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[Note:  This post is bound to be one of the most controversial to appear on Prometheus Speaks.  Whenever members of an oppressed group are criticized, it sparks a defensive reaction that can overshadow whatever legitimacy the criticisms may have and prescriptions for remedying the situation.  I would ask readers not just to focus on the parts of the piece that they may find troubling and dismiss the post as misogyny, but to rather recognize that the piece is mostly about celebrating certain core virtues of women and arguing for giving them greater prominence in our society.  Readers should note that men also come in for criticism in this piece.  I hope that when you read the piece carefully, you will recognize that it is a clarion call to give more power to the important gifts women have to offer all of us.]

Women are surrendering in droves, and we are all paying the price for it.  What I mean by “surrender” is that women are increasingly abandoning the qualities and virtues that made them not only special, but even superior to men in some respects.  These qualities would include a nurturing spirit, extraordinary emotional intelligence and empathy, a perspective on society that perceives of it as a web of relationships rather than as a collection of atomized individuals, an emphasis on cooperation over competition, and a preference for harmony over conflict.

Unfortunately, women have been increasingly failing to see these qualities as the enormous source of power that they are.  Instead, sensing that they had lost out in the power game to men for too long, women have ceded to men the right to define what is virtuous.  Not surprisingly, men have defined as virtuous strengths certain qualities associated more with men and have designated certain female qualities as unvirtuous weaknesses.  Accordingly, desirous of gaining power, women have over the past several decades been increasingly shedding some of their finest qualities and instead have been adopting certain male attributes, such as ruthless competitiveness, deceit, betrayal, vengefulness, and hyper-rationality.  I do not mean to suggest that all or even most men reflect such qualities, but I think it is undeniable that for most of history, they have been far more prevalent in men than in women.  No doubt, some of this may be due to an unfortunate pressure women feel not just to perform as well as men, but even to outperform them.  So, even as women have gained significant power over the past several decades and thus may be seen as “winning,” for the reasons mentioned above they are also “losing.”  In other words, women are increasingly replacing some of their most noteworthy values with some of the worst qualities normally associated with men.  When women make this choice in a bid to increase their power, can it be said that they have won anything?  Of course not, and the sad thing is that we all lose as a result.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

This “surrender” is deeply damaging to society, which needs female virtues to play a more prominent role and for certain qualities associated with men to recede, rather than the other way around.  Some may object that what I am arguing for is intended to keep women weak and subjugated.  That is nonsense.  My intention is very much the opposite.  Women must start to recognize their qualities as gifts to humanity and not as weaknesses to be shunned.  They must do this before it is too late — before some important female virtues are driven to the point of extinction and male ruthlessness increasingly dominates our society.

Now, as in the case of men, the trend described above is by no means true of all women or even most.  I could not give you a number or percentage of those women who do.  It is merely my impression, as someone who has spent a good number of years in both the public and private spheres of this world, that these changes are taking place.  Please also note that I am not suggesting that the female and male attributes referred to above are hard-wired into female or male brains or DNA, although there is evidence that they may be to some extent.  What I am suggesting is that we are moving towards a less binary humanity, but that the female contribution to that new humanity is being lost.

One apt example of a woman who reflected a number of the female virtues to which I am referring above was Princess Diana.  An excellent mother by all accounts, she was a deeply sensitive and empathetic person.  She devoted herself to eliminating the deadly threat of landmines, and her legendary visits with AIDS victims, for whom she never hesitated to show affection at a time when so many people were afraid to touch or even be near them.  These visits are looked on today as beautiful and brave acts of kindness that undoubtedly did much to buoy the spirits of those suffering from that cruel disease and drew attention and resources to care for them and treat AIDS.  Diana had a remarkable knack for connecting with people, who sensed her caring and sensitivity to their challenges.  She was a royal who used her power for exploits much more important than cutting ribbons at community centers.  It should come as no surprise that following her untimely death, she became known as the “People’s Princess,” and that her passing was mourned around the world.  Now, that is power.

However, this is not to say that the reverse dynamic is not also taking place.  One need only look to the more active role taken by fathers in raising their children to see that they are taking on some roles previously consigned to women.  And, if we value female virtues, we must encourage that migration of responsibilities.  Unfortunately, male qualities are migrating to the female mindset more than female virtues are being adopted by men.  (This is obviously an anecdotal conclusion and not one that can be proven empirically.)  In this regard, I have encountered women who are every bit as adept at bullying as men.  The most ardent adopters of the male qualities noted above among women sadly cease to be beacons to humanity and, in the most extreme cases, can come to be indistinguishable from the worst of men.  What good does it do to have more women CEOs and members of congress, if they are morally and cognitively indistinguishable from their male counterparts?  We need women who celebrate and value feminine virtues and who recognize the power that resides in them.  Will women have won anything if the price for their power is to surrender the best of what they have to offer us?

We need only look to the excesses of the Me Too movement to see this dynamic at work.  While that movement has shined a much-needed light on the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace and has led to accountability for some egregious cases of abusive conduct, it has also been characterized by instances of stale or spurious allegations that have destroyed careers with little or no due process for the accused.  Perhaps one of the best examples of this was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s crusade against Sen. Al Franken for some clownish behavior in his earlier comedic career that wrecked the political career of a man who was undoubtedly a feminist ally.  Unfortunately, some women seem to have found in the movement a powerful cudgel with which to seek vengeance for their mistreatment and oppression at the hands of men for so much of history.  The movement should be about ensuring that women do not have to endure sexual harassment in the workplace, not about getting even for past oppression of women, regardless of how valid women’s grievances may be.

So, what are we to do?  First and foremost, women must wake up to what I have described above.  They must proudly reclaim their endangered virtues and shed the worst of the male qualities they have adopted.  And they must demonstrate how those virtues are a source of power and vitality, while pointing out the destructive and deleterious nature of some of the qualities that men have unfortunately painted as acceptable.

Likewise, enlightened men must do the same.  They must shed qualities that masquerade as virtues and be prepared to fold the best of feminine values into their mindset.  And enlightened men must see themselves as allies of women and support them as women reclaim and repurpose the qualities that make them so crucial to the human project.  I can tell you that, in doing so, they will have the full support of this member of the XY chromosome club.  And if they can wield their power judiciously and courageously, I suspect that a lot more members of that club will follow.

When women surrender their best qualities and adopt in their place certain repugnant notions of correct conduct, it is not just women who lose.  We all do.