Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Power of the Opinion

Well, Team Inequality is being reasonable about things:
"One can certainly understand the joy that LGBT Americans and their supporters feel today. But orthodox Christians must understand that things are going to get much more difficult for us. We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution. And we are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children, to build resilient communities."
That's conservative Rod Dreher, blogging at Time.

Of course, at his regular domain over at The American Conservative, he regularly expresses his persecution complex much more dramatically, as well as his vitriol toward progressivism and, especially, trans people. That is, when he isn't pitching one of his books.

Nonetheless, I've been reading these musings by opponents of equality with some fascination.  Scalia, in one of the most petulant, infantile, and unprofessional dissents I've ever read, naturally set the tone for conservative man-babies everywhere. The outrage, the persecution complex, the calls to revolution. None of it surprises me - remember, these are the people we've tried, with varying degrees of success, to reach for the past few decades. I know their narrative framings well.

As a practical consequence, I doubt marriage equality would have much impact on Dreher or many conservatives, if they simply didn't know that it was legal. Same-sex couples would get married, all of Dreher's Gay Friends wouldn't invite him to their weddings anyway, and none of it would have any bearing on his or his family's daily life.

The chief harm to opponents of equality is not that it impacts their own rights or liberty, but that the state no longer officially agrees with their moral and/or religious views about the matter. The state not being a Christian one is framed, not as neutrality, but as aggression and unfairness. At the same time, by harping on a small handful of instances of equality opponents losing their job, or their bakery,  or their flower shop, because of, however tangentially, their opposition to equality, the situation is further exaggerated as though every opponent of equality is at dire risk of being imminently sent to a concentration camp.

It is fear manufactured by some of those in the most privileged classes in the US- cushy white heterosexual men who get paid to write blogs and books for a living about the very culture wars they are, via their writing, complicit in perpetuating.

This talk of revolution and exile, because they, this time, didn't get their way on an issue that doesn't really impact them but so intimately impacts others is the blustering of former overlords being brought down a notch, with the rest of us who have long accepted that we sometimes don't get our way and that's part of the political and legal process in the US. Yet, many equality opponents, long our tormentors, speak of persecution as though they have invented the suffering of it, when the reality is that they have long inflicted it upon us - the non-religious, the gender nonconforming, the LGBT - and would continue to do so if granted the power.

Of course, these loser blusterings are likely not intended to placate the masses, or least of all to appeal to pro-equality folks. I've seen precious little concession that we have had benign motives for being for same-sex marriage in the first place.

And so. Now that we have won, can I maybe forgive anti-equality folks for their tireless advocacy against my dignity and equality, even if they haven't really apologized and still frame themselves as victims? It may be too soon for that for me, friends. Yet, with the weight of the Supreme Court majority backing me up, I can now care less about these anti-equality voices than I used to.

For me, there's peace in that.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thoughts on Marriage Equality Victory!

Holy shit!
"The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a mar- riage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawful- ly licensed and performed out-of-State." (Full decision, here, in PDF)
When I started Fannie's Room about 8 years ago, I more frequently wrote about marriage equality, regularly interacting with and, yes, battling it out with opponents of equality here and elsewhere on Internet. I sometimes wonder what various cast of characters are up to these days, as I've seen many anti-LGBT blogs come and go during this time: the various Digital Network Army blog group that was supposedly a "grassroots" blogging network dedicated to opposing marriage equality; the hateful little Opine Editorials; the Family Scholars Blog, where I used to guest blog until David Blankenhorn stopped opposing equality and the blog was later shut down.

Today feels good.

In 2008, when Proposition 8 eliminated the right for same-sex couples to marry in California, it felt devastating.  Likewise, I remember the couple dozen or so states that passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage between 2000 and 2008, most of which had implicit or explicit support from, at the time, President George W. Bush.

I'm grateful for the sway in public opinion, and for the efforts of so many allies and advocates, that has occurred just in my lifetime.  In many ways, I think one of the great successes of the movement was to demonstrate the humanity of gay men and lesbians, work that is not as advanced and must continue for bisexual and trans people.

In my opinion, the anti-gay movement's great failing has been, actually, their insistence on acting like bigots while manufacturing outrage at being called bigots - a tactic that exposed them as both hateful and not credible narrators of reality.

I know there is still so much social justice work to be done, but today - hell, maybe all weekend! - I'm just going to be happy.

Oh yeah, and I'm once again feeling some big-time schadenfreude that the discredited Regnerus study on parenting did not sway the biggest court decisions on marriage, even though public records show it was released precisely to do so.

Anyway, anybody getting hitched?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Workplace Rule #3: White Male Privilege Is Real, and Yet Denied Against All Evidence

Many readers here already understand this at a deep, experiential level, but Workplace Rule #3 in my ongoing series is this:
Many people, across workplace sector, actually, really, genuinely do think that white men are automatically more competent at things than women and people of color, even if they insist they do not hold this belief and that they have not benefitted from this pervasive belief.
In addition to many people harboring racist and sexist opinions they are aware of, this one's also about implicit bias - those racist, sexist, other-ist beliefs we hold that we are not aware of.


Imagine being around the table with several other people and a hiring manager trying to fill a high-level open position. The hiring manager wants to hire a white man that he knows, without posting the job or even interviewing any other candidate. The white man to be hired, from his resume, seems qualified, but the rest of the group suggests that the hiring process be opened to others…

…and also recommends that people of color should be actively encouraged to apply.

That part after the ellipses? That's where I think many with implicit biases completely shut down. In the case of this hiring manager, when he heard "people of color" he reflexively heard "people who could never be more qualified than my white guy friend." I'm not even psychic there. I just know that was the hiring manager's thought process because that's what he literally said, out loud, with other people around (all white tho). Like, the hiring manager just though he knew, without even trying to find out, that no person of color would be more qualified for the position than a man who was, in my opinion, just marginally qualified.

Not surprisingly, and against the group's recommendation, White Guy Friend gets hired.  A few months after he's hired, another staff member suggested that his opinion seemed to be coming from a position of white male privilege, and White Guy Friend flips the fuck out, arguing that the phrase "white male privilege" was racist and sexist against him, because we don't know his background and he's earned everything in life.

That sounds completely like a made-up story, but I shit you not, folks, it's true.

And, I don't think experiences like that are uncommon. Multiply instances like these by a thousand, a hundred thousand, and we end up with masses of white men who obtain good jobs because of their white male status who nonetheless believe they got there based solely on their own merit and competence.

In this case, the hiring manager regularly gives lip services to issues of racial (and gender) disparities and would be aghast at the merest suggestion that he held racist views, even as racist statements come out of his mouth.

So too, do people like White Guy Friend deny, and act appalled at, any suggestion that they got to where they are in their professional lives because they are a white guy friend of another white guy friend in a high place. This is the case even when a person literally got his job because of the racist belief that he was automatically more qualified for a position than every single person of color in the entire world.

The lesson here is this. When I see instances like this, in which a white man was such an obvious and explicit beneficiary of white male privilege and yet that white male privilege was still vehemently denied, I know for damn sure it's going on in more subtle ways that are even less visible to those who regularly benefit from such privilege.

I'm certainly not the first to say this, but privilege is so often invisible to those who have it.  People with privilege, like White Guy Friend, are the proverbial people who started life on third base and think they got there by hitting a triple.

As for solutions, we all (especially people with privilege) need to be vigilant of implicit biases we might be harboring ourselves so we aren't contributing to the problem.  Finding trusted allies to talk about this stuff with in the workplace can help people feel less isolated and helpless.  Or, you know, write blog posts about it so you're not letting it sit inside you, eating away at your very soul of being.

What else?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Workplace Rules #2: Bosses Do Not Accurately Gauge Their Own Competence

As part of my ongoing series I'm calling The Workplace Rules, let me delve into #2:
If you are a boss, understand that many subordinates will not be 100% candid with you, especially regarding shitty things you say or do.
In my experience, people who are bad supervisors often are not cognizant of the fact that, by its very nature, supervisor-supervised relationships involve power imbalance. A supervisor, with the power to hire/fire and give professional reviews, has a fair amount of power over  a subordinate's financial well-being and professional status. Thus, being a subordinate involves a certain amount of eggshell-walking-on in order maintain a good working relationship with the person who holds that power.

If a supervisor is Jerky, ranging on a scale from annoyingly micro-managey to abusive, a subordinate broaching that topic with their supervisor is sort of putting themselves on the line.

Example, I was once in a workplace situation in which a higher-level man, let's call him HLM, was known for engaging in angry outbursts during staff meetings. These outbursts followed a pattern. HLM would say something in a meeting, another person would respond in a professional manner somewhat disagreeing with him, the conversation would move on, HLM would sit and visibly stew about the other person's response, and then 10 minutes later during a different agenda item, HLM would, with red face angrily interrupt and circle back the conversation to the previous agenda item with a retort such as, "You know, I feel like I said something and it wasn't properly acknowledged."

By that he meant that his statement, that of a white man, wasn't responded to with automatic acceptance and wave after wave of thundering applause. No joke.

So, with his peers and subordinates (and do such white men truly have peers??) regularly observing that behavior, how safe do you think those who reported to him felt to bring up concerns or criticisms they might have had with his work, let alone his workplace behavior?  Boss fragility + boss aggression is a truly toxic, scary combination for direct reports.

And thus the situation becomes self-perpetuating. People like HLM engage in craptacular workplace behavior, people can't critique the behavior without fearing repercussions, and thus without receiving that feedback, the HLMs of the world sometimes have no idea how shitty they are being and how awful their subordinates think they are.

That, I think, is something to be cognizant of, for those in supervisory positions.

From the perspective of the subordinate, I'm not sure the best way to approach those situations, but I guess being aware of the dynamic can at least make one feel less gaslit by bosses who insist they are awesome because no one ever tells them otherwise?

Practically, too, pushing for some sort of 360 review where direct reports review their supervisors can sometimes help. Unless, of course, you're the only person reporting to an HLM.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Modern Rules for Debate

Let henceforth be decided that those who use the terms "race-baiting" and "political correctness" in arguments about social issues in the US, particularly current events and tragedies, automatically lose whatever argument in which they find themselves.

Why yes I am chock full advice and rules after my blogging absence, thankyouverymuch.  My tolerance for un-thinking, reactionary statements that enable systemic social injustice is at an all-time low.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Framing Is Everything

Via The Wall St. Journal, first we get the following headline:
"Alexander Hamilton to Share Image on $10 Bill with a Woman"
Followed by this sub-heard:
"The identity of the female will be announced later this year, says Treasury Secretary Jack Lew."
Followed by some leading text:
"For the first time in more than a century, a woman’s face will appear on an American bill.
The Treasury Department announced Wednesday it will replace the main image of its own founder, Alexander Hamilton, on the $10 bill, with a woman as yet to be determined. Mr. Hamilton will remain on the bill in a diminished way."
Here I'll just note an alternative way this story could have begun. Headline:
"Woman to Share Image on $10 Bill with Alexander Hamilton."
"The woman's identity will be announced later this year, says Treasury Secretary Jack Lew." 
Leading text:
"For the first time in more than a century, a woman's face will appear on an American bill. The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that even though no woman is currently on the main image of a US bill, the US Treasury will ease into depicting a woman on the bill by waiting until 2020 to introduce the change and retaining a man, Alexander Hamilton, on the same bill."
But isn't the first way so often how women gaining equality - no, not even equality, I should say "less inequality" - is framed?  That is, in terms of how the change impacts men. How men's representations and entitlements are "diminished" by society granting"less unequal" things to women.

Anyway, some named contenders for the change include Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller.

Although, the genius Wall St. Journal readers are voting for Ayn Rand and "no ugly chicks" in the comments. Because of course they are.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Workplace Rules

Welp, this newsflash regarding employee reports of the workplace at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) being a "White Men's Club" is not surprising.

Somewhat related to my sporadic presence in the blogosphere over the past few months, I've been dealing with a horrendo fucko work situation of my own that was devouring my soul and consuming all of the excess mental energy I had at the end of each day.

Don't worry though! Good for me, I'm now out of that situation.

And no, I don't work for HRC - nor have I ever worked for them.  However, as I read the HRC report as well as the regular reports and blogposts I read about women in the tech industry, it seems that many toxic, dysfunctional workplaces share many of the same qualities. Such qualities are present across sectors and, perhaps surprising to some people, are even present in organizations and companies that have supposed benevolent, social justice missions.

Kind of like how HRC rates the equality of other companies through its Corporate Equality Index, while its employees report that the organization has its own issues with respect to equality.  Whoops!

So, I thought I'd start a series about approaches people, particularly managers and supervisors, can take in helping their workplaces not become  toxic, dysfunctional workplaces.

And yes, such series have been done before by others, and these are just my opinions based upon my own lived experiences and observations. Yet, I think sometimes what's missing from articles about toxic, dysfunctional workplaces (and I've read a lot lately!) are connections between workplace issues and social justice issues.  For instance, in my experience, a CEO's failure to examine and acknowledge his own white male privilege seemed intricately connected to his racist, sexist hiring and firing practices.

Secondly, although my rules are technically geared toward workplace leaders (e.g. - managers, supervisors), articulating them can help others identify patterns that are and are not happening in their own workplaces. Naming the shittiness of certain actions can be validating for those impacted by them.

So without further ado, my first rule is: Don't Make Your People Work With Jerks.

How many of you have heard some variation of, "Yeah s/he's an asshole, but s/he's brilliant!"

Fuck that.  If you have say over hiring decisions, don't hire jerks, "personalities," or "difficult people." I seriously question whether gains from even the most brilliant mind truly compensate for the unpaid mental labor that Jerk's co-workers have to put into in dealing with Jerk via constant walking on eggshells, assuaging easily-hurt gigantic egos,  engaging in unnecessarily argumentative conversations, defending oneself, and being on the receiving end of attacks.  People leave workplaces because of jerks, taking know-how and institutional knowledge with them. They get sick. They spend time developing coping strategies and rehearsing difficult conversations to get through their day, when they could actually be working.

What is a jerk, you may ask?  I would say here to trust your instinct - I know that's vague, but these things are often context-driven within a work environment.  Like, I once had a jerky co-worker who in every email response to team members would find some small point to argue about and then copy our mutual supervisor, as if to tattle or show our boss how everyone else was fucking up.  In some workplaces, supervisors demand to be copied on everything - but such was not our supervisor or our workplace culture, so that (among other thins he did) was jerky.

But also, if you have co-workers you trust, ask them. I've found that jerks often, but certainly not always, act jerky in 1-on-1 situations, which can make the recipient of jerkiness feel isolated and uncertain if jerkiness is actually occurring. In the past, I've found solace and validation when I or others have broached other people's jerkiness with one another: "So, this thing with Potential Jerk happened, can I get your take on it?"

By trusting my instinct that jerkiness did indeed occur, oftentimes,  people respond with, "Holy shit, that's jerky … and I've experienced this, as well." It might seem like a gossipy thing to do, but in my experience it's a coping strategy born out of the necessity of cowardly, enabling bosses who refuse to get rid of assholes.

And yet sadly, maddeningly, it seems that even marginally-competent Jerks are often tolerated by management - a tolerance that is, to tie in the social justice aspect, often due to the Jerk reminding a manager/supervisor of hirself. It seems. When people remind people in power of themselves, a lot of slack is often given to those people. Such people are often given benefits of the doubt that are not extended to others: "Oh, Jerk angrily exploded in another team meeting? Well, I can tell you he's just stressed out and didn't mean anything by it."

We are asked to see things from Jerk's perspective and are told to assume good faith, despite all of their actions screaming at us to do otherwise.

So yeah. If you have decisions over hiring, don't hire jerks. If you are working with jerks, fire them. You will be a hero. If I see a manager who tolerates jerks on their team, I see a manager who is difficult for me to respect.

So that's my first Workplace Rule.  Feel free to make suggestions in the comments for future episodes.