clay Shirky needs to drop the status quo and subvert the dominant paradigm

A rant about Clay Shirky…well, not really a rant since I am not much of a ranter…a rebuttal perhaps?

When a member of a dominant group, in this case, a highly educated white guy, writes a “rant” on the reasons why a traditionally marginalized group (women) is not matching the status quo set forth by the dominant group, I take umbrage. Seemingly bereft of a critical awareness of systems of oppression, and the power structures that maintain privilege and patriarchy, Clay Shirky used his virtual pulpit to perpetuate status quo addled thinking.

Shirky argues that women should stop caring, be more arrogant, and act more like men do when it comes to securing career “opportunities.” Women are framed as being less skilled in the art of being jerks than men. Being a jerk, according to Shirky’s bizarro world view, is a good thing. In other words, women should be arrogant jerks in order to succeed. How twisted is that? What about changing systems so that no one has to be a jerk in order to succeed? Why settle for the current state of affairs? Mr. Shirky’s argument only thrives if we believe that things cannot be changed. The system, and the “rules” that currently govern it, need to be rewritten.

Shirky attempts to draw parallels to the movement amongst men to be more like women. According to Shirky, we “encourage men to be better listeners and more sensitive partners, to take more account of others’ feelings and to let out our own feelings more.” So according to Shirky, being an arrogant jerk holds the same value as listening, sensitivity and empathy. I disagree. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Adopting traditional patriarchal values (being aggressive / a “jerk”), from which sexism flows out of, is no where near the same as values (listening, sensitivity, empathy) that are about creating goodwill / creating community.

What if being a better listener, being more sensitive, and being empathetic were grounds for career success / opportunities?

Photo by Duncan

Written by Eric Stoller

May 19th, 2010 at 9:25 pm

  • Kristen

    Loved It Eric. I liked your “non-rant” a lot.

    I am especially intrigued with your posing of the question, “What if being a better listener, being more sensitive, and being empathetic were grounds for career success / opportunities?” I think you’re onto something there.

  • http://www.postalgold.net/ Ali – Postal Gold

    I liked you “non-rant” also haha, although I wasn´t sure what him being a white guy really had to do with it. I did however agree that women bring something else to the table, and any man who wants to see a woman being more aggressive obviously has some issues he needs to deal with in terms of how he views the opposite sex.

  • ranti

    Hmmm.. maybe because those jerks are hopelessly clueless anyway so women would need to be one in order to slap some sense on them? :-D (I’m kidding! But maybe I’m not.)

  • ahmed20

    | higher education | technology | consulting |A rant about Clay Shirky

  • http://twitter.com/MsSandersTHS Beth Ellen Sanders

    agreed! Saw Alan November at ISTE speak on Empathy: A 21st Century Skill in which he argues that global empathy is the most important skill for a thriving, progressive, & committed citizen of the WORLD (not country) to possess, we have to think bigger & apply globally. The spheres that Shirky centers his argument around are not only ignorant, they are Americentric as well. Kudos on your rebuttal, more people in education (at all levels) need to speak out against atrocities such as this.  considers to 

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