Good morning from sunny Europe,
Temperatures around here are hitting over 30 degrees and my brain is getting slow. What better thing to do, than follow a public feud between two billionaires? At first I thought I must have gotten sun stroke. My frail female brain is not very heat resistant. This is why I stay out of the kitchen. Elon Musk challenged Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight. Zuck’s answer was send me location. Sadly, it seems to be more of a male ego issue, rather than female fragility.
Let’s set the scene and talk some background. A couple of months ago, Musk took twitter private for $44 billions. He financed the deal through debt and equity loans from the most prestigious banks and PE funds, even though experts agreed, that this is plainly dumb. I guess due dilly is not the same, if it is one of the richest men you are investigating. A couple of months later, twitter is estimated to be worth around $15 billions, with its revenue shrinking and shrinking, employees being kicked out and random features kicking in.
Zuck recognised the chaos, snapped the opportunity and launched threads. A text based conversation service, as he calls it. Basically twitter with a minimally different front end and more potential users, as you can easily use your insta credentials to log in. He scored 30M users in the first 24h. Will keep observing his metrics and whether he can keep them active. I find it quite enjoyable. Once Elon heard of Mark’s plans, he felt challenged and put in a corner, so he asked Zuck to meet him in the courtyard for a real show down. With their fists. How real men solve their issues. As of now, their fight is planned to take place in the Roman Colosseum. I still hold hope that Italian pride and government will not allow for such American sacrilege.
Note - making the best out of the individual privilege one enjoys is difficult enough and everyone should strive to accomplish it. There is no point in wasting it. However, when privilege systematically comes at the detriment of other groups, we must question it.
Sometimes men like to appease their egos with the horse power of their cars, shinny watches or by making other billionaires lose some of their paper value. It is essential that an other person is being stepped on. Your car is only fast enough, when it is louder than that of the others and your watch expensive enough, when other losers cannot afford it. We teach boys from a young age that they have to climb up this imaginative social ladder and acquire status by bringing the proof of wealth and enhanced testosterone levels.
Competitiveness per se is not bad. It drives us to achieve. The issue we face is the homogeneity of what we define as success and direct benchmarking against people we are not. This holds truth on an individual level, but even more so, when we think on a gender level. We expect women at work, be it in business, politics or what not, to behave the same way men do. There is one way of getting leadership right and the first rule is don’t be a woman. However, if you happen to be one, wear suits and mimic male behaviour. Study after study has shown a bias that associates low male voices with competence and authority.
Consciously or not, many women feel like they have to lower their pitch when vying for authority. I do it all the time. In both directions. I find myself turning into this high pitched little girl while flirting, or attempting to, and lowering my pitch when trying to assert authority. So what is wrong with it? It seems we adapt our voices to the circumstances we are in. The crux of it simply is that men per default have lower pitched voices. And we assume that their way of speaking is the right way of speaking at work. No extra effort needed from their side
To go further, this applies to accents, too. In beloved Europe, there are good and bad accents you can speak English with. There are very specific labels attached to certain ways of pronouncing words. And there are successful accents, accents of people in positions of leadership and accents of people not worth your while. I will let you guess which one is which. Or if you are one of those who can fake accents, go ahead and do some A/B testing for fun.
Etiquette is no better. We associate little insignificant habits to educated or uneducated people. We frown upon people eating with their hands, not knowing that this custom originated within Ayurvedic teachings, where it is believed that our bodies are in sync with the five elements of nature and each finger is an extension of one of these five elements. We just assume that our forks and knives are civilised, while there is such an old philosophy behind the other habit. Taking your shoes off is an other of my favourite examples. For some, it is rude to not take your shoes off, when entering someone else’s house, whereas others argue that it is a sign of no class to expect of your guests to let go of an essential part of their outfits, when coming over. Both sides are legit. And it is perfectly fine to enforce your own rules in your own house.
In all of the above instances, it is not the different customs per se that are problematic, but the fact that they come with the implication of good or bad, depending on whether the subject is white or coloured or male or female. Right, bright, smart and successful go with white and male. Rarely are there other patterns. Case in point, the two man children throwing a tantrum at the beginning of this post. I can hardly imagine two women behaving like this and not being immediately canceled or labelled as crazy b****s. Or imagine two African American billionaires battling this out in public. That would be a no-no. Benzema put it plainly in "if I score, I'm French, if I don't, I'm Arab". We hold women to different adulthood standards and other men to generally stricter rules of conduct.
There are endless examples of how we like to tie ethnicity and gender to what is perceived as good or bad. Just a couple of days ago, the media was reporting about how a Brit, of Bulgarian descendent, scribbled his name on the Colosseum. Speaking of sacrilege. He apologised and said he was unaware of the age of the monument. When Emma Raducanu, a Brit of Romanian and Chinese descendent, wins Grand Slams, the byline referring to her background is often left out. These are little things, that amount to big biases.
The white boys took over the world and have gone wild. They claim their way to be, exist and take space, is the only cool way. Everything else is lame and to be looked down on and frowned upon. Times are changing and women will demand in high pitched voices to move your bums to the side lines. Black men will be allowed to be human and emotional on the whole spectrum, including display anger, without being shot.
Relinquishing privilege and not taking the above as an attack at one’s identity is difficult. But so is change. In addition, change is painful and often proved violent. Do we need to let it escalate to bloodshed once again? It does seem that this is the only way we know and the white men who shape our world, lead by example. In a more literal way, than one could wish for.
The fear of the other is deeply engrained in our DNAs, from when we were hanging around in groups and competing for blueberries. All others were dangerous. But we have discovered a-gri-cul-ture. No need to kill others, so we can gather what god has drizzled over the bushes.
It is somewhat natural to want to hang out with people, who are similar to us, ones that look like us and easily get us. That is perfectly fine, too. No diversity quotas for friendships needed. We can simply exist next to each other without judging what we do not understand and without acting upon this unfounded fear of the other. The funny thing is, that once we unpack these social norms and look behind cultural barriers, we will often find friends in the most unexpected places. In women and men, in all shapes, sizes and shades. And we will happily have the best of all worlds until the end of time.