The Weinstein and Kalanick Syndromes

“If I don’t know it, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t exist. If I don’t understand it, it’s wrong.”

I’m all in on respecting Gap Theory, so in the time after Harvey Weinstein was, well, revealed for who he was, I’ve tried to pay cautious attention and collect and sort out information. During that time the spotlight widened to pick up issues with Travis Kalanick (ex-CEO of Uber), and then widened again to follow testimonies at the trial of Dr. Larry Nasser (USA Women’s Olympic doctor).

Reactions and reporting in the media escalated, as Gap Theory would predict, leaving most everyone with a deeply callow view of Men in general. While surveys indicated the behavior was more widespread than just high profile people (NY Times, Leadershipfreak), they also showed that a majority of men (~2/3rds) have not committed harassment behaviors. Still, that doesn’t prevent a lot of men from worrying about being painted with the same Either/Or brush and fearing they are next. While there are some subdued articles trying to identify broader perspectives (more on these below), they don’t get much traction.

As these media pieces trickled in (or were shot across the internet), it became clear that much of what occurred (behavior as well as reporting) fit neatly onto the Behavior Curve. So I thought I’d put my toe to the ice and see if it would support me getting quickly to the other side.

To do this will require some additional perspectives – perspectives that we all know, or probably should know, but have either forgotten or conveniently chosen to push aside in the emotions of the moment. One perspective looms huge on the horizon, so we should begin there. Carefully.

Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus

I know that you know this, dear reader, because you’ve told me so. Well, perhaps not you specifically, and probably not in so many words, but over the course of a long lifetime I have heard, read, and observed from uncountable numbers of both men and women who could have been readers but were certainly of strong enough opinions to verbalize or act out their understanding of this fact.

One I recall years ago was Maurice Chevalier’ observation, Viva La Differencé! (Chevalier was, of course, French, which explains a lot, a fact that will come up again later.) Both of these observations, Mars/Venus and Viva!, don’t do justice to what we should know and understand. They’re abbreviations, fuzzy snapshots of reality. One implies, Danger, and the other implies, well, Whoopee! There’s a lot of territory in between.

After some deliberate time spent in the information Gap, with missives flying overhead, I concluded that there needed to be some additional thoughts that connected these distressing behaviors with aspects as to why they continue to occur. Here goes.

There have been many valid scientific studies that have attempted to identify differences beyond the obvious (think XX and XY chromosomes and the resulting physical attributes) and figure out just how men and women think. (Caveat here: those studied were not attempts to answer the question, “What were you thinking when you did that?!” but attempts to ask people to think about what they would do if they found themselves in a particular situation. These are very different questions.)

When men and women are asked the question, “What are the needs that you would desire most in life?” the answers are revealing. Of the top five answers, statistically, three stand out for men, and three for women,

Men: In the list of top five most important needs in their lives, unsurprisingly, these three appear most often,

Sex;

Food; and

Respect (not necessarily in that order, but pretty close).

For Women, these three appear most often,

Security (physical and/or financial);

Companionship; and

Communication/Connection (again, not necessarily in that order, but pretty close).

(This is not to say that each of these do not appear as being important to those of the opposite sex; they do appear, just further down the list and not as frequently. Please note that. And note also that this is a clear reinforcement that men are from Mars, and women from Venus, descriptively speaking, not judgmentally.)

How has this come about? Go back to our XX and XY chromosomes, but don’t assume that we can stop there. It’s more complicated and it looks more like this,

It’s not just that Boys will be Boys (or even Girls will be Girls), but it starts there. The bigger factors are one’s Environments (pre- and post-natal), accrued Triggers (including one’s Baggage), and Chance (being in the right/wrong place at the wrong/right time), each and all heavily modified by Choices, whether those arose from the people who molded one’s environments, or one’s own choices in a particular environment or situation.

See. It’s complicated, despite the wealth of reporting and opinion pieces that seem to sprout from simplicity (Either/Or thinking).

Take Harvey Weinstein’s behaviors (please…). From what has been reported and supported, the following picture comes into focus.

Weinstein likes Sex. This is not unsurprising given his XY chromosomes. And by all reports we have to conclude he had a huge appetite for sex and took steps to satiate it often. (He may still have an appetite, but it is only conjecture if he is able currently to satisfy it).

Weinstein also likes Food. One can conjecture this based upon publicly available information, such as follows,

Harvey Weinstein, in Los Angeles, after meeting with lawyers.
Photographs from Lalo/RR/Premiere/Backgrid. (Vanity Fair)

Weinstein is chunky.   He has an appetite for food (no pun intended).

Weinstein likes Respect. One can surmise that not only from the body language in the photograph above, but from his position and career. As head of The Weinstein Company, and formerly running Miramax film productions (founded 1979; Disney subsidiary until 2010), he was in a position to control larger-than-life careers (writing, acting, directing) and money in the entertainment industry, one often charitably described as “self-seeking.” (Looking back historically, there is this overwhelming picture of the theater developing in order to get people more concentrated in order to make pickpockets’ and cutpurses’ activities easier and more efficient. The story also goes that the Oscars awards were created to help overcome this historical image).

Weinstein has an appetite for Respect. He found a way to fulfill it by exercising power over people, in more ways than one (bullying, philandering, temper tantrums). It is not impossible that this appetite was fed (sorry again) by the phenomena that Power Causes Brain Damage.

His behaviors in each of these areas line up with Taking, and if we look for a spot for his behaviors on the Behavior Curve we would probably place him about here,

It seems appropriate to label this general area at the bottom of the Behavior Curve (for one or more types of behavior including bullying, philandering, and a bad temper), a Predator. In numerous articles (So This Is How Men Like Weinstein Get Away With It For So Longand Harvey’s Concern Was Who Did Him In (Vanity Fair) ) Weinstein and others have been referred to as Predators for their behaviors, sexual and otherwise.

Others who would fit into this behavior region would have to include Dr. Larry Nasser (USA Women’s Olympics doctor), for similar reasons, and for other reasons, John Battaglia, Luis Enrique Monroy Bracamontes, and Jamison Bachman, The Worst Roommate Ever (a must read).

The fact is, people like this exist.  And it’s not that these people totally lack skills and talents (including social ones). They certainly have a number of them. It’s just that they are weak in or are missing the appropriate skills and talents required to grant them access to their greatest needs, and they reverted to Taking behaviors.

It is as if they purposefully Chose to take up residence in the Predator neighborhood of the Behavior Curve.

Then there is Travis Kalanick, the founder and former CEO of Uber. Not withstanding a litany of stories about sexual harassment at Uber, there seems to be less of the Weinstein Syndrome (Predator) but more of something of a different but still demeaning condition that created a toxic cultural environment. There was an aura of arrogant superiority and power that permitted an environment to develop in which certain power behaviors were not only permitted but also encouraged (How the Susan Fowler Memo Changed the Tech Industry; The Fall of Travis Kalanick). They suffered from the Kalanick Syndrome: they were “Bros.

Bro: (Urban dictionary definition 2): An alpha male idiot. This is the derogatory sense of the word (common usage in the western US): white, 16-25 years old, inarticulate, belligerent, talks about nothing but chicks and beer, drives a jacked up truck that’s plastered with stickers, has rich dad that owns a dealership or construction business and constantly tells this to chicks at parties, is into extreme sports that might be fun to do but are uncool to claim (wakeboarding, dirt biking, lacrosse), identifies excessively with brand names, spends a female amount of money on clothes and obsesses over his appearance to a degree that is not socially acceptable for a heterosexual male.

Kalanick extended the fratty, Bro-y range above age 25 and drove something that cost more than a truck, but give him credit, rather than depending upon his daddy’s dealership, he had created his own business which itself had become a “brand.”

I think one could also include in this group Anthony DiNozzo, the character from the NCIS TV series.

There are a lot more Bros in the world than Predators. But they’re just as demeaning.

We were Bros

We can place Bro behavior generally on the Behavior Curve just so,

The Bro behavior zone is almost a poster case as the Proof of Bubble they live in. So involved with ’What We Do and Who We Are’ that they forget (or never knew, or don’t care) how Others think. It’s as if they attain a state that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’—a condition of absolute presence and happiness – Being in the Zone.

They assume that ‘Who We Are’ is defined by XY and ignore the environments, triggers, chance, and choices that finished them off. It’s a perfect example of Fundamental Principle 6 in action: “If I don’t know it, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t exist. If I don’t understand it, it’s wrong.”

Generally, where most male behavior seems to “hover” is about dead center on the Curve. Behavior can “slide” one way or another along the curve depending upon circumstances, environments, and even people we’re with.   Sometimes this is a conscious “sliding,” sometime it’s not. It’s a bit tricky labeling our behaviors here, but it’s worth a stab.

This central area, of “flexible sliding” as it were, is where we’ll find both Boys and Men: Boys to the left of the centerline (slightly “negative” behaviors), and Men to the right (leaning “positive”),

Where some men seem to take up residence as Predators (exhibited in a number of different ways), Bros and Boys/Men seem to be able to more easily “slide” along the Curve into different behaviors. It’s as if Bros are merely occupants (“there,” but not permanently), and Boys/Men are simply tourists, very flexible while passing through.

What the world needs now (sorry again) are males who are capable and comfortable of 1) noticing that there is an area further to the right on the Behavior Curve; 2) interested in getting there; 3) capable of learning what that takes; and 4) actually willing to make the effort to get there. It would also take females who notice the same area on the Curve, appreciate what that behavior looks like, and are willing to provide helpful constructive feedback.

We should call that area the Gentleman,

(To be clear, because of the focus on the Weinstein and Kalanick Syndromes these areas got a masculine label. The Behavior Curve applies equally to women, so I’m sure in the latter case the areas would need different labels.)

There’s an odd obstacle or two in the way of moving to the Gentleman’s zone, however.

The first is, I think, the issue of defining where/how/what is the source of this Respect that’s high on our (men’s) list of needs. We’ve been taught by those who’ve dabbled before us that a great deal of Respect comes from being bonded with our Boy/Bro peers, in being “one of the guys” (the Bro-y Effect).  As a consequence, to depart from this is to leave comfort and ease (and “Respect”) and go where we think no man has gone before (sorry for that, too), and, having ventured there, feeling it’s probably not cool to report back on our experiences.

The second obstacle is discovering the Law of Reflection. That is, to get something, you don’t have to Take it because you think you deserve it. When you Give something away you are very likely to receive something back in return. Often in spades.

Overcoming both of these requires conscious Choices to alter the criteria and measure of what it means to be a Man.

In the workplace, respecting others leads invariably to getting Respect in return.

In some workplaces (like Silicon Valley), working hard and producing might also lead to food (onsite free pizza ovens, buffets, lattes, etc.).

Sex, however, ought to be left for consensual relationships outside the workplace.

In a relationship or marriage, for instance, when a man discovers the Law of Reflection and focuses on providing Security, Companionship, and Conversation to his partner, he just might find he’s receiving all the sex, food, and respect he needs.

Women, I suspect because they already have good intuition, a greater sense of nurturing and different top three needs, “get” the Law of Reflection and find it easier to practice. Perhaps, just perhaps, that’s a contributing factor why some women remain in abusive relationships, hoping he will eventually “get” it. (He most likely won’t, especially if he’s taken up residence at the left on the Behavior Curve).

My wife and I once ran a Self/Other exercise with a group of young single and married adults (if you’re in a relationship or married, you might also try this). A ground rule is that there is no discussing with one another until the end. This is coming from inside:

  • Write down what you think are your most important needs;
  • Then, write down what you think are the most important needs of someone of the opposite sex, for instance, your spouse or the person you are in a relationship with;
  • Next, write down what you think someone of the opposite sex (your relationship partner or spouse) would say your most important needs are (re-read that carefully);
  • And finally, write down what you think someone of the opposite sex (your partner or spouse) thinks you would write down for their most important needs.

When we got to that last part in our exercise, the majority of the males in the group (single as well as married) all looked up puzzled and said, “Huh?” Clueless.

It is interesting to look back on that exercise in light of additional years of life and blogging.

One realization is that the object of focus of the responses (the degree of conscious separation from the person answering) changes in each step:

  • The first part deals with oneself, or the 0th degree of separation and consideration;
  • The second part deals with someone else, a 1st degree of separation and consideration;
  • The next part deals with someone else’s concept of you, a 2nd degree of separation and consideration; and
  • The last part deals with someone else’s belief about what your concept is about their needs, or a 3rd degree of separation and consideration.

In that exercise, a high percentage of the women were “right on” through the 4th step. The men? They floundered quickly after step 2.

An interesting hypothesis is that, for instance, it appears,

  • If a person’s focus cannot get beyond self, as in step 1 and a 0th degree of separation and consideration, there’s a good chance their behavior is often in the Taker (or possibly Predator) area of the Behavior Curve;
  • If a person is aware that another might have needs (but hasn’t bothered to check them out), there’s a chance their behavior occupies someplace in the Bro or Boy/Man regions of the Curve;
  • If a person is aware that another is consciously aware about his/her needs, there’s a chance their behavior occupies someplace higher up in the Boy/Man or Bro region of the Curve;
  • If a person is aware and communicates what they are thinking about another’s needs, then there’s a very good chance that their behavior occupies the Gentleman area more often than not.

A disappointing consequence of all the media reporting about Weinstein and the subsequent fallout (the “Weinstein Effect,” not to be confused with the “Weinstein Syndrome,” which is the Why? pondered here) is that much of it is so Either/Or, with a lot of disparaging of the “Or” dialogue.

For instance, Catherine Deneuve and 99 other notable French women from the arts, medicine and business published an open letter in Le Monde calling out what they dubbed a “puritanical” wave of resignations and a group-think—largely in the United States and Britain, since no heads have rolled in France—that they said infantilized women and denied them their sexual power (Remember, they are French. The Atlantic, France, Where #MeToo Becomes #PasMoi). (Chevalier would rejoice). Subsequently, the #MeToo movement shamed Deneuve into issuing an apology. (Chevalier is now spinning in his grave).

Some recommendations for the ~2/3rds of men (and an untold percentage of women) should be in order. Consider the following personal action steps,

I need to understand why I think the way I do, and then I need to consciously choose to try to understand why you think the way you do;

Then I need you to do the same concerning me.

To do this is to recognize I live in a Bubble (my Worldview, where I don’t know all that I don’t know), and Choose to take steps through understanding to expand my Bubble.

The intent is not to fix or repair your Bubble or to protect my Bubble (by putting another brick in my wall);

The intent is to expand both of our Bubbles.

This is difficult for men due to the Bro-y Effect. Not so hard for women who want to connect (and get Respect also).

One last thought. If women could tune-in to these action steps, put them into practice, and begin to discern those among the 2/3rds of men who are also putting them into practice, they just might be able to begin to exclude the Predators and the Bros from the gene pool.

And that just might be a good great thing.

But then, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, what do I know.

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About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
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