I was recently invited to attend a most fascinating debate at Harvard University. The debate was sponsored by the National Organization for Creative Logic Underpinning Everything, known more commonly to the world as NO CLUE. The topic was "Is our society a patriarchy?" and the judges were a panel of professors selected from each of the social science departments. I was told it would be a wonderful debate because of the fame of the two debaters. Taking the side of the affirmative would be the famous feminist professor from the school's Center for Women's Studies, Professor Gloria Steimen. Defending the opposite side would be the world renowned practitioner of Creative Logic, Dr. Harry Brain. How could I refuse such an intriguing invitation?
The debate was rather untraditional in format in that Dr. Brain relied on slides to make his point. I'm going to paraphrase the debater's arguments, using links to online versions of Dr. Brain's slides so you can follow along. While the debate went back and forth between the two contestants in the usual manner, I'm presenting the arguments separately for convenience.
Dr. Brain made his case this way:
Have you ever noticed who actually rules the planet? Look closely at the heads of state, the CEOs, the media moguls, the billionaires. What do you see? Almost all of them have black hair. Black-haired people run the show. Our culture privileges black-haired people. Children learn at an early age that black-haired people are the beautiful ones; just think of Snow White, and Wonder Woman and Superman. Who controls the mass media? Black-haired people like Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner. Who gets to be a big-time T.V. news anchor? Peter Jennings, Walter Cronkite, Christiane Amanpour--all black-haired. Who become big rich CEOs? Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Oprah Winfrey: guess what color their hair is? Heads of state, same thing: Barack Obama, David Cameron, Ji Jinping, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir.
Oh sure, if you look hard you can find an occasional blond or red-haired person among the upper class. These are mere tokens, of course, used by the black-hairs to disguise what's really going on. It's quite obvious that we live in a global black-hair-archy. It's been this way for so long that we have gotten so used to it that we don't see anything unusual about it anymore. But the black-hair-archy is an oppressive and unjust social system. Black-haired people rule, and they use their power to oppress the non-black-hairs. Just think about it. If you are a blond person and you apply for a job, who is most likely going to decide if you get it? A black-hair, that's who. Who sits on the college admissions boards? Black hairs. (And, yes, the occasional token red-head or blond.) If you go before a judge in criminal court, what color hair will the judge likely have? Black again!
But things are going to change! Blond/Brown and Red-haired (BBR) Studies Centers are sprouting up on college campuses. They are teaching the BBRs the truth about the black-hair-archy. BBRs are learning that the oppression they experience is not just their personal fault but rather is caused by the systemic oppressiveness of black-hair-archy. They are learning to see black-hairness as the root cause of oppression in our society. They are learning to celebrate BBRness, and to see that what is positive in our society comes from BBRness.
We have even begun to win over the good black-hairs (yes, there are a few good ones, though not many) to join us in fighting the black-hair-archy that privileges black-hairs and benefits them in so many unfair ways.
Professor Steimen rebutted Dr. Brain with stunning force. Here is the jist of what she said:
How can you claim that black-haired people are the ruling class when so many black-haired people are not in positions of power at all and are getting harmed by the rulers of society? Don't you see what is right in front of your eyes? The rulers are almost all MEN! So what if some or even most of the ruling class people are black-haired. It's their maleness, not their hair color, that makes them oppressive. BBRness isn't what opposes oppression in society; femaleness does. Every woman who has ever been annoyed at a man just knows that men are the problem in the world. Men make life hell for women all of the time. They die younger than women and get killed far more in wars, thus leaving women alone to fend for themselves. How cruel is that! Men divert money away from paying for useful things towards things that don't help women at all, like all the prisons we build and operate to take care of all those good for nothing male prinsoners. We should be using that money for colleges, where the students are mostly women. But no, it all goes to male-occupied prisons. How fair is that?
Patriarchy is everywhere, and the men are obviously running the show for themselves and against women. How else explain that we waste so much of our health care budget treating men instead of women? Men are the idiots who sustain most on-the-job injuries, and men are the jerks who get all those expensive procedures to patch them up after they lose a leg or something fighing in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Men obviously call the shots everywhere. When a couple gets divorced, who usually ends up having to take care of the children? The mother. Who has to clean and maintain the big family home? The mother. And who is the lucky person who gets to say goodbye to the children except for a weekend now and then; and who gets to live alone in a small apartment that requires virtually no housecleaning? The father, that's who. And what does the father have to do for this privilege? Nothing except to pay some money in child support and alimony--big deal, it's money he doesn't even need anymore.
You, Dr. Brain, seem to have some irrational obsession with hair color. It makes no logical sense at all. The problem is obviously men and patriarchy, not your stupid black-hair-archy.
The debate was gripping to listen to. Every point made by one debater was countered with a compelling argument to the contrary. As I listened, I felt like I was watching a tennis match, with my head going from left to right back and forth, with what seemed like impossible to return shots being amazingly returned. Each seemingly irrefutable argument on one side was met with an unanticipated rejoinder from the other. I kept wondering, who will be the declared winner?
This debate ended in a most unusual manner. The panel of judges took an extraordinarily long time to come to a decision. Finally, they announced their verdict. They declared the debate a draw. Each side, they said, was equally compelling and logical. I thought about this and realized that the judges were absolutely right.
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