Symbiotic Growth by Jason Hallman and Stephen Stum

Symbiotic Growth by Jason Hallman and Stephen Stum

Diversity and symbiosis: Twin principles that allow eco-systems to thrive. – Otto Scharmer

I’ve been struggling with this post for days. I’m passionate about the topic, and yet it is so difficult to address in writing as a white American male. Women have been abused, manipulated, silenced, disregarded, dishonored, and dismissed by men for millennia. I am not responsible, but I am. This is why it is difficult to write.

I was on a call this fall listening to the perspectives of women who have been working in two of many male-dominated realms: the boardroom and technology. I found myself pacing, feeling horrified, angry, and awkward hearing their stories. While it was difficult to listen, I was not surprised. I hate the judgment my wife receives as a woman who owns a business.

Prejudice, Language, and Questioning

What am I to do with this?

The conversations around male advocacy have picked up steam but are complicated. My experience and privilege are different than a woman’s.  Still, I can listen, believe their experience, and speak up — especially to my son.

We all have prejudices. We are human, so we quietly (or loudly) form judgments based on what could potentially help or harm us. It’s unavoidable. We cannot rid ourselves of judgment. We can only bring our judgments into consciousness which may or may not cause them to slowly crumble based on our beliefs and values.

I can speak out against misogyny and obvious sexism, but there are many more subtleties that I often catch within myself. Some Concerned Feminists did a great job of bringing this to attention recently in the form of a workplace bingo card. Our language matters, and it reflects our own biases and prejudice.

Any time I assume a cultural default (female nurse, straight athlete, male carpenter, black rapper, etc.) in my language, my prejudices leak. Pronouns of presumption (the unknown boss is a “he”) collectively have an impact. When I’m aware of my assumptions, I have the opportunity to ask, “Where does this come from?” “Is it true?” “Does it match my values?”

Asking myself and others these questions is key to chipping away at the effects of prejudice. “Why do I want to hire him/her?” “Why did I use that word?” “Why did I choose that gift for my nephew or niece?” Asking these questions is not about political correctness, it’s about becoming more conscious.

The Value of Diversity

Why am I a feminist?

The diversity that exists in the world is a representation of the diversity that exists in me. Every time the world embraces more difference, we all have more freedom.

I applaud the many people doing the work of social justice in the world. We need people to point out inequality wherever it exists. My part is to bring the light of awareness to my own prejudices, own them, and take action. I am a feminist because I want to live in a world of equal opportunity where differences are respected and honored. I value diversity and believe that our complementarities are essential for well-being. We need difference in order to thrive.

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