RGB and the Glass Cliff

I probably have a bit more ambivalence about Ruth Bader Ginsburg than the average HRC voter (see: her comments on Colin Kapernick and her grave and unforgivable mistakes in a hugely important decision regarding race and voting rights). However, I admire her strength and her dedication to her work.

Both of these are reasons why I’m concerned about the RGB worship I see happening now. It’s not that folks are wrong to be concerned about her health or amazed by her stamina or thankful that some days she seems like the only thing standing between us and the total corruption of all three branches of our government.

But the hero worship seems to let the rest of us off the hook and to ignore her own complicity in the oppression of black voters–the people who, time and time again, have actually been the ones standing between US democracy, such as it is, and an even worse version of our government.

Above, Jimmy Kimmel suggest we build a bubble to protect RGB.

Looking to women to save us in a time of crisis is a phenomenon known as the glass cliff. A riff on the “glass ceiling,” the term describes companies’ choice to place a woman in leadership when things are looking grim. It’s entered the scholarly lexicon via research in business, but it’s been observed elsewhere. The pattern isn’t entirely consistent, but it’s notable.

The logic seems to take a few different forms:

We see women as more expendable, so we hire them into positions we expect to fire them from.

We see women as having better “soft” skills that might not save a flailing organization but will make the death a bit more bearable. We hire them manage the failures that other leaders–usually men–have brought upon the organization.

We hire women because there is no risk involved. If they succeed, then the company succeeds. If they fail, we’ve been good people who tried to hire a woman, and it just didn’t work out. That gives us the excuse we need to hire men from here on out.

We see women as the ones who are supposed to clean up the messes we make.

I think we may be doing that with RGB now, asking her to bear the consequences of our failure to elect leaderships who respects the right and dignity of each individual. We’re looking to her to save us, and not only is that unfair, it’s lazy.


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