On Work Environments And Well-Intentioned B*llshit

black-business-people1

It’s been roughly a week since the Adria Richards story first went viral. (For those hearing about this for the first time today, read the first 200 or so words of this article, and make sure you have food and fresh coconut water in that cave you’ve obviously been hiding in.) Predictably, this story has created multiple sub-stories about the tech industry, sexism, racism, trolling, concern-trolling, sensitivity, victim-blaming, sexual harassment, patriarchy, and a dozen more of our trendiest blog buzz terms.

***My take? I think degrees of wrong matter. And, saying that Richards—who has been the subject of multiple death threats and was let go by her company—”got what she deserved” for tweeting that picture is akin to saying that if a person steps on your shoe at a club, you have the right to kill them. I think a minor wrong—the guys making the joke¹—led to another minor wrong—Richards taking and tweeting the pic (Yes, I think she was wrong for that). These minor wrongs are the social more equivalent of cutting someone off in traffic. Understandable, unnecessary, and ultimately forgettable. But, they led to a greater wrong—one of the jokesters getting fired—and this led to a chorus of increasingly greater wrongs—Richards receiving death threats and also getting fired. Basically, the equivalent of getting cut off in traffic. But, instead of it stopping there, you find the person who cut you off, follow him home, burn down his house, and sell his pet pit bull to a dog-fighting ring. This was an orgy of increasingly wrong wrongness.*** 

I’m not very interested in those aspects of the story, though. Well, lemme rephrase that. They’re interesting to me, but not as interesting as some of the questions about gendered behavior it brings up.

Before I continue, I need to point out the fact that there are people who believe that gender roles and/or behavior are unnatural and solely a product of socialization. Basically, while it’s true that (generally speaking) men tend to act/think a certain way and women tend to act/think a certain way, these differences only exist because they’ve been taught to us. If free of societal and cultural influence, the only real differences between men and women would be anatomical.

I do not agree with this. While I do agree that certain gender-based expectations are definitely the result of socialization—and can result in (at best) unreasonable expectations and (at worst) using gender-based biases to discriminate and hate—I believe that men and women have some fundamental differences that go past anatomy. These differences don’t make either gender inferior—but they do make us different. Obviously, neither men nor women are monolithic. There are inter-gender exceptions and variances found among all of us. But, saying “men tend to act/think a certain way and women tend to act/think a certain way,” while general, somewhat limiting, and kinda stereotypical, isn’t untrue.

Anyway, whether it’s a locker room, barbershop, ball court, or place of business, if you put a group of men together—and have no women within ear or eyeshot—men are probably going to act a certain way. The tongues might be a little freer, the jokes might be a little dirtier, the air might be a little mustier, and the social dynamics—and the various roles (leader, organizer, alpha, contrarian, etc) we find ourselves in—might be a little more clearly defined.  (I’m sure these types of changes also occur in environments solely populated by women. I imagine the air being a little sweeter, though. Kinda like mango salsa.) 

When you introduce women to these environments, though, behavior tends to change. Sure, you may have a few men threatened by the change who refuse to adjust, but most will eventually self-police because, well, there are woman in the room now. And men who’ve been raised right know that you should adjust your behavior accordingly when women are in the room.

And, this is where it starts to get interesting.

Men—professional men, college-aged men, men in schools, seminars, classes, and conferences—are (rightly) taught that women are just as capable, smart, resourceful, determined, and tough as men are. In a business/professional sense, you’re also taught to treat women the same way you’d treat other men. If you’re not able to do this, you face possible reprimand, you might be fired, and both you and your workplace could be sued.

But, men cannot treat women the exact same way men typically treat other men because, well, (generally speaking) if left to our own devices, we (men) are dicks to each other. So, you’re left with a dynamic where men are taught to “treat women the same way you’d treat men” but also taught to “make the environment more woman-friendly.” Basically, “gender-based differences don’t exist…but please make sure to remember that you can’t act the way you’d normally would with each other.”

There’s a scene in Django Unchained of all places that provides an example of how confusing this type of ambiguity with expected behavior can be. “Django” (Jamie Foxx) and “Schultz” (Christoph Waltz) are visiting “Big Daddy’s” (Don Johnson) plantation. When Schulz and Big Daddy plan to ahead into the house to discuss business, Big Daddy (I hate typing this so many times) instructs one of the slaves (“Betina”, played by Miriam Glover) to give Django a tour.

(Slightly paraphrasing)

Big Daddy: Django isn’t a slave. Django is a free man. You can’t treat him like you would a slave, because he’s a free man. He’s not like that. Do you understand?

Betina: So I should treat him like a White man?

Big Daddy: Heavens no. That’s not what I said.

Betina: Well, I don’t know what you want.

Big Daddy: Yea, I can see how that would be confusing.

Interestingly enough, while the concept of treating women the same as you treat men is considered progressive, if taken literally, it provides some men a justification for misogyny and even violence.

“I mean, if a man who was smaller and weaker than me insulted me like that, I’d punch him in the face. So, since women aren’t any different than men, why can’t I punch her?”

Obviously, this is a dangerous form of semantics-based cherry-picking—basically using a loophole to act out some sort of fantasy—but taking things to its most literal meaning does have a way of exposing a few cracks in a premise’s foundation.

Fortunately, most reasonable men and women seem to have figured out how to deal with these seemingly contradictory gender-based rules. Perhaps it’s because these reasonable people possess a nuanced and multi-faceted understanding of this dynamic, and this understanding allows us to treat each other with fairness. This is also known as being a f*cking professional.

Still, teaching people that we should completely overlook and ignore gender-based differences seems intentionally dishonest, and, if “being a f*cking professional” means that you need to consider “think of and treat her the exact same way you’d think of and treat a man” to be bullshit, then so be it.

¹I can’t neglect to mention that a conversation I had last week with a friend forced me to consider the wrongness of the initial joke in a different way. I thought taking offense to that “harmless” joke was just an example of someone being uber-sensitive. My friend disagreed:

“Of course you’d feel that way, because you’re a man. But…I don’t know, what if you were in her shoes—at a conference surrounded by Whites—and the men behind you were making stupid racial jokes instead of sexual jokes? Would you shrug it off as easily as you said she should have?”

Hmm. 

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Three Thoughts About The Uppercut Heard Round The Internet

1. It was 5th grade and I was on a school bus, headed back from a class field trip. Because we had been acting up on the way there, we had assigned seats. I was sitting next to “Kim Johnson” — a fellow 5th grader who I maybe said five words to the entire time I was in school.

Anyway, I forgot exactly what caused me to do this — I think a friend sitting behind me called my name — but for some reason I felt compelled to turn around in my seat and look behind me. In doing this, I must have accidentally elbowed Kim or allowed my bookbag to brush against her face. My motives remain unknown. What is known, are the consequences.

When I sat down, Kim smacked me in the face harder than I’ve ever been hit by anyone before or since. The smack was so hard that there was an audible gasp from the rest of the bus. I even vaguely remember the teacher chaperone on the bus forgetting where she was and saying “Oh shit!”

Just as memorable as the smack, though, is what I did in response to it: absolutely nothing. I sat down, looked straight ahead, and acted as if she didn’t just smack the shit out of me in front of 30 people. Strangely enough, she did the same thing, and we just sat there in silence until we got back to school.

I didn’t respond because, well, as long as I could remember, my parents (my dad especially) were very adamant about the fact that boys didn’t hit girls, and that boys who hit girls were punk-ass little boys. I wasn’t scared. I just had no idea what the f*ck to do. I’m sure my household wasn’t the only household where this lesson took place, as I’m sure most guys reading this — well, most guys with dads around — were told something similar.

Thing is, at that age, because of the repeated reminders that boys don’t hit girls, I didn’t consider the possibility that some girls actually hit people first. (I really believed all that sugar and spice bullshit, lol) Since I never even considered that possibility, I never thought to ask my dad “Well, what do I do if a girl hits me?” and I’m also certain I’m not the only boy who never thought to ask that.

I’m bringing this all up because that uppercut heard ’round the internet reminded me of the fact that some men — myself included — have absolutely no idea what to do if in a situation where a woman is potentially jeopardizing your safety. I know how to handle a guy — well, I know the socially acceptable ways to handle a guy — but women are a completely different animal. Obviously, “uppercut dat hoe” probably isn’t the best answer, but aside from knowing that I wouldn’t have punched her, I honestly have no idea what I would have done if I was that bus driver. Stop the bus? Restrain her crazy ass somehow? (Btw, it amuses me when people say things like “just restrain her.”  like grabbing someone while they’re smacking, scratching, and spitting on you is the easiest option. Shit, I’m 6’2 and 225 pound and I can’t even restrain my cat. How the f*ck am I supposed to subdue some hoodrat high off the steroids found in project Similac without exerting some real physical force?) Call the police? Call my mom and my sister to come kick her ass? Turn around, walk away, and chance them cracking you in the back of the head with a bottle?

Obviously, stop the bus and call the police is the best option, but while I maintain that he was 100% in the wrong (more on this in a bit), if he’s at all like many of the men I know, I’m (somewhat) sympathetic towards him because most guys don’t sit around thinking about “What should I do if some crazy bitch starts fighting me?” That’s a question I’ve never asked myself, and one of the reasons why I date nothing but bougie Black chicks is that I don’t ever want to.

2. It’s interesting how much of a role gender plays in how we process what happened. For instance, there’d be no negative push back if this was a female bus driver dealing with an unruly male or an unruly female patron. In fact, if it was a female bus driver knocking out some thug who threatened her, she’d probably be on “Good Morning America” this week and she’d get a shout out from the president.

Even more interesting is how much of a role gender played in what happened. If this was some male thug causing the disturbance, I doubt it would have escalated that far because the driver (male or female) probably would have called the police much sooner.

Also — and this is where I lose respect for the driver — if you watch the video, you can hear him saying “You wanna act like a man. I’ll treat you like a man” to the woman he hit. Thing is, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would not have hit another dude like that. None whatsoever. Basically, “I’ll treat you like a man” is him saying “I’m gonna use the “treat you like a man” excuse to hit you in a way that I want people to think I’d hit a man…even though I actually would never dare hitting some random thug dude like that.”

3. You ever play the “are they ok?” game? Not sure? Well, lemme explain it. The “are they ok?” game is played when you’re out in public and you see someone completely bust their ass in a way that makes you want to see if they’re ok. Thing is, the ok has nothing to do with their safety and everything to do with the fact that you want to make sure they’re not seriously hurt first before you start laughing because, well, you don’t want to feel bad about laughing at it. (The difference between “good” and “bad” people? Good people wait to see before laughing, and bad people just don’t give a damn.)

I’m bringing this up because I played a virtual form of the “are they ok?” game after viewing that punch. I googled the woman who was hit just to make sure she was ok, because, well, I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the fact that it might have been the single best uppercut I’ve ever seen.

How impressive was that uppercut? I literally jumped out of my seat when I saw it. Literally. Like, I was sitting at a table, jumped out of my seat, banged my knee on the table, and ended up knocking my laptop and my feta and shrimp omelet on the floor. I need a new laptop now (I still ate the omelet, though). In 10 years, Tyler Perry will buy the rights to that YouTube footage, cast Drake in a dreadlocked wig as the bus driver and Willow Smith as the hoodrat who just really needs a light skinned man to massage her temples at night, set the entire movie in a church parking lot, and call it “Tyler Perry Presents: Drivin Me To Heaven.”

I realize that admiring the actual punch while being disgusted by its existence takes quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. In some way, I think that being a fan of sports — football in particular — makes it a bit easier to make those distinctions. If you ever yelped at a vicious tackle, felt bad when the guy didn’t immediately get up, and felt less bad when you saw that he was going to be ok, you’ve “practiced” being able to process the ambivalent feelings felt when viewing a video like this.

Is this a dangerous thought process? I don’t know. I do know that I’ve viewed that video perhaps a dozen times now, and I feel bad that I don’t feel worse about it.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Five Legitimately F*cked Up Things All Men Do To Women (Yes. All.)

"You sure you don't want some Kool-Aid? I'll even get you some ice. And a pickle."

We’ve all been there before.

Girl invites boy over for movies, lukewarm purple Kool-Aid, and the unspoken assertion that, unless Boy shows up smelling like pickles or dressed like Chris Brown, Boy and Girl are going to have sex that night. Boy manages not to mess things up, and, lo and behold, the night ends with Boy and Girl making the beast with two backs. Boy and Girl have had sex with each other before, so this is no big deal. But, for whatever reason, sex seems to be a bit more intense tonight. The “mac and cheese” sound¹ is in full effect as moans are a little louder, growls are a little deeper, and the concept of time is a complete non-motherf*cking factor. Boy has a laser beam-like focus on Girl’s various spots, making Girl speak languages that have been dead for five centuries. When Girl eventually climaxes, the earth will shake, the moon will blush, and the ghosts of Ikea will place a phantom order to replace Girl’s soon to be broken bed. Girl enthusiastically lets Boy know that she’s 32 to 47 seconds away from orgasm, a statement that excites Boy and forces him hit spots with even more precision. Unfortunately, Boy becomes a bit too excited, and Boy climaxes right when Girl has hit the 5 to 8 second mark. Boy, realizing Girl’s thisclose to a cop calling orgasm, tries to finish the job, but isn’t erect enough to hit Girl’s spots anymore. Seconds later, Boy is completely flaccid. Boy rolls over, says “I’m sorry” and offers to get Girl some lukewarm Kool-Aid while Girl lays in bed and wonders if a female judge would acquit her if she happens to kill Boy but tells the judge her reasoning for the murder.

Regardless of age, color, creed, and feelings about Linsanity, every sexually active man reading this has “stopped short” before. We can’t help it. Even though we know that if we can hold off for just 10 more seconds your body will turn hot day fire hydrant, sometimes we’re just unable to stop.

Sure, there are certain ways to prolong things when this happens (i.e.: think about Kurt Cobain, switch positions, scream “Don’t move a gotdamn inch!!!!”, etc), but sometimes things reach a point of no return, and the woman’s near climax will be forever lost to the deep, dark, surprisingly damp, and surprisingly angry space in space where “close, but not quite orgasms” eventually settle.

Anyway, “stopping short” is just one of the many legitimately f*cked up things all men do to women, and here’s four more. 

2. Eat all of your food, and drink each of your beverages

Out of all the things on this list, this one isn’t really our fault. You can’t say things like “Make yourself at home.” and then get pissed when we take you to your word and eat all of your leftover pizza, half of your Cheetos, each of your lettuce wraps, and a full slab of your turkey bacon. 

3. Pretend like we did absolutely nothing to encourage women to continue flirting with us

It’s usually nothing too disrespectful or too egregious. But, despite how much we feign ignorance, we know when women are flirting with us, and we also know that all it takes to dead the flirting is to act indifferent, apathetic, or even occasionally annoyed. Despite this knowledge, we’ll still return the smile or the hug or the lunch invitation or even ever so slightly laugh at her attempt at “Ok, I’m going to say something that’s supposed to be funny. It’s clearly not, though. Let’s see if he takes the bait and laughs” humor.

4. Intentionally give awful dating advice

My favorite is when men suggest that, since it’s the 21st century, chicks need to “woman up” and start approaching guys.

Nevermind the fact that no man in the history of mandom has ever been in a happy and healthy relationship with a woman who approached, bagged, and pursued him. We’re generally lazy motherf*ckers who just enjoy when women put in some of the work…even though these “working” women probably aint ever gonna make it past the 2am Wendy’s drive-thru.

5. Pretend like we’re completely unable to remember birthdays, anniversaries, plans, shopping instructions, and any other information more important to you than it is to us

Admittedly, I probably do this more than anything else on the list. I can tell you exactly what Michael Jordan’s average PPG was in the 86-87 NBA season without googling it (37.1), but if a woman I happen to be seeing asks me to remember to pick up some eggs and celery from the store before I come home, my brain all of a sudden turns Tyga as I’ll faux-try to remember those difficult-ass details so hard that I’ll start drooling; a elaborate subterfuge with a clear and precise goal in mind: She never asks me to do that again

Anyway people of VSB, I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. Can you think of any other legitimately f*cked up things all men regularly do to women? Also, fellas, can you think of legitimately sh*tty sh*t that all women do to us?

¹When sex is very good, it sounds like a pot of mac and cheese being mixed with a wooden spoon.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

link of the week: “why men marry some women and not others”

last week, vsb reader p. merchant forwarded us a link to john t. molloy’s “why men marry some women and not others“, a comprehensive statistical study examining each gender’s dating, mating, and marriage tendencies.

although marriage was the focus of his research, many of his findings translate for all people, matrimony-minded or not. here’s six of them

1. men do have a biological clock, based on their desire to be an active father (especially to their sons)

2. all wives are trophy wives—men marry women whom they admire and like to show off (but not necessarily for their physical appearance)

3. men believe that they can size up a woman in 5 minutes. They’re usually wrong. If a man doesn’t call, it’s because he realizes that he made a mistake.

4. men don’t typically think of themselves as “dating” until after 4-6 dates

women typically think of themselves as “dating” after 2-3 dates, hence the problem

5. the fact that your man doesn’t bring you roses, but instead plops on your couch to watch TV and takes you for granted is actually a natural stage and the hallmark of almost all serious relationships—not a deal-killer.

6. the women who insist on being treated well are 2x as likely to end up marrying their man. no one marries a servant

so, people of vsb, what say you? which is gospel, and which is garbage? speak your minds and sh*t.

–the champ

two reasons why men are “better” at friendship than women are

one of my favorite educated guesses is the fact that, if you were to poll both genders about their “closest friends”, at least 25-30 percent of the women would probably name a man, while maybe 5-6 percent of the men would name a woman. although i have absolutely no statistical data to back me up, i’m completely sure that this is true, mainly because of the commonly held notion that men make better friends than women do.

as you’ve probably inferred, i happen to agree with this, but i’ve always wondered why it’s true. what exactly is it that makes a typical man better at friendship than a typical women would be?

today, in typical extraordinarily sexxxy vsb.com fashion, we’ll examine two reasons why men are “better” at friendship than women are.

1. sports

while it’s true that many men use sports as a bonding activity and/or entertainment venue, it’s main purpose is to serve as a completely subtle and in-depth subconscious character study. you see, the way a guy approaches sports usually provides a snapshot of his entire life.

***note. this also applies to women who have been involved in organized sports at some level. the female athlete’s i’ve known have all seemed to have healthier friendships than the “typical” woman***

if he’s been a die-hard fan of a team since childhood, he’s probably loyal to a fault (and also a bit stubborn). the basketball court ball-hog who’s pissing off all of his teammates by attempting all of the latest and-1 tricks during the games at the park is undoubtedly an immature assh*le who can’t be trusted, but you’d happily introduce your sister to the cat who never calls fouls and tries to get everyone involved (unless, of course, its jason kidd). if his favorite players are flashy, yet cancerous losers like t.o. or starbury, then you can assume that he’s lacking in the character department and is probably a diva dude in disguise.

also…

play fair. pass to the open man. take one for the team. compete your heart out, and shake hands afterwards. guard your man. pay attention. listen to your coach. don’t let the crowd distract you. play your position. know your role.

…many of the tenets learned through sports mimic the qualities most people value in a close friend.

the culture of sports provides a fool-proof character building, character testing, character challenging, and character evaluating process. there’s no equivalent for women, no analogous process that gives them the same test, a fact which gives many men an inherent edge on women when it comes to picking and being close friends.

2. men understand anthropology

why, you ask, is an understanding of anthropology important when discussing men and friendship? what does the “study of humanity” have do to with why guys make better friends than women do?

well, since anthropology is the study of humanity, and since a person well-versed in the study of humanity is somewhat familiar with recent population statistics, a man with a solid understanding of anthropology realizes that theres roughly 3.5 billion female humans on the planet.

basically, there’s enough ***insert crude euphemism for “vagina*** to go around, so there’s no use in sharing it…especially if its already been “tainted” by someone in our immediate circle.

we also understand that, in order to keep the population growing, we need to keep having sex. (preferably) with women. because we understand anthropology, we dont take it personally when one of our friends ditches us for a woman. in fact, we encourage and applaud it. we like the earth, and we want it to continue and sh*t.

hmmm. this all sounds about right to me. damn, it kind of sucks being right all of the time.

**actually, to be honest, it doesn’t suck. not at all.  i just couldn’t think of anything else to conclude the entry**

—the champ