Saturday, January 10, 2004
A General says what?
"Gosh, General, I can't imagine why anyone would ever say such a thing, sir."
. . . .
My favorite quote from the article comes a little bit later. It's from Wisconsin Lt. Governor Barbara Walton. She said: "When I met him, I wanted to know what happens if you interrupt and challenge a general. I didn't want to be party to the election of one more defensive, arrogant male. What I found was that it's part of his nature to understand the lives of women."
She's stumping for the General, so I guess we can assume that he isn't just another defensive, arrogant male--he also wears sweaters. But what interests me here is that if you look beyond the casual male bashing then you see that a connection is being implied between a conversational strategy of 'interrupting and challenging' and the 'lives of women.'
It should be noted that this isn't a connection Lt. Gov. Walton is meaning to draw. Rather, the point she was trying to make had less to do with a woman's prerogative to interrupt than with the demonstrably true fact that lots of men just don't listen to women's voices. So what she's really saying is that Gen. Clark does listen. And if that's true, then bully for him.
Still, as I read the quote, what it literally says is that the way you show your (male) sensitivity is by not minding when people (ok, women) dispute your statements before you've completed your sentence. Speaking as a defensive, arrogant male who doesn't mind being challenged but hates being interrupted, I have a problem with this standard.
Worse, though, is the idea that women's discourse is somehow typified by impatient carping, and that male sensitivity lies in a capacity to tolerate this regrettable weakness. As I said before, this isn't an idea Lt. Gov. Walton is meaning to convey. But it's right there on the surface of her statement. And, by the way, it's an idea that has more than a little currency.
While I think Lt. Gov. Walton could afford to be a little more careful in her choice of words, my point here is not to criticize her. Rather, I think that her statement has koan like profundity in the way that it makes a point about conversational charity in such a way that it's almost impossible not to be aware of the uncharitable reading. And I think that's kind of neat.