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Zoe Cruz: Women and models of power Part 1

Last night I was reading in New York Magazine about how Zoe Cruz was fired from Morgan Stanley. The story begins with a description of how she went to a meeting with her boss, CEO John Mack, expecting to be named his successor, but instead ends up getting fired. The rest of the story describes how Zoe Cruz was basically, punished by her male colleagues who openly hated her, ignored by her subordinates, and betrayed by her mentor. It also describes how this was partly a result of Zoe Cruz playing too well the game by adopting the aggressive power style of the men around her and the men being bristled by that.

I read the article with distress for what it means to be a women in positions of significant leadership. The lingering animosity towards powerful women 20-30 years older than me affects women of my generation and below. Generational changes will address some of this, so I can partly wait it out. But for the next 10-15 years, when I hopefully have made a transition from emerging leader to just leader, what model of power do I adopt?

Male Power?

Having attended Bryn Mawr College, I've been exposed to women who have adopted a stereotypical male style of elite power. Zoe Cruz would fit into that category as well as many women in their 50s and 60s in elite positions of power like Hillary Clinton. I do not forget that Condeleezza Rice is called the "Ice Princess." In many ways, it makes sense that this would be their survival strategy, when they were so greatly outnumbered and the hostility toward their presence so open.

It is of course a double-edged sword to adopt "male power," because I hear male colleagues all the time criticizing female colleagues, students, and me for being stubborn (i.e. holding strong opinions), self-centered  (i.e. being independent), bossy (i.e. holding people accountable for what they say but fail to do), arrogant (i.e. believing in self more than the low estimation that they hold of your abilities, especially when you deliver on your promises), and cold (i.e. not crying when they do really mean things to you).

Yet, especially as an African-American woman, who comes from a deep matriarchal structure (and not because there were no men, its just the women are awesome human beings), I am willing to hold to my opinions, structure my relationships to optimize independence, hold people accountable for what they fail to do, believe in my own abilities without them needed to be reinforced by someone else's approval, and will not cry if you do really mean things to me (not in public). And in the past, I have been betrayed by colleagues (male and female) for being so. The great thing about being independent is that while your ego can be shattered by these events, they in no way affect your material well being, so you are easily able to regain equilibrium. And once you put your ego back together, you learn.

I've learned to hold my opinions yet seek to find shared opinions with others, remain independent but structure projects so that all can contribute what they do best, continue to hold people accountable and get rid of them if they are not (this is a must), believe in my own abilities but praise the abilities of others, and still not cry if people do really mean things to me. The truth is that I don't know any great models for what I've been doing with power, lately.

I mean I get bits a pieces from people. Praising people I've learned best from Ric Grefe. I think it comes from working with a mostly volunteer effort, so payment is only in affection and praise. Remaining independent but structuring for contribution I've learned from Robert Feldman. Holding my opinions but finding shared opinions I've learned from Ken Friedman. Not crying in public, except when you really need to, I've learned from Hillary Clinton.  And perhaps that is all that you can get is learning bits and pieces from people.

But also having attend Bryn Mawr, there is the Goddess model of power. Tomorrow, I shall explore that more.

Democracy versus Expediency: the Democratic Race

I am completely baffled by calls in the media and blogosphere for Hilary to throw in the towel. The NY Times' Jody Cantor, again  raised the question of whether a long campaign will hurt the Democratic party. But by asking Hilary Clinton to quit the raise, when any where from 40-60% of the people are still voting for her, would we not hurt democracy?

Indiana, whose citizen's votes rarely count in the Presidential Primary because the decision is over by Super Tuesday in February, is going to be relevant for deciding who our next Democratic candidate will be. Montana and South Dakota,  last on the primary calendar, should be relevant come June.

Democracy is good for the Democratic party because democracy reflects the will of the people. If the people are divided in their will that process should be allowed to follow its course. To say that the millions of people should not have the right to make a difference seems worse than any fracturing of the Democracy party that can happen at the August Convention.

Shame on those picking expediency for the political parties over the democratic process of the people.

Neighborhood in the inter-racial zone

This past weekend I rediscovered why I love the neighborhood in Chicago where I live. It's a neighborhood that was formerly Italian, but now has an inter-racial and inter-class mix of old Italian-American families,  loft-dwelling yuppies, Black and Latino young families, students, and me. It's a neighborhood where people hang out at the stores and the shop keepers know you by sight, if not by name.

So this weekend, I went to my local hardware store, where the Italian-American owner in his 50s, and his Irish (40s) and Italian-American friends (60s) were discussing the election. The owner asked me whether I thought that "the blacks," which he apologized for using but he did not know the correct term, was only voting for Obama because he was black. I thus explained the complexity of black America's relationship with Barack Obama. Later a man of Mexican origin joined, and  we all ended up having a pointed but substantive conversation about reparations (we were all against, but for different reasons), whether racism was better now or in the past (most said now, the shop owner said in the past), who has the highest IQ Condoleezza Rice or Oprah (Oprah has a higher emotional IQ, Condi has higher analytical IQ), and about the state of the world today.

Afterwards, we were all amazed by the fact that we could have such a intelligent and in-depth discussion about such delicate topics without anyone getting offended or upset. It made me think that things are much better in the US regarding race relations.

Design policy: viral generations and best interests

Yesterday, I had lunch with one of my favorite people, Randy Mark. We had a very interesting discussion about the underlying assumptions of those trained in economics and generation differences in how we approach problem solving. So he started with the statement that most economists are trained to believe that people understand best their own self interests and thus make decisions that seek to optimize their interests. This in some ways is contrasted to some Marxist positions that imply that people's consciousnesses need to be raised so that they can understand what their true interests are.

As an anthropologist, I always believe that people understand best their own self interests. This is why you seek to understand and represent their experiences on their own terms through an ethnographic perspective. Yet, I also believe that people's decision-making is (1) constrained by the circumstances under which they can make choices and (2) not always rational because there are often conflicts amongst the various "best" interests that one holds. So what the Marxist position addresses is the conditions of the constrained circumstances and mitigating conflicts among best interests. The latter it does but telling you to prioritize your class interests over those of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationalism, etc. I tend to waiver on the Marxist thing because of the whole "false consciousness" thing. I tend to be more Gramscian, in that you can have contradictory consciousness but not false consciousness. Note: Antonio Gramsci was a philosopher who gave us the terms hegemony and contradictory consciousness. His Prison Notebooks was required reading in almost all of my classes as Stanford in Anthropology and Modern Thought and Literature.

But assuming that you assume people know their bests interests although they may be constrained in acting on them, how do big problems, such as those of policy, get solved? What Randy stated is for his generation (the Baby Boomers), you get a bunch of smart people in the room and have them come up with the solution. This approach made since before the ubiquity of the Internet made access to information more widely available. One could assume that only a few "experts" had access to the right information located in Academies and Think Tanks and thus could be informed to make important decisions.

For my generation, the approach is much more distributed, localized, and viral. You get a bunch of people all over the world with deep knowledge of their local conditions, have them post information in a digital format (YouTube, listserve, email, etc.), and through nodal to nodal sharing inform themselves of similarities and differences in how they should approach policy decisions. This is the basis of the proposal I want to put together for the IFG Ulm designing politics competition. A kit-o-parts for DIY Design Policy that creates a global common framework for capturing, communicating, and comparing design policy issues that respects the local conditions and local knowledge.

Anyway, it was really great discussion, which I hope to be able to have more often. 

Life and Taxes

I don't know if I have been hanging out with the IRS too long or I've acclimated myself to government forms, but I just completed my taxes in about 1 hour and 15 minutes, including gathering up all the supporting documents. More surprisingly, I found the entire process very easy in spite of the complications of now having business income (Requiring Schedule C-EZ) and filing married separately.

For the past 6-7 years,  Mohammed and I had HR Block do our taxes because Mohammed was an immigrant and a student, so there were always complications with fellowships and stuff. So this year was the first time that I had to use the IRS 1040 form.pdf in a long time. It was really simple to use (mostly because I don't have all those crazy deductions and credits that make it complicated).  Yet, there were also cool aspects of the design that made it easy to follow.

For example, the Adjusted Gross Income section was indented so that if you had them, you can do the calculations without confusing you when you get to the total. If you did not have Adjusted Gross Income, you could skip the entire section until the last row in which you could place the out-dented total adjusted income.

Or how in the Tax and Credit Section or Payment Sections, the really complicated calculations are indented, with the final totals out-dented.

Other usable design elements were the listing of which additional forms to attach and where one should place data from those forms, such as the Schedule C for business income or Form 3903 for moving expenses.

So it becomes an interesting problem that it is not the design of the IRS forms that make paying taxes complicated, but rather the tax laws and itemization and credits that make it complicated. I could imagine a situation in which you have several additional forms to complete for different line items. Yet, the 1040 Form is not complicated in and of itself. But again, I've been hanging out with the IRS a long time, perhaps I've drunken the Kool-Aid.

Vanity Fair and Iran-Contra II

Most often of Saturdays, but today on Wednesday, I went to my favorite European Cafe on Halsted and Grand. Part of my post Tai-Chi class ritual is to go to the Blue Iguana for Nutella Crepes (served after 1:30pm) and to read magazine confections (namely W or Vogue).  Now, I do not subscribe to magazines. I read various newspapers/magazies online, NYTimes, Guardian, Salon, The New Yorker, etc. I used to read the Atlantic Monthly, but they did not have a web-only subscription and I don't like collecting paper magazines. Today, I read Vanity Fair. And I've come to the realization, that I really love, love, love, the writing in Vanity Fair.

The writing is smart, even witty, and at a level of investigative depth and clarity that one does not find anymore. I was most riveted by David Rose's story, The Gaza Bombshell,  on the attempted US-supported coup against Hamas in 2007. Rose does an excellent job documenting (with actual government documents) the Bush government's urging of Fatah President Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led government if they do not recognize Israel's right to exist, various drafts of plans to provide Abbas with financial and military support to expel Hamas from power.

Rose details how the Bush administration attempted to hide the military costs by getting other Arab countries to front the weapons and training, while negotiating with the US Congress for non-military costs. He details the "surprise" of the State department about Hamas willing the election, the Fetah-Hamas short-lived agreement, and the defeat by Israel by Hamas. He quotes Condi's statements of "Who could guess that X would happen?" What Rose best documents is the human costs of US miscalculations due to its desire to use Palestine to create Bush and Rice's legacy in the Middle East.

The fact that this is referred to as Iran-Contra II makes me angry that none of the people who authored this failed coup will be held accountable for the instability that they have caused. 

So I appreciate the writing of Vanity Fair, which did have an awesome article on designer Calvin Klein. Of course, there seems to be the standard lack of diversity in terms of people of color and people under 45 years of age. The only person of color, and I mean any color, is Fashion and Style director (illustrator) Michael Roberts, who was hired in 2006. But they still make me want to make an exception to the no-paper-subscriptions rule.