Clay Shirky + Status Quo + Patriarchy

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

Girls Doodle & Boys Doodle

Boys Doodle / Girls Doodle

Recently, while perusing the book shelves at a local bookstore, I noticed the following 2 books: The Boys’ Doodle Book and The Girls’ Doodle Book. The books were featured next to each other in seemingly a made-for-Sociological-Images set up.

The Boys’ Doodle Book features the following images on its cover: triceratops, ogre, tiger, superman, rocket, skull & crossbones, octopus, boy w/slingshot, mouse, train, kite, dragon, knight, shark, excavator, dog and a cowboy.

The Girls’ Doodle Book in comparison has a different cover color and a variety of differing images than the Boys cover including: crown, pony, castle, sun, microphone, ice cream cone, frog/prince, purse/bag, rabbit, cupcake, starfish, unicorn, fish, cat, toothpaste, dragon, ballerina and a mermaid.

I’m surprised that the Girls’ Doodle Book didn’t have a pink colored cover given the overall stereotypical and gendered nature of the doodles on the cover. Boys like fire, machines, spikes and death, while Girls like food, animals typically associated with non-violence, dancing/arts and hygiene. I’m not saying that there is anything inherently wrong with any of the doodles. What I am saying is that gender-based stereotypes are being perpetuated in overt contrast with these two books.

If you switch the doodles on each book over to the other I wonder if they would still sell?