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A critique of the ‘Anti-Feminist Manifesto’

First of all, let’s make the actual title of the text clear: it is called “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber“.

Clarifying that is important, not just because it changes the skepticism with which you approach the memo, but also because he actually asks people to be a little bit more open. Though he eventually descends into (less than subtle) misogyny, the author, who was recently let go from his job at Google, is asking for an open conversation on elements that hardcore inter-sectional feminists should consider.

He starts off with a very moderate view of sociological issues and goes so far as to acknowledge sexism as an issue. Somehow, the first time he says it, it doesn’t sound like an “I’m not a misogynist, but…”
In fact, it sounds fairly interesting, with a genuine issue regarding echo chambers – a concept anyone with a right mind would protest. In this business of journalism, as with any sphere wherein you’ll discuss and debate current affairs, divergence in opinions and arguments is crucial.

UTD Mercury

The former Google engineer felt unable to challenge viewpoints at work. Credit: UTD Mercury

In this case, though, it’s more an issue regarding “psychological safety” and the reason why this ‘echo chamber’ has been implemented in the Google workplace handbook. He says, “Shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.” Truer words have never been spoken. Open conversations are what most public figures of our generation encourage. Be honest with people and make information accessible to those who are curious enough to ask.

After that is where the author and I, a feminist, part ways: he says that there should be more discussions, which is fair. What isn’t fair is someone expecting feminists to be open for debates and enquiries at all times of the day. If you’re at work and you want to be focusing on the task at hand – as one rightly should when growing in their career – you can’t always be the Walking and Breathing Feminist Handbook.

People who want to understand issues better and question ‘liberal tendencies’ can seek information in their own time and find forums where people are more than willing to clarify obscure concepts.

Blue Nation Review

Matt McGorry, from Orange is the New Black, is an ardent feminist. Head over to his Twitter for your enquiries. Credit: Blue Nation Review

Continuing in his line of argument on exclusivity, the author expresses a concern for extreme political partisanship – which should never rule a workplace. His issue remains with the left, which he believes insists too much on inclusion quotas and change. “A company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services),” a sentence which sounds like it’s come straight out of our grandparents’ mouths. He values ‘pragmatism’ in the values of the right yet lets emotion shine through in his objection to the left’s values.

Our world and our trades are being globalised – if a company wants to grow, it needs to find the aspects and services which bring profit to the business and improve the product. If that means improving the company’s image by encouraging women and the LGBT community to apply (and gathering more talent), then perhaps the problem isn’t with the HR system, so much as it is with those too used to privilege.

This isn’t the only time the author contradicts himself if you read between the lines. He dislikes growth, development, and ridding oneself of the superfluous, but he says that men are more interested in  STEM projects with limited human contact. By criticising change, he casts a negative light on competition and implies that he would prefer the safety of a settled position, which he later describes as a feminine trait. In fact, he says that women naturally come to the decision between a career and a stable home-life, which isn’t portrayed as an obstacle in a man’s life.

Speaking of nature vs nurture (a concept he doesn’t really explore), the author seems to have a very skewed definition of feminism. “Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males.” Pardon my French, but no sh*t? I’ve not studied Queer History, Gender Studies or foreign cultures so there might be some civilisation in which men are forced to adopt the social and anatomical traits of womanhood, and if this exists, I’d love to be redirected to some relevant reading.
Until then, I’ll interpret this point as the author believing that the movement he is suggesting we cool on is about feminising everyone and rejecting masculinity completely. If that’s right, he really needs to talk to an expert.

However, this is an excellent aspect of sociology to discuss: he says that women lean more towards feelings and aesthetics, being more interested in listening and empathising with someone. If he did a bit of research, the author would be quick to find that this is a nurtured trait. Women are raised to be listeners, to support people and essentially fall in line with the ‘Behind every great man’ idea. You’ll find a lot of us have much more ‘masculine’ traits, simply because a lot of us have work to do and are more focused on the end goal than on having a conversation about how we’re feeling. That’s a tangent into mental health, though.

Your Story

Like anyone, women cannot be generalised. The traits you often associate with them come from society’s expectations. Credit: Aditya Ranade

This manifesto is destined for a more balanced working environment at the Google offices. Discussing an alternative to ‘coddling’ ‘minorities’, the author explains that neurons “contribute […] to the lower number of women in high stress jobs,” and I really want to challenge a point here: credibility. What’s said here is that women generally can’t handle the stress in the upper ranks whereas men can.

We have got to consider the factors that tend to push women off the career ladder: we don’t train them for it.
When you’re raised thinking you’re lucky people will listen to you, you will put more effort and consideration into your work. When pitching something, though, you’ll likely have a dose of impostor syndrome and not think you’re worth the attention. Reversely, when you’ve been encouraged to be assertive, you’ll be more naturally confident in your work.

I do want to clarify that when I say ‘naturally’, I mean that the brain is rewired in the formative years. A girl raised with the same social expectations as a boy will probably be more confident and successful. That’s just an assumption, though.

An issue throughout Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber is the underlying theme of self-pity. As a feminist and a journalist, I approached this text with pure curiosity. At first, the words made sense and the statements were fair; you should feel free to engage in debates which challenge world views. You should also consider that in a workplace, the important thing isn’t to question current affairs so much as to get the job done and support a positive environment.

The author’s problem seems to be that he doesn’t know where he fits in the new world order. Having been raised with the mentality that whatever he wanted, he could have with only a little bit of hard work, he’s now being challenged and is resorting to a cry for help – he wants someone to hold his hand. We all get that, but blaming others is rarely the answer.

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