December 17, 2014

I Don't Care About Your First-World Problems

As a child growing up in the big city, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I lived in a sinful, hedonsistic, heartless world. The evening news, and my own firsthand experiences, gave me continual daily reminders of man’s inhumanity to man.

Should we oppose racism wherever we see it? Of course. Sexism? Naturally. Injustice, corruption, and general bad attitudes? You betcha. But sometimes, in our nonstop news cycle that cries out for sensational stories, I wonder if we’ve become a nation of crybabies. We claim civil rights violations, seeking attention and vengeance for every slight and offense.
Recently, morning news anchorman Karl Stefanovic (Today show in Australia) revealed that he wore the same dark suit to work every day for a year – and no one noticed. And yet, his female co-anchor received constant scrutiny and criticism for her fashion choices. Sexism! Inequality! Outrage!.

Oh, really? I’m not so sure.

Here’s the thing I learned in my teens, at my first job: Men wear dark suits. Day after day. That’s just how it is. It’s what we do. Take a peek inside the closet of any congressman, head of state, or Fortune 500 executive, and you’ll likely see about a half-dozen look-alike outfits. (Or at least, they look the same to the casual observer at a distance.) In any group photo at any official meeting, most of the men look like they bought the same suit from the same tailor. You might see pinstripes here and there, but no one’s sporting camel hair.

Stefanovic's colleague, alleged victim Lisa Wilkinson, was not rejected for a job, a credit card, college education, or a place to live. She was not molested or robbed, and no one slandered her good character. If she earns less than her male co-anchor, no one has claimed such. The experiment proves nothing, and it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know.

Strange. Wilkinson's defenders are the very people who devote their lives to the cause of women's "empowerment" and "equality." To suggest that she needs special protection from petty criticism, is to turn her into a shrinking violet. This is not a show of strength, or of co-equality with her male colleague. Who told you that you were entitled to be sheltered from every slight and insult? Do you really think you will gain respect or career advancement this way?

If indeed we have institutionalized sexism in our corporate dress codes, consider this: Like almost all male news anchors and readers, Stefanovic is allowed only one form of dress: He must wear a coat and tie, nothing else, period. And yet, Ms. Wilkinson (and almost all women in her position) is afforded the freedom to wear a dress one day and pants the next. On top, she can wear a sweater or a blouse. (And have you seen the ladies on Fox News? There, it's almost-anything goes.) She can wear her hair in any number of styles, long or short, while her male colleague is forced to maintain that short clean-cut look.

A few weeks ago, President Obama sparked a firestorm on Twitter when he wore a beige suit to a press conference. Apparently (in the view of a few pundits) it was too casual for the occasion, while discussing solemn affairs of state. As if he was on his way to a casino, or a Hollywood dinner party. No! He’s supposed to wear a dark suit, like every other man in the room. (See? If you wait long enough, men get persecuted too.)

Early in our marriage, my wife and I shopped around for an apartment in the San Fernando Valley. In one instance the manager showed us a lovely two-bedroom unit, and led us into the master bedroom. It had two closets, one tiny and one huge. Looking at me, he pointed to the smaller of the two: “Mr. Hutson, this one’s for you.”

He had a point; men typically have simple needs, and small wardrobes. (My wife has six pairs of shoes, while I’ve never owned more than two at a time.) Women think fashion, while men think practical. Women seek to be noticed for how they look, while we men feel lucky just to find a clean shirt each day. If you go about seeking feedback on that new dress, you don't get to dictate what those answers should be.

Now before you argue with me, yes I know: My male cousin Shane is a slave to fashion, and must always have the newest thing from FUBU or Dockers or Air Jordan. At the same time, my sister Terri is content to go about in t-shirts and jeans. (She keeps a dress in reserve, waaay in back of her closet, for the occasional wedding.)

This year's G20 summit, a sea of dark suits. Except Frau Merkel.

We live in a violent, troubled world. Wars, disease, and crime will continue for as long as sinful humans populate it. Most of the globe lives in hunger and poverty, even war; and you think you have a tough road? Please, spare me your first-world problems. I don’t want to hear it. If I want celebrity gossip, I can click over to TMZ. Until then, let me watch real news.

1 comment:

  1. Steve, why isn't this guy complaining about sexism in that no one pays attention to him? (And of course they don't --- his co-anchor is a lot easier on the eyes.)