Pale, Stale and Male

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with Rev. Clay Nelson

Pale, Stale and Male
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Follow this shortcut to the bottom of the page for the Spirit of Life, Time For All Ages, Opening & Closing Words, Postlude, Links shared during the chat.

Clay Nelson © 31st May 2020

In deciding what to muse on this week I just needed to take a moment to reflect on what is happening around me. The first thing I noticed was the brouhaha surrounding Todd Muller’s first week as opposition leader. First there was the MAGA hat that he doggedly defended displaying in his office as just some political swag, a souvenir. He was apparently oblivious to its being a malevolent symbol promoting racism, nativism, xenophobia, anti-science, and gross misogyny as being okay at least to white supremacists. Muller might as well decorate his office with swastikas and Klan hoods.

The next misstep was his announcement of his front bench and shadow cabinet. The media immediately noticed the lack of diversity therein. When his deputy, Nikki Kaye, defended those chosen by Muller by insisting Paul Goldsmith was Māori, which he quickly denied, the story grew legs.

His voting record and past statements suggest, at the least, that he is a dinosaur, but by all reports a decent one similar perhaps to Barney. If so, what could account for his lack of political nous in his first week? It is not like he is new to politics. One theory is it is due to something that is not his fault. He is pale, stale and male, commonly known as a PSM.

As someone who is a year more stale today and as pale and male as they come, I can empathise with the affliction.

My musings led me to seeing what the Internet thought of PSMs. As you might suspect it is not very flattering. We are in the Internet equivalent of the stocks, being pummelled with rotten produce. In fact, it is so unflattering that one twenty-something feminist opinion writer for Stuff News, Verity Johnson, feels sorry for us — or at least some of us. She acknowledges her ambivalence. There are PSMs who have mentored her, who email her letters of support, who are interested in her ideas and there are PSMs she puts in the Piers Morgan camp, who hate her guts.

“You can usually tell because they’re the sort of person who’s angry at the world anyway, but as a young articulate woman you’re a red rag to their misplaced rage.”

They don’t, according to her experience,

“like to be challenged on anything, but really really hate it when it’s a young woman who does it. Largely because they’re carrying a whole lot of delightful beliefs on women which mostly revolve around us being shaggable and silent.”

I took some comfort in her conclusion,

“But if being both an object of hatred and support by PSMs has taught me anything, it’s that being middle-aged, or white, or a man, is not a good indicator of whether or not you’re a dick. 

One of the most reliable measures I’ve found is how you respond to people questioning or challenging you. (Side note, this works for men and women.)”

I appreciate her recognition that dicks are available in all colours, are not age restricted, and are not Y-chromosome dependent. Margaret Thatcher quickly comes to mind. On the other hand, Verity’s conclusion that how PSMs respond to being questioned and challenged is, in my mind, an insufficient measure of being a dick. If a PSM does not confront the three Ps: the power, privilege and patriarchy that have advantaged him literally over everyone else and is happy and without embarrassment to accept the benefits they provide him as being divinely ordained by virtue of his personal qualities and hard work, he will score high on the dick scale. His dick measurement takes on a whole new meaning in this context.

These PSMs are all too often myopic. This is a serious problem as they are all too often the ones holding the power. Many see no problem writing legislation to block a woman’s right to have control of her body. They see profit as more important than the environment. They consider labour to be an expendable commodity to be exploited on the behalf of shareholders. Some don’t seem to have any empathy, but plenty of contempt for those whose lives are destroyed by the corrupt and unjust economic system they created.

The only cure is diversity. For at least the first third of my life every aspect of society was under the control of PSMs. Legislative bodies, CEOs, corporate boards, churches, the news media, the judicial system, unions, higher education institutions all looked like National’s Front Bench or Trump’s Cabinet. Every time a woman or person of colour broke or even cracked the glass ceiling during the last two thirds of my life that was headline news. When PSMs couldn’t deny a woman or person of colour a place at their table, the women were dismissed, mocked and undermined. PSMs can still do it with impunity because they still hold the power. When Ruth Bader Ginsberg is asked when will there be enough women on the Supreme Court, she says, “When there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

Perhaps things will begin to change after the pandemic. After all, the countries that did the best job of managing their country’s response to the virus were all led by women who were mostly young.

Even before the world changed for ever, companies were already being encouraged to have more diverse boards of directors. In a Risk Management article on PSMs it opened with this observation,

“On the surface, the circumstances surrounding scandals faced by Equifax, Wells Fargo, The Weinstein Company, Uber, Volkswagen, Wynn Resorts and others could not seem any more different. Upon deeper analysis, however, a common thread in each of these cases could offer insight for companies to avoid future problems: At the time of these corporate failures, the board of each company lacked diversity and was unable or unwilling to fully understand the gamut of their non-financial environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, risks and opportunities.”

The article goes on to say,

“Recent research has underscored the strong relationship that exists between diversity among leadership and ethical behaviour, and superior resilience and long-term profitable sustainability. For example, the January 2018 McKinsey & Company report Delivering Through Diversity found a continuing strong link between diversity and performance. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. In terms of ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

My take away from this article is that companies run by dicks underperform. That would be true as well of governments, religious institutions, unions, NGOs, schools, sport teams, to name some of the obvious. Diversity that is sought and respected, not just tolerated, will go far in helping us navigate a world that has become a lot more dangerous than we thought possible.



Spirit of Life by Carolyn McDade – sung by the Ogrange County Unitarian Universalist Choir.

Time For All Ages = The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (Author), Rafael López (Illustrator)

Opening Words:- A spoken word performance on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, by a staff member at British Council Sub-Saharan Africa

Closing Words are Go now in peace By Barbara Hamilton-Holway

Postlude: Frank Chen playing his favourite of Chopin’s Nocturnes