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Is gender equality good for everyone?

Privilege is invisible to those who have it?

I think that most women refuse to be equalled with men, unless for equal pay

It’s the right thing to do. Michael Kimmel makes the practical case for treating men and women equally in the workplace and at home. It’s not a zero-sum game, but a win-win that will result in more opportunity and more happiness for everybody.

Michael Kimmel. Sociologist. Author of “Angry White Men,” Michael Kimmel is a pre-eminent scholar of men and masculinity. Full bio

Speech on May 2015

I’m here to recruit men to support gender equality.

What do men have to do with gender equality? Gender equality is about women, right? I mean, the word gender is about women. Actually, I’m even here speaking as a middle class white man.

I wasn’t always a middle class white man. It all happened for me about 30 years ago when I was in graduate school, and a bunch of us graduate students got together one day, and we said there’s an explosion of writing and thinking in feminist theory, but there’s no courses yet.

So we did what graduate students typically do in a situation like that. We said, OK, let’s have a study group. We’ll read a text, we’ll talk about it, we’ll have a potluck dinner. 

TED

“White men in Europe and the United States are the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world. It is called ‘the history of the world.'”

1:07 So every week, 11 women and me got together.

We would read some text in feminist theory and have a conversation about it. And during one of our conversations, I witnessed an interaction that changed my life forever.

It was a conversation between two women. One of the women was white, and one was black. And the white woman said “All women face the same oppression as women. All women are similarly situated in patriarchy, and therefore all women have a kind of intuitive solidarity or sisterhood.”

And the black woman said, “I’m not so sure. Let me ask you a question.When you wake up in the morning and you look in the mirror, what do you see? And the white woman said, “I see a woman.” And the black woman said, “You see, that’s the problem for me. Because when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror I see a black woman. To me, race is visible. But to you, race is invisible. You don’t see it.”

And then she said something really startling. She said, “That’s how privilege works. Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” It is a luxury, I will say to the white people sitting in this room, not to have to think about race every split second of our lives. Privilege is invisible to those who have it.

Now remember, I was the only man in this group, so when I witnessed this, I went, “Oh no.”

And somebody said, “Well what was that reaction?” And I said, “Well, when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror, I see a human being. I’m kind of the generic person. You know, I’m a middle class white man. I have no race, no class, no gender. I’m universally generalizable.”

3:02 (Laughter)

I like to think that was the moment I became a middle class white man, that class and race and gender were not about other people, they were about me. I had to start thinking about them, and it had been privilege that had kept it invisible to me for so long.

I wish I could tell you this story ends 30 years ago in that little discussion group, but I was reminded of it quite recently at my university where I teach.

I have a colleague, and she and I both teach the sociology of gender course on alternate semesters. So she gives a guest lecture for me when I teach. I give a guest lecture for her when she teaches. So I walk into her class to give a guest lecture, about 300 students in the room, and as I walk in, one of the students looks up and says, Oh, finally, an objective opinion.”

All that semester, whenever my colleague opened her mouth, what my students saw was a woman. I mean, if you were to say to my students, “There is structural inequality based on gender in the United States,” they’d say, “Well of course you’d say that. You’re a woman. You’re biased.” When I say it, they go, “Wow, is that interesting. Is that going to be on the test? How do you spell ‘structural’?”

I hope you all can see, this is what objectivity looks like.

Disembodied Western rationality. And that, by the way, is why I think men so often wear ties.

Because if you are going to embody disembodied Western rationality, you need a signifier, and what could be a better signifier of disembodied Western rationality than a garment that at one end is a noose and the other end points to the genitals?

That is mind-body dualism right there.

So making gender visible to men is the first step to engaging men to support gender equality.

when men first hear about gender equality, many men think that’s right, that’s fair, that’s just, that’s the ethical imperative. But not all men.

Some men think “Oh my God, yes, gender equality,” and they will immediately begin to mansplain to you your oppression. They see supporting gender equality something akin to the cavalry, like, “Thanks very much for bringing this to our attention, ladies, we’ll take it from here.”

This results in a syndrome that I like to call ‘premature self-congratulation.’

There’s another group, though, that actively resists gender equality, that sees gender equality as something that is detrimental to men. I was on a TV talk show opposite four white men.

This is the beginning of the book I wrote, ‘Angry White Men.’ These were four angry white men who believed that they, white men in America, were the victims of reverse discrimination in the workplace.

And they all told stories about how they were qualified for jobs, qualified for promotions, they didn’t get them, they were really angry. And the reason I’m telling you this is I want you to hear the title of this particular show. It was a quote from one of the men, and the quote was, A Black Woman Stole My Job.”

And they all told their stories, qualified for jobs, qualified for promotions, didn’t get it, really angry. And then it was my turn to speak, and I said, “I have just one question for you guys, and it’s about the title of the show, ‘A Black Woman Stole My Job.’

Actually, it’s about one word in the title. I want to know about the word ‘my.’ Where did you get the idea it was your job? Why isn’t the title of the show, ‘A Black Woman Got the Job?’ or ‘A Black Woman Got A Job?'”

Because without confronting men’s sense of entitlement, I don’t think we’ll ever understand why so many men resist gender equality.

we think this is a level playing field, so any policy that tilts it even a little bit, we think, “Oh my God, water’s rushing uphill. It’s reverse discrimination against us.”

 let me be very clear: white men in Europe and the United States are the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world. It is called “the history of the world.”

now I’ve established some of the obstacles to engaging men, but why should we support gender equality? Of course, it’s fair, it’s right and it’s just. But more than that, gender equality is also in our interest as men.

If you listen to what men say about what they want in their lives, gender equality is actually a way for us to get the lives we want to live.

Gender equality is good for countries. It turns out, according to most studies, that those countries that are the most gender equal are also the countries that score highest on the happiness scale. And that’s not just because they’re all in Europe.

Even within Europe, those countries that are more gender equal also have the highest levels of happiness.

It is also good for companies. Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively that the more gender-equal companies are, the better it is for workers, the happier their labor force is.

They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition. They have an easier time recruiting. They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction, higher rates of productivity.

So the question I’m often asked in companies is, “Boy, this gender equality thing, that’s really going to be expensive, huh?” And I say, “Oh no, in fact, what you have to start calculating is how much gender inequality is already costing you. It is extremely expensive.” So it is good for business.

And the other thing is, it’s good for men. It is good for the kind of lives we want to live, because young men especially have changed enormously, and they want to have lives that are animated by terrific relationships with their children. They expect their partners, their spouses, their wives, to work outside the home and be just as committed to their careers as they are.

I was talking, to give you an illustration of this change — Some of you may remember this. When I was a lot younger, there was a riddle that was posed to us. Some of you may wince to remember this riddle. This riddle went something like this.

A man and his son are driving on the freeway, and they’re in a terrible accident, and the father is killed, and the son is brought to the hospital emergency room, and as they’re bringing the son into the hospital emergency room, the emergency room attending physician sees the boy and says, Oh, I can’t treat him, that’s my son.” How is this possible?

We were flummoxed by this. We could not figure this out.

 Well, I decided to do a little experiment with my 16-year old son. He had a bunch of his friends hanging out at the house watching a game on TV recently. So I decided I would pose this riddle to them, just to see, to gauge the level of change.

Well, 16-year-old boys, they immediately turned to me and said, “It’s his mom.” Right? No problem. Just like that. Except for my son, who said, “Well, he could have two dads.”

That’s an index, an indicator of how things have changed. Younger men today expect to be able to balance work and family. They want to be dual-career, dual-carer couples. They want to be able to balance work and family with their partners. They want to be involved fathers.

11:36 Now, it turns out that the more egalitarian our relationships, the happier both partners are. Data from psychologists and sociologists are quite persuasive here. I think we have the persuasive numbers, the data, to prove to men that gender equality is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win.

Here’s what the data show. Now, when men begin the process of engaging with balancing work and family, we often have two phrases that we use to describe what we do. We pitch in and we help out.

And I’m going to propose something a little bit more radical, one word: “share.”

Because here’s what the data show: when men share housework and childcare, their children do better in school. Their children have lower rates of absenteeism, higher rates of achievement. They are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. They are less likely to see a child psychiatrist. They are less likely to be put on medication.

So when men share housework and childcare, their children are happier and healthier, and men want this.

When men share housework and childcare, their wives are happier. Duh. Not only that, their wives are healthier. Their wives are less likely to see a therapist, less likely to be diagnosed with depression, less likely to be put on medication, more likely to go to the gym, report higher levels of marital satisfaction.

when men share housework and childcare, their wives are happier and healthier, and men certainly want this as well.

When men share housework and childcare, the men are healthier. They smoke less, drink less, take recreational drugs less often. They are less likely to go to the ER but more like to go to a doctor for routine screenings. They are less likely to see a therapist, less likely to be diagnosed with depression, less likely to be taking prescription medication. So when men share housework and childcare, the men are happier and healthier. And who wouldn’t want that?

And finally, when men share housework and childcare, they have more sex.

of these four fascinating findings, which one do you think Men’s Health magazine put on its cover?

 “Housework Makes Her Horny. (Not When She Does It.)”

14:04 (Laughter)

I will say, just to remind the men in the audience, these data were collected over a really long period of time, so I don’t want listeners to say, “Hmm, OK, I think I’ll do the dishes tonight.”

These data were collected over a really long period of time. But I think it shows something important, that when Men’s Health magazine put it on their cover, they also called, you’ll love this, “Choreplay.”

what we found is something really important, that gender equality is in the interest of countries, of companies, and of men, and their children and their partners, that gender equality is not a zero-sum game. It’s not a win-lose. It is a win-win for everyone.

And what we also know is we cannot fully empower women and girls unless we engage boys and men. We know this. And my position is that men need the very things that women have identified that they need to live the lives they say they want to live in order to live the lives that we say we want to live.

15:21 In 1915, on the eve of one of the great suffrage demonstrations down Fifth Avenue in New York City, a writer in New York wrote an article in a magazine, and the title of the article was, “Feminism for Men.” And this was the first line of that article: Feminism will make it possible for the first time for men to be free.”

Lead like great conductors

An orchestra conductor faces the ultimate leadership challenge:

creating perfect harmony without saying a word. In this charming talk, Itay Talgam demonstrates the unique styles of six great 20th-century conductors, illustrating crucial lessons for all leaders

Itay Talgam. Conductor and leadership expert

After a decade-long conducting career in his native Israel, Itay Talgam has reinvented himself as a “conductor of people” — in government, academia, business and education. He is the author of The Ignorant Maestro. Full bio
Speech on July 2009

The magical moment of conducting. Which is, you go onto a stage. There is an orchestra sitting. They are all warming up and doing stuff. And I go on the podium.

This little office of the conductor. Or rather a cubicle, an open-space cubicle, with a lot of space. And in front of all that noise, you do a very small gesture. Something like this, not very pomp, not very sophisticated, this. And suddenly, out of the chaos, order. Noise becomes music.

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link. (click to listen to the speech and videos)
ted.com|By Itay Talgam

0:45 And this is fantastic. And it’s so tempting to think that it’s all about me. (Laughter) All those great people here, virtuosos, they make noise, they need me to do that. Not really. If it were that, I would just save you the talk, and teach you the gesture.

So you could go out to the world and do this thing in whatever company or whatever you want, and you have perfect harmony. It doesn’t work. Let’s look at the first video. I hope you’ll think it’s a good example of harmony. And then speak a little bit about how it comes about.

1:17 (Music)

2:13 Was that nice? So that was a sort of a success. Now, who should we thank for the success? I mean, obviously the orchestra musicians playing beautifully, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

They don’t often even look at the conductor. Then you have the clapping audience, yeah, actually taking part in doing the music. You know Viennese audiences usually don’t interfere with the music. This is the closest to an Oriental bellydancing feast that you will ever get in Vienna.

Arthur Rubinstein, the pianist, used to say that, “Anywhere in the world, people that have the flu, they go to the doctor. In Tel Aviv they come to my concerts.” 

So that’s a sort of a tradition. But Viennese audiences do not do that. Here they go out of their regular, just to be part of that, to become part of the orchestra, and that’s great.  audiences like you, yeah, make the event.

 But what about the conductor?

What can you say the conductor was doing, actually? Um, he was happy. And I often show this to senior management. People get annoyed. You come to work. How come you’re so happy?”

Something must be wrong there, yeah? But he’s spreading happiness. And I think the happiness, the important thing is this happiness does not come from only his own story and his joy of the music. The joy is about enabling other people’s stories to be heard at the same time.

You have the story of the orchestra as a professional body. You have the story of the audience as a community. You have the stories of the individuals in the orchestra and in the audience. And then you have other stories, unseen.

People who build this wonderful concert hall. People who made those Stradivarius, Amati, all those beautiful instruments. And all those stories are being heard at the same time. This is the true experience of a live concert.

That’s a reason to go out of home. Yeah? And not all conductors do just that. Let’s see somebody else, a great conductor. Riccardo Muti, please.

4:27 (Music)

 that was very short, but you could see it’s a completely different figure. Right? He’s awesome. He’s so commanding. So clear. Maybe a little bit over-clear. Can we have a little demonstration? Would you be my orchestra for a second? Can you sing, please, the first note of Don Giovanni? You have to sing “Aaaaaah,” and I’ll stop you. Okay? Ready?

5:24 Audience: ♫ Aaaaaaah … ♫

Itay Talgam: Come on, with me. If you do it without me I feel even more redundant than I already feel. So please, wait for the conductor. Now look at me. “Aaaaaah,” and I stop you. Let’s go.

5:37 Audience: ♫ … Aaaaaaaah … ♫ (Laughter)

Itay Talgam: So we’ll have a little chat later. (Laughter) There is a vacancy for a … But — (Laughter) — you could see that you could stop an orchestra with a finger. Now what does Riccardo Muti do? He does something like this … (Laughter) And then — sort of — (Laughter) So not only the instruction is clear, but also the sanction, what will happen if you don’t do what I tell you. (Laughter) So, does it work? Yes, it works — to a certain point.

When Muti is asked, “Why do you conduct like this?” He says, “I’m responsible.”

Responsible in front of him. No he doesn’t really mean Him. He means Mozart, which is — (Laughter) — like a third seat from the center. (Laughter) So he says, “If I’m responsible for Mozart, this is going to be the only story to be told. It’s Mozart as I, Riccardo Muti, understand it.”

And you know what happened to Muti? Three years ago he got a letter signed by all 700 employees of La Scala, musical employees, I mean the musicians, saying, “You’re a great conductor. We don’t want to work with you. Please resign.” (Laughter)

“Why? Because you don’t let us develop. You’re using us as instruments, not as partners. And our joy of music, etc., etc. …” So he had to resign. Isn’t that nice? (Laughter) He’s a nice guy.

He’s a really nice guy. Well, can you do it with less control, or with a different kind of control? Let’s look at the next conductor, Richard Strauss.

7:26 (Music)

I’m afraid you’ll get the feeling that I really picked on him because he’s old. It’s not true. When he was a young man of about 30, he wrote what he called The Ten Commandments for Conductors.”

The first one was: If you sweat by the end of the concert it means that you must have done something wrong. That’s the first one. The fourth one you’ll like better. It says: Never look at the trombones it only encourages them. (Laughter)

the whole idea is really to let it happen by itself. Do not interfere.

But how does it happen? Did you see him turning pages in the score? Now, either he is senile, and doesn’t remember his own music, because he wrote the music. Or he is actually transferring a very strong message to them, saying, “Come on guys. You have to play by the book. So it’s not about my story. It’s not about your story. It’s only the execution of the written music, no interpretation.”

Interpretation is the real story of the performer. So, no, he doesn’t want that. That’s a different kind of control. Let’s see another super-conductor, a German super-conductor. Herbert von Karajan, please.

9:03 (Music)

9:36 What’s different? Did you see the eyes? Closed. Did you see the hands? Did you see this kind of movement? Let me conduct you. Twice. Once like a Muti, and you’ll — (Claps) — clap, just once. And then like Karajan. Let’s see what happens. Okay? Like Muti. You ready? Because Muti … (Laughter) Okay? Ready? Let’s do it.

9:55 Audience: (Claps)

9:56 Itay Talgam: Hmm … again.

9:58 Audience: (Claps) Itay Talgam: Good. Now like a Karajan. Since you’re already trained, let me concentrate, close my eyes. Come, come.

10:07 Audience: (Claps) (Laughter)

Itay Talgam: Why not together?  Because you didn’t know when to play. Now I can tell you, even the Berlin Philharmonic doesn’t know when to play. 

But I’ll tell you how they do it. No cynicism. This is a German orchestra, yes? They look at Karajan. And then they look at each other. (Laughter) “Do you understand what this guy wants?” And after doing that, they really look at each other, and the first players of the orchestra lead the whole ensemble in playing together.

And when Karajan is asked about it he actually says, “Yes, the worst damage I can do to my orchestra is to give them a clear instruction. Because that would prevent the ensemble, the listening to each other that is needed for an orchestra.”

Now that’s great. What about the eyes? Why are the eyes closed? There is a wonderful story about Karajan conducting in London. And he cues in a flute player like this. The guy has no idea what to do. (Laughter) “Maestro, with all due respect, when should I start?” What do you think Karajan’s reply was? When should I start? Oh yeah. He says, “You start when you can’t stand it anymore.” (Laughter)

Meaning that you know you have no authority to change anything. It’s my music. The real music is only in Karajan’s head. And you have to guess my mind. So you are under tremendous pressure because I don’t give you instruction, and yet, you have to guess my mind.

So it’s a different kind of, a very spiritual but yet very firm control. Can we do it in another way? Of course we can. Let’s go back to the first conductor we’ve seen: Carlos Kleiber, his name. Next video, please.

11:53 (Music)

Well, it is different. But isn’t that controlling in the same way? No, it’s not, because he is not telling them what to do. When he does this, it’s not, “Take your Stradivarius and like Jimi Hendrix, smash it on the floor.” It’s not that.

He says, “This is the gesture of the music. I’m opening a space for you to put in another layer of interpretation.” That is another story.

But how does it really work together if it doesn’t give them instructions? It’s like being on a rollercoaster. Yeah? You’re not really given any instructions, but the forces of the process itself keep you in place. That’s what he does. The interesting thing is of course the rollercoaster does not really exist. It’s not a physical thing. It’s in the players’ heads.

 that’s what makes them into partners. You have the plan in your head. You know what to do, even though Kleiber is not conducting you. But here and there and that. You know what to do.

And you become a partner building the rollercoaster, yeah, with sound, as you actually take the ride. This is very exciting for those players. They do need to go to a sanatorium for two weeks, later. (Laughter) It is very tiring. Yeah? But it’s the best music making, like this.

of course it’s not only about motivation and giving them a lot of physical energy. You also have to be very professional. And look again at this Kleiber. Can we have the next video, quickly? You’ll see what happens when there is a mistake.

14:20 (Music) Again you see the beautiful body language. (Music) And now there is a trumpet player who does something not exactly the way it should be done. Go along with the video. Look. See, second time for the same player. (Laughter) And now the third time for the same player. (Laughter) Wait for me after the concert. I have a short notice to give you.” You know, when it’s needed, the authority is there. It’s very important. But authority is not enough to make people your partners.

Let’s see the next video, please. See what happens here. You might be surprised having seen Kleiber as such a hyperactive guy. He’s conducting Mozart. (Music) The whole orchestra is playing. (Music) Now something else. (Music) See? He is there 100 percent, but not commanding, not telling what to do. Rather enjoying what the soloist is doing. (Music)

Another solo now. See what you can pick up from this. (Music) Look at the eyes. Okay. You see that? First of all, it’s a kind of a compliment we all like to get. It’s not feedback. It’s an “Mmmm …” Yeah, it comes from here. So that’s a good thing. And the second thing is it’s about actually being in control, but in a very special way. When Kleiber does — did you see the eyes, going from here? (Singing) You know what happens? Gravitation is no more.

 Kleiber not only creates a process, but also creates the conditions in the world in which this process takes place. So again, the oboe player is completely autonomous and therefore happy and proud of his work, and creative and all of that.

And the level in which Kleiber is in control is in a different level. So control is no longer a zero-sum game. You have this control. And all you put together, in partnership, brings about the best music. So Kleiber is about process. Kleiber is about conditions in the world.

16:58 But you need to have process and content to create the meaning. Lenny Bernstein, my own personal maestro. Since he was a great teacher, Lenny Bernstein always started from the meaning. Look at this, please.

17:13 (Music)

18:12 Do you remember the face of Muti, at the beginning? Well he had a wonderful expression, but only one. (Laughter) Did you see Lenny’s face? You know why? Because the meaning of the music is pain. And you’re playing a painful sound. And you look at Lenny and he’s suffering.

But not in a way that you want to stop. It’s suffering, like, enjoying himself in a Jewish way, as they say. (Laughter) But you can see the music on his face. You can see the baton left his hand. No more baton. Now it’s about you, the player, telling the story. Now it’s a reversed thing. You’re telling the story. And you’re telling the story. And even briefly, you become the storyteller to which the community, the whole community, listens to. And Bernstein enables that. Isn’t that wonderful?

if you are doing all the things we talked about, together, and maybe some others, you can get to this wonderful point of doing without doing. And for the last video, I think this is simply the best title. My friend Peter says, If you love something, give it away.” So, please.


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