Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dilbert = Dumbert? Not So!


Thank you, Scott Adams.  Thank you for realizing how difficult it can be to come up with a topic to write about, some days.  Thank you for providing conveniently low-hanging fruit.  I don't even need to reach up to pluck this delicate morsel.

In fact, it's more of a stoop.  Or is it?

Now let's step away from the kneejerk reaction.  First, let me direct you to some copy he generated on his own website.  I'm not going to reproduce all of it here, just click the link, read up and come back.  That's not his website, obviously.  For good reason, he took his original post down.  Too many jerking knees.

Read the whole thing.  The first block of text you find makes your temperature go up.  It looks pretty damning, especially in light of the fact that he has since deleted it.  Somebody cut-and-pasted pretty darned fast.

If you're not the link-clicking type, you're probably the reason why my ad revenue hovers around $0.  But moving on!  To paraphrase, Scott Adams declares that dealing with women isn't too much different from dealing with children or the mentally handicapped - you follow the path of least resistance.  When women complain about pay inequality or workplace harassment, men simply do what's easiest, which is to give them what they want, because that makes the problem go away.

That's bad enough.  In fact, that's about as bad as it gets.  But you can bet that a lot of people pretty much stop reading there.  Scott Adams is a jerk!  Sexist pig, who the hell let him out of his misogynistic little box?

But in the next bit, he goes on to say that really, men don't care much about 90% of what's going on around them.  I can't speak for "men" but I can speak for me, and in that regard, he's right.  I don't care.  In the case of pay inequality, I wouldn't think about it until a woman pointed it out, and then when she did, I'd say, "If you're producing at the rate a man does, then you should be paid the same."  The woman I live with produces at rather higher a rate than I do, and by golly she does earn a bigger paycheck.

He isn't talking about dealing with women in general.  He's raising the gender pay disparity as an example of what drives male behavior.  But you get the wrong mindset looking at that post, and boom!  The feathers begin to fly.  The word I'm thinking right now rhymes with "feminazi."  Oh wait, it actually is feminazi.  I don't have the first problem with feminine rights, especially when you're talking about eliminating the differences between the genders, rights-wise.  But then there are folks who just can't see the world except through the lens of social injustices, both real and perceived.  They're good people with laudable goals, but good grief do they ever become tiresome after a while.

There's a couple of reasons I can think of that might have caused the pay inequality to come about.  Look back just a couple of generations and you find that the working population was largely male.  Dad worked, Mom stayed home.  Never mind that Mom was busting her butt keeping the house afloat, it generated no paycheck and was therefore not "worth" much.

Yeah, right.  I've tried to, and cannot do it.  There's more work there than I can handle.  I do enjoy laundry, I'll wash dishes, I'll do yard work.  I can do it all.  Get it all done at the same time?  Forget it.  Easier to torch the house and start over every week.

Let's get back to the point.  Adams is talking about behavior.  Long story short, he's talking about male behavior in particular, behavior of men when faced with a problem.  His example is that of solving issues of gender inequality in the workplace, a touchy subject.  Maybe you should've left that grenade alone, Scott.  Anyway...

So Adams says that when it's necessary, it's easier to consider the emotional realities, the emotional needs of people around him because that's the path of least resistance.  That's the path toward reducing the level of discord and frustration in the people around him.  Reducing discord is good, it means we can focus on our original goals.

The second block of text in the link gets around to pointing up where Adams is coming from, and goes on to prove that while the first block made him look like an insensitive yutz who shouldn't be allowed to breed, the second one points up that he's pretty sure men in general are insensitive yutzes who just don't like distractions, regardless of what they are, and will do whatever it takes to get rid of them.

If men in power will grant equality (it shouldn't be granted by assumed, but that's not the environment we live in, not yet) simply because that's the least-bumpy road to less friction in the workplace, then what does anyone care how they got to that point?  If you're dissatisfied with your work environment, and a complaint gets it changed, then what difference does it make, the machinations between the ears of the people who made it happen?

I don't think about people I can't see.  They're abstractions, numbers.  I think, in general, the minds of men are pretty bloodless places.  Adams opined that most men are solely concerned with whatever's right in front of them at the moment, and I'm inclined to agree.  I haven't done any research on it but it would sure be interesting to spend some time, interviewing and crunching numbers.  When a gender pay disparity comes up, that's the thing that's in front of a man at the moment.  He hasn't considered it until he has to, because it just isn't on his mind.  It becomes an issue, deal with the issue, move on.  Very goal oriented.

Bloodless.  Dispassionate.  And on the face of it, careless and inconsiderate.  I think that's not entirely fair - if it's a problem, it gets fixed - that's what we, as men, are raised to do.  We deal with problems.  Until someone points it out, though, we don't think about it.  We don't go looking for trouble.

Adams wasn't looking for trouble.  He was making an analogy that in hindsight could probably have been phrased a little better, but on the whole I don't think his message is wrong.  It's more an observation of the behavior of men than of women.

Let's try to take the correct message away from his original statement.

No comments:

Post a Comment