The End Of Sexism

“For thousands of years, males have seen women not as women could be, but only as males want them to be.” Marvin Harris, Anthropologist

Lately, I’ve been seeing some references to guys feeling like they are experiencing sexism, if you will – not from me, mind you, but from society at large.  Peter Moore, the awesome editor of Men’s Health Magazine tweeted an article in the NYTimes by David Brooks on Why Men Fail, giving voice to a rumble of discontent. Now, my office is right down the hall from the staff of Men’s Health, so it could be just the proximity of a bunch of big, smart, funny, and wonderful guys, but I kind of have to smile a bit. After millennia when the sexism was (and still is) targeted on women, the guys get their first taste of it and boom: they’re crying foul. Well, get used to it, guys. And talk to me after another thousand years, and we’ll see how you’re feeling then.

I stopped by Peter’s office the other morning on my way in to work and said something to the effect of: “When men have prevented women from education, working, economic, sexual and religious freedom, and the right to get involved in politics for THOUSANDS OF YEARS, you shouldn’t be surprised that we are whooping your ass when that said playing field is finally leveled and fair.”

We chatted and joked a bit. He wants me to read a book called The Second Sexism, and I want him to read a book called Sex at Dawn. We both agreed that my book recommendation sounded a bit more fun to read.

“I feel a blog coming on…” I muttered as I left his office. I think he muttered something like “Well, you are the CEO…”

The point of David Brooks’s column was that women might be better at adapting than men. I had just told my whole leadership team (including Peter) about Darwin’s theory of evolution. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about “survival of the fittest,” the theory of evolution is really about the ability to ADAPT. Which is what we are all having to do these days in this world of tumultuous technological disruption….adapt, and damn fast!

But this is not a blog about evolution or adaptation. Actually, maybe it is. Because the question to me isn’t who’s right or wrong or what’s fair or foul, but how do we all win and adapt? How do we ALL evolve and succeed. Is that a uniquely female perspective? Perhaps.

But the truth is, I do have a unique perspective on this situation. I am going to make an outrageous claim and say that I have probably read more books on women’s history than all the men in the universe combined have read. Just kidding, but not really. So I do consider myself an amateur expert. And I have managed to get to a leadership position “beyond the glass ceiling.” I like men. I really, really like them. They are not perfect. But neither am I. They are not all alike. But neither are we.

I often wonder if I would have gotten to my position as CEO of Rodale (a family business), if I hadn’t been born into the family and adapted to my circumstances. The answer, I think, is probably not. I don’t think I would have even thought of it. But then I think maybe that’s why I was born into the family I was born into, so I could prove it to myself and to others that it is possible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still proving it and have not declared victory and might never be able to.  No man has ever made it easy for me. But neither has any woman. As a person who manages and works a lot with both men and woman, I will say we all have a lot to learn and neither sex is better or worse. Some people are better at some things and others are better at others. The sooner we can stop trying to win at the expense of someone else, the faster we will all succeed…and that obsessive/compulsive insistence on winning is what seems to blind men the most to true success.

Maybe our biggest difference may be in how we define success. The traditional male stereotype has to do with gaining the most money, the fanciest surroundings, the hottest lady or other friends, the most powerful cars and yachts, the biggest bank accounts….and the biggest charitable contributions, too. Yet deep down we all know that doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. And I think reality shows have probably proven it, though I don’t watch them.

Personally, I define success as a feeling of security, comfort, and clarity when I know that everyone in my family and in my business is treated well and taken care of properly – and for me personally to have enough means to feel a sense of freedom – that I am not letting fear of money determine what I do or don’t do. I was lucky enough to make this discovery relatively early in life. But on a related note, I just read about a study online that said what the truly rich spend their money on isn’t watches and cars, but travel (experiences) and home renovations (security and comfort). It’s about the freedom to go on adventures and the pleasure of coming home!

And when we do come home, we all want to feel loved, cared for, and appreciated (and yes, that includes for both men and women LOTS of hot sex! With orgasms for everyone!). We don’t want to have to tip-toe around fragile male egos or continually have to scrape our own decimated egos up off the kitchen floor with a dirty mop (this goes for work, too!). As Riane Eisler says in her awesome book, Sacred Pleasure, true progress and evolution between the sexes is about partnership. True partnership.

Can men and woman both adapt and evolve enough to make true partnership possible? I don’t know. But if we want to, and if we choose to, we can have fun trying!








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10 Responses to The End Of Sexism

  1. robin October 10, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Ohhhhhhh noooooo~ a taste of their own medicine. I’m off to Amazon 🙂

  2. robin October 10, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Oops~this is not a new book-yet.I was reading too fast, however Brook’s last book_The Social Animal_ hints at some of these gender differences.

  3. Peter October 10, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    This just goes to show: You can’t be too careful when you’re engaged in badinage with CEO of a morning. You might get BLOGGED. But, aside from the whole “get back to me in a thousand years” bit, I wholeheartedly support what I read here. In fact, the gender wars ought to be called off, and replaced with an alliance that frees each of us from stupid assumptions society makes about our “appropriate” roles. Gender norms trap men (unfeeling, “strong,”) just as much as they trap women (emotional, “weak”), and keep each of us from living fully and adapting successfully. To heck with that, right Maria? And, oh yeah, another thing: Until men live as long as women (-5 years, for guys), and die or are injured less frequently on the job (92% work fatalities are men; 65% of injuries), are we really equal? There’s far too much talk about glass ceilings preventing women from rising up from the 2% into the 1%, and not enough about the dangerous sub-basement where the vast majority of men work, costing them limbs, knee joints, black lung, and brutal deaths on the battlefield. There’s a lot of progress that needs to be made, for all of us.

  4. maria (farm country kitchen) October 10, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Actually, Peter, I just saw something online that says women are living shorter lives! How can we get you all to live longer instead of us dying quicker? THAT is the question.

  5. Peter October 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    With you on that. If only there were specific magazines that gave life-improving and -extending tips for women’s health and men’s health. Wait a minute…

  6. DJinPA October 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Good blog, Maria. @ Peter: Working class men have historically held jobs in which they have a higher risk of injury than women. But, women have died or been seriously injured since time immemorial in childbirth. And it still happens not just in the developing world. We lost a very dear friend (at age 30) who was also a marathoner and an RN that way so that still happens even to exceptionally healthy women. People don’t like to talk about it because that isn’t “supposed to happen” these days. All it would take for those numbers to spike again is neanderthal policies towards women’s health. (*cough*) And that scenario is not so far-fetched anymore, is it? Statistically speaking, men may run a larger risk of job-related injuries but those jobs are also statistically better paying than typical “women’s jobs” in the same social cohort. Do they pay better because of the risks involved or is it because they are traditionally men’s jobs? Are the injuries altogether so inherent in those jobs or are the injuries made worse by a higher propensity for risk-taking by men? We could play that game all day long. All I know is that I am pretty damned tired of hearing about the so-called angry white male (all the while that whole drama monster is being aided and abetted by the likes of people like El Rushbo et. al. and such talk about “legitimate rape” or the pledge to repeal the Lily Ledbetter Act) and the attendant whine about “unfairness” from the likes of people like David Brooks. So now we learn that “whining” is a gender-neutral trait? Gee, who knew?!

  7. Donna in Delaware October 12, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Whew, wow Maria! I don’t know if we, men and women can really achieve true partnership (my husband keeps saying to me that we are real partners), I must admit that I don’t feel that way sometimes, but in all honesty and to his credit, he treats me as though we really are. It takes a bit of getting used to because I have always been independent. I also have to admit that he really is an open-minded man, when it comes to women doing things that they qualify doing, traditionally thought of as a man’s job, or a man’s role. He is all for women doing any and everything that they are equiped to do, even if they fail at it! More so than me, I’ll admit. The rest of you men, get over it!You are getting your just desserts! Deal with it! Man up, own up, shut up! We women still love you though. Can’t live with you, can’t live without you!

    So, here’s to glass ceilings shattering, never to be put up again. May we all do and achieve to the best of our abilities, male and/or female, and become true partners in everyday life.

  8. maria (farm country kitchen) October 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Thank you Donna in Delaware! You’re the best!

  9. Laurin Lindsey October 17, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Thank you for the excellent insight and perspective. Since becoming a grandmother I have been thinking a great deal about the future and how we can survive. I too realized long ago my goals where not about money and accumulation. I am 57 and have seen the world around me go from idealism to disillusionment. You have touched on some answers to why. I sincerely hope we will evolve to a culture that is supportive not competitive and values people and their time more than wealth and it’s trappings : ) I live a life of abundance and enjoy being of service. I have no 401k and that is okay with me. And my new husband and I enjoy working together as a team both in our business and at home. All is possible when you realize you are not the center of the universe and send you prayers of gratitude to the Universe(God) whatever you chose to call it.

  10. Nance October 17, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    In the western world, men are culturally restrained from expressing emotion or physically moving their bodies in the way women can. I read the blog of a youngish Asian-American woman, who thinking that men had unfair advantages, went undercover as a man for months. She was dismayed to realize how much men must stifle themselves to be accepted in society (as heterosexual).

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