Monday, May 19, 2014

A return to Clarissa

I was interested to see Laura Wood run a post about Clarissa's blog. I wrote a few things about Clarissa's blog a few years ago.

Clarissa is a liberal academic. In what way is she a liberal? Well, liberals believe that the highest good is the freedom to be a self-determining individual; therefore, individuals need to be liberated from predetermined aspects of the self. What is predetermined? Our sex and our ethny both fall into this category. Therefore, Clarissa writes:
...There are many people out there who feel confused, lonely and lost in a world where modernity is destroying old certitudes, identities and ways of being. Modernity is liberating in the sense that we are a lot less tied to collective identities ascribed to us at birth. Gender identities, normative sexualities, class origins, religious backgrounds still exist, of course. Nevertheless, they are nowhere as binding as they used to be before the advent of modernity. It isn't easy to challenge the identitarian status quo, but it still can be done...

 ...At birth, you are handed a set of norms that you are supposed to observe as a representative of your gender, social class, religious denomination, etc. You accumulate enough of these collective allegiances and you can guarantee that pretty much every aspect of your life will be defined for you...Modernity is terrifying because it erodes the stability of collective identities.

Clarissa admits that liberal modernity uproots people and their identities, but she nonetheless supports this because she believes that it is the path to true individuality and to independent thinking. Traditionalists like myself would argue against this that our individuality gains in depth when we are connected to the deeper forms of individual identity, such as our identity as men or women or as members of longstanding ethnic traditions.

And in practice liberal moderns who have abandoned traditional identities rely to a considerable degree on careers for a substitute source of meaning and identity. Clarissa is no exception: she places great weight on self-actualisation through a career, to the point that she claims that women who stay home to look after their children are suffering from "self-infantilisation" and are being "castrated".

Which is why it's so interesting that Clarissa has chosen to run a post by a guest writer complaining that her female employees are too emotional and high maintenance and that she will only be hiring male employees from now on. Here is how the guest writer starts her post:
I am a woman, a feminist, a mother, and a passionate entrepreneur. I don’t just stand for equality – I have crashed the glass ceiling in every aspect of my life. I get extremely angry when I come across articles that insist there are gender differences that extend beyond physiology. I am fortunate to have had female role models who taught me through their own examples that I can accomplish absolutely anything I desire.

She is setting herself up for a big fall here. No differences between men and women apart from different body bits? Well, experience proved otherwise:
I have had women cry in team meetings, come to my office to ask me if I still like them and create melodrama over the side of the office their desk was being placed. I am simply incapable of verbalizing enough appreciation to female employees to satiate their need for it for at least a week’s worth of work...

I have developed a different approach for offering constructive criticism to male and female employees. When I have something to say to one of the men, I just say it! I don’t think it through – I simply spit it out, we have a brief discussion and we move on. They even frequently thank me for the feedback! Not so fast with my female staff. I plan, I prepare, I think, I run it through my business partner and then I think again. I start with a lot of positive feedback before I feel that I have cushioned my one small negative comment sufficiently, yet it is rarely enough. We talk forever, dissect every little piece of it, and then come back to the topic time and time again in the future. And I also have to confirm that I still like them – again and again, and again.

I am also yet to have a single male employee come to my office to give me dirt on a co-worker or share an awkward gossip-like story. My female employees though? Every. single. one.

Most of my work colleagues are women and I've haven't experienced such behaviours at this level. Even so, I smiled when she wrote "I start with a lot of positive feedback before I feel that I have cushioned my one small negative comment sufficiently, yet it is rarely enough" because I have the same problem with my wife. I've never really figured out a way to cushion a negative comment with her - it never works (reader advice?).

Now, you would think the obvious conclusion to draw would be "well, there are differences between men and women". But Clarissa herself has added to the bottom of the post this comment:
People: in the past 2 hours I have had to Spam 63 comments from losers who tried to inform me that “men and women are psychologically/emotionally, etc. different.” Once again, anybody who embarrasses him or herself by chirping idiotically “yes, men and women are different” will be banned outright. This will be my small investment into sparing these losers further public embarrassment. Stop wasting your time, such comments are not going through on my blog.

Interesting. Clarissa has:

a) hosted a post which complains that female employees show different behaviours to male employees

b) then claimed it is idiotic to believe that males and females are psychologically and emotionally different

Personally, I find it amazing that anyone could go through life without realising that men and women are psychologically and emotionally different. How can you be in a relationship and not have a sense of this?

Clarissa did let through one comment (from a woman) attempting to explain the different work styles of men and women. Such observations are never strictly scientific and are always highly generalised, but I found some of it interesting nonetheless (e.g. the chain of command idea).


  1. 'The hamster is strong in this one'

    Would a comment like that get through?

    I wonder.....

  2. Isn't it odd that Clarissa believes in independent thought and self-actualization, and yet suppresses and shames everyone who does not think as she does? Those who complain most loudly about social pressure to conform seem always to accompany their complaints with a great deal of social pressure to conform.

  3. "I get extremely angry when I come across articles that insist there are gender differences that extend beyond physiology."

    I could be nasty and suggest that getting angry at reality is a typical female response and is evidence of the very real personality differences between men and women.

  4. Reader advise How to cushion a negative comment to a woman.

    My advice : don't try at all. Mak up your mind, make shure that your points are valid and say them in a clear, fair and determined way . A womans feelings are at first her problem. Maybe she can show that you ignored some points but that is a legitime answer and can be isolated from the emotions.

    1. Yes, ultimately you just have to bite the bullet and do it regardless. I agree too that the points should be clear and fair - though not because they're likely to avoid what follows.

  5. So is this another white woman who is waging war against western civilization? Just like those white women at the White Privilege conference. Why is it always white women who are knee deep in trying to destroy their own civilization? Why are white women like Clarissa so easy to manipulate? Can someone explain.

    1. Ollie,

      Yes and no. On the one hand, the white female teachers I work alongside are remarkably enthusiastic about the anti-white stuff they obsessively teach to the students. The (few) male teachers do join in with it, but don't seem as committed to it. I sometimes wonder if the "emotional journey" aspect of it appeals to some of these teachers - the idea of there being good guys and bad guys and suffering and redemption and so on - all packaged into a human story that can be shared.

      On the "no" side - the fact remains that the larger framework of liberal politics was mostly developed by men rather than women. It's not exactly the case that the men in the intellectual class are defending tradition whilst the women undermine it. The men are mostly just as culpable as the women.

      One thing that does seem true to me is that many women (not all) are mostly focused on immediate personal relationships and so don't feel themselves responsible for the larger society. My wife's response to disturbing social trends is to say "Well what can I do about it?" and to follow up with "My job is to make sure things are OK with my family".

      I think there's a certain percentage of men who have the "patriarch" instinct and do feel responsible for the fate of the larger tradition they belong to and it is these men who are the most important source of leadership. The bigger question to grapple with is why these men haven't stepped up to the plate.

      I think the answer here is, in part, that this is first an intellectual/political fight and liberals have controlled the institutions (universities, schools, media etc.) and the framework of debate to the point that there were no clear signals to these men.

      Another problem is that the right-wing of politics has been dominated by a right-liberalism in which it is thought that beliefs are private affairs with no public role, so masculine leadership has been limited to family or, at most, local church or community.

      Right-liberalism, too, has meant that the men who do come out fighting do so in a confused way. They identify their tradition with individual liberty and the free market, which, in the long run, does not effectively challenge the trends within a liberal society. It's not uncommon for right-liberals to oppose any kind of collective identity which then makes it difficult to defend a communal tradition.

    2. "the fact remains that the larger framework of liberal politics was mostly developed by men rather than women"

      In general women form emotional judgments on a subject and then insist that their belief in an emotional truth overrides rational argument. Women in general have zero tolerance for differing opinions. There can only be one correct opinion - their opinion. The idea that there might be perfectly valid reasons for disagreement very rarely occurs to them. While it may be true that the poison of leftism originated with male intellectuals it's the women who become the ideological stormtroopers. It's the women who are most keen to crush any sign of dissent.

      It's also worth pointing out that male intellectuals are very often sadly inadequate personalities (see Paul Johnson's wonderful book Intellectuals for numerous examples), and these days are highly likely to be feminised and emasculated men.

      This is of course not to say that all women operate that way, but it seems to apply to the overwhelming majority. I assume it's something to do with their biological role as mothers. You don't bother trying to engage in rational argument with a toddler, so as a consequence women have no interest in rational argument, and lack the willingness (and possibly the ability) to do so.