How the Big Boys Do It

The author of Taking On The Big Boys: Or Why Feminism Is Good For Families, Business, and the Nation, Ellen Bravo, delineates six ways that “the Big Boys” (the mysterious “they” who run things) diminish feminism’s messages and take away her power. They:

Minimize–What problem? (Things are fine the way they are.)
Trivialize–That’s a problem? (Women have it made.)
Patronize–You don’t understand the problem (how things work).
Demonize–You’re the problem. (You’re just a bunch of ugly women who can’t get men.)
Your solution will cause greater problems. (You’re going to hurt someone else if you get want you want.)
Compartmentalize–You’re the only one who sees this as a problem. (Other groups have more urgent problems.)

It’s not just the heads of government or business who use these tactics. We’ve all heard them in our own homes. We’ve probably used the same tactics ourselves (like with our children). And you can bet that whoever uses these words is not really listening. They can’t afford to, because they’ve already made up their minds that they don’t want to change the way they do things.

People resist change. Even those who think that they embrace change have routines they’ve become used to, habits, if you will, and they get angry when someone tries to mess with them. And one of the things they really don’t want to change is the way they think.

People are also lazy. It takes real effort and a certain amount of humility to see another person’s point of view, let alone to concede that they may have a point. It’s easy to stay stuck in your rut. It’s much harder to let someone else tell you that you need to get out of it or even how to get out of it.

And what about those of us who are doing the talking? How do we handle the tactics of the Big Boys? Strangely enough, we need to listen, too. We need to hear what they’re really saying in order to shape our own arguments. We need to educate ourselves about the other person’s position in order to solidify our own.