Feminists wield power by their absolute mastery of language and their domination of intellectual debate; this is an observable phenomenon. Furthermore, their ideas often march on unchallenged because people are afraid to speak up against the prevailing wisdom, for whatever reason. Maybe this post can change some of that. First, let me set the scene for the genesis of this post:
I’m innocently and productively doing my homework for an organizational communication course I’m taking, reading through the text (which isn’t perfect but isn’t awful, either, and actually does a good job of being balanced) when I come across the dreaded “Feminist Perspectives and Organizational Communication” section. I bite the bullet and read on. When finished, I’m compelled to race over to the computer and share with you all some of the juicy bits with my commentary, so here we are.
Diving right in, we begin with a relatively standard definition of feminist theory:
Focuses on the marginalization and domination of women in the workplace and the valuing of women’s voices in all organizational processes.
Long time readers will know the ways in which this statement is false, but regardless of your amount of time spent in the community, I’d like to draw your attention to this excellent post. Written on a woman’s blog and analyzing a woman’s opinion/arguments from circa 1870 (you know, back when women were awfully oppressed in a terrible patriarchy that couldn’t possibly be good for them), it makes for an enlightening read and rebuttal. The blog author has several other posts on the subject I haven’t yet found the time to read, but if you like what she has to say, feel free to comment and let me know. And if you’re the sort to think that nothing good can come from women, I think there are plenty of examples to prove you wrong; but to each their own.
EXHIBIT A: JUDI MARSHALL AND THE NONSENSE OF PRIMA FACIE FORMS OF ARGUMENTATION
First up in the line of authors cited (I was familiar with none of them before reading this text) is Judi Marshall. The text cites a work she did in 1993 (“Viewing organizational communication from a feminist perspective: a critique and some offerings” – a limited search yielded me no links or abstracts) which essentially criticizes the tendency of organizations to respond to male values (“self-assertion, separation, independence, control, competition, focused perception, rationality, analysis, clarity, discrimination and activity”) in favor of female values (“interdependence, cooperation, receptivity, merging, acceptance, awareness of patterns, wholes, and synthesizing”). Marshall posits that, and I quote from my text with emphasis my own, “although males and females can access both types of values, evidence exists that females in organizations adapt to male norms while being evaluated against female stereotypes.”
I have two major problems with this brief paragraph. I like bulleted lists, so let’s do that:
- PROBLEM THE FIRST: ASSUMPTIONS – Naturally, the assumption is that “male” values are somehow negative and “female” values are somehow positive (without any analysis offered as to why these values belong to either males or females – they are presented as belonging to their respective biological sex prima facie). An objective look at the values, however, shows that many of the “male” values are positive ones for organizations (especially independence, competition, focused perception, rationality, clarity, analysis and activity) whereas many of the “female” values seemed better suited to making friends than getting things done (especially interdependence, receptivity, merging, and acceptance). Furthermore, I reject the assertion that females are better at “awareness of patterns, wholes, and synthesizing” and I am not alone in my rejection. These are also referred to as mathematical abilities, and there’s a lot of literature to suggest that women are not as naturally suited to mathematics as men are.
- PROBLEM THE SECOND: EVIDENCE – What evidence? Do you mean the kind of evidence that is spawned by politicized agencies funded by feminists with the express intent of propagating feminism? My educated guess: probably. It’s the same way feminists gather all their evidence – especially statistics on rape and sexual assault. Date rape is a myth. In fact, even the extent to which rape “plagues” our society is a myth. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say the “method” in which “rape” plagues our society is misunderstood – after all, false rape accusations are a rampant disease. What else has been mythologized and misconstrued by feminist doctrine?
Moving along, then, to:
EXHIBIT B: PATRICE BUZZANELL AND LANGUAGE IDEOLOGIES
Patrice Buzzanell, in a piece entitled Gaining a Voice: Feminist Organizational Communication Theorizing, describes feminist organizational communication as (and I quote from my text) “the moral commitment to investigate the subordinated, to focus on gendered interactions in ordinary lives, and to explore the standpoints of women who have been rendered invisible by their absence in theory and research.” I’m not going to take the time to rebut this nonsense – see the posts I linked to above or stick around The Spearhead for a while and you’ll see that all of this is patently false. Women were not oppressed under patriarchy, women are not subordinated in the workplace, and women are far from absent in theory and research. How anyone can ever be convinced that over half the human population has been rendered “invisible” seems absurd – but, as Voltaire observes, “those who can make you believe absurdities can convince you to commit atrocities.” Sound like what’s happened to society of late?
What’s more interesting about Buzzanell are the relatively unstated assumptions fueling her arguments; she “discusses how gender is socially constructed and enacted in organizations with messages, structures, and practices becoming the contexts for gender construction and negotiation.” If biological sex at birth is a social construct, why is it after 40 years of feminism (and indeed, the birth of a new woman’s nation, per the Shriver report) women are still found to have half the upper-body strength of men, 70-75% the aerobic capacity, and are slightly less intelligent by metric of the intelligence quotient on average? Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on Buzzanell. She’s merely part of a much larger system that fuels prevailing language ideologies, which can have a poisonous effect on the way we all think about and perceive the world.
But then she goes on to observe that “the ethic of competitive individualism creates organizational winners and losers based on competition and a need to excel over others.” Well, this is true enough, and as Ray Baumeister outlines in a seminal analysis, evolution may have played a part in how humans tend to organize. However, Buzzanell can only speak sense so long before she must vomit nonsense: “the competitive ethic typically casts women in the role of the other, whereas stereotypical expectations and behaviors cast women as losers.” There is nothing wrong with seeing women as “other” from men; in fact, men and women are innately different and serve unique (but, it could be said, equally important) biological/evolutionary roles. It should be expected that when women try to be men (and attempt to compete in male organizations and try to accomplish male tasks), women are going to “lose” in greater proportion than men are. Some women can succeed, because traits such as strength, intelligence, etc., appear to be distributed along a bell curve; but the traits that lead to success in traditionally male endeavors are centered around a lower proficiency in women when compared to men. I’ve not encountered much formal research about how male traits are distributed in regards to traditionally female roles (motherhood tasks, nurturing, etc) but I would expect a similar disadvantage exists for men when it comes to womanly tasks – men exist to be men and women exist to be women. Revolutionary and mind-blowing, I know, but try to keep pace.
Buzzanell isn’t done yet, however. One of her themes of critique “is based on the superiority in traditional society of the rational, direct, and solution-oriented.” Yes, she is critiquing the fact that traditional society is solution-oriented. What does she propose, a problem-oriented society? The illogic here is baffling. Apparently, “feminist organizational communication theory asks questions about alternatives and explores the double binds created for women who are negatively sanctioned for adopting the scientific male style nad who are also devalued for choosing stereotypical feminine communication patterns.” Good. Let’s toss aside useful and proven methods of organizing in favor of endless debate so that the barbarians can come in and destroy everything we’ve created and we can start the process all over again ad infinitum. Nevermind the fact that feminism tends to be the primary critical voice when it comes to devaluing women who choose “stereotypical” (read also: traditional, perhaps even “natural”) “feminine communication patterns,” namely, motherhood and willing submission to patriarchy. As I and others have said elsewhere, patriarchy works, benefits women, and when it is discarded, society crumbles.
But wait, there’s more! Buzzanell is also critical of “socialization practices that urge men to become separate and autonomous through action, work, and status; women, by contrast, are socialized for nurturing, being attractive, following authority, and being well liked.” That’s right! Social pressure to compel useful behavior for society is, according to Buzzanell, a bad thing. Do I really even need to tear this apart?
Moving along, then, to:
EXHIBIT C: CONNIE BULLIS AND IDEOLOGICALLY FUELLED CONCEPT…fuck it, let’s just be honest and straightforward. Ahem, allow me to try again.
EXHIBIT C: CONNIE BULLIS AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF BULLSHIT
Connie Bulllis is cited in a 1993 piece awkwardly titled “Organizational Socialization: A Feminist Standpoint Approach” (couldn’t find an abstract or link, forgive me) as repeating the party line. (The party line always makes for an entertaining read.) Ironically, her arguments apply directly to the state of men in contemporary society. Allow me to quote:
Connie Bullis (1993) uses feminist theory to develop an alternative perspective. Bullis describes why it is important to consider how socialization practices can construct women as marginalized others. Bullis challenges us to think about voices marked as outsiders, unsocialized, uncommitted, disloyal, absentee, unemployable, or dropouts…Bullis and Karen Stout (1996) raise important questions about socialization processes that function both to marginalize as well as socialize.
I see your ante of imagined misogyny and raise you one very real misandry, Connie Bullis. The Fifth Horseman / The Futurist describes why it is important to consider how socialization practices can construct men as marginalized others. I challenge everyone to think about male voices which have been marked as outsiders (men no longer have fraternities but cannot be a part of women’s groups; women’s studies far outnumber men’s studies in college), unsocialized (all men are, rather than complicated human beings with a variety of emotional and physiological needs and wants, piggish animals who are satisfied only by sex), uncommitted (men are cast as deadbeat dads and unwilling to commit in the dating scene), disloyal (despite the fact that women initiate 90% of all divorces, the average woman still fears that a man will leave her in marriage), absentee (google “where have all the good men gone“) unemployable (the vast majority of the unemployed are men) and dropouts (again, the vast majority of dropouts are men).
In fact, as a proud high-school dropout, I demand everyone listen to me. After all, feminist theory demands I be listened to! In order to meet this demand, I encourage all of the readers of The Spearhead to link this article as far and wide as they can. Post it in forums, post it on Facebook, casually slip it into your instant messaging conversations (“hey there, how about that weather? Oh, by the way, feminists are crazy (link here)”). Do whatever it takes.
I’m glad I “soldiered” through both the text and this post. This turned out a lot better than I initially envisioned. Feminists tend to propagate their misinformation and faulty reasoning because people are afraid of criticizing them. Criticism isn’t a crime yet, so do what you can to join in the critiques – if that means writing your own posts, do it. If that means questioning feminists in public, do it. If that means spreading along a well-written critique of someone else’s, do it. Hope you enjoyed the piece, and, furthermore, hope you learned something useful. The best part is that we can use their own reasoning against them – irony is always an enjoyable exercise. Back to my homework. Until next time!