Languishing on my bed last week, like millions of others I happened upon Brene Brown’s Netflix talk. Brown, like Jordan Peterson, is a data-driven social scientist forced into the public square, in her case, by a Ted talk in which she admitted she’d had a breakdown when she realized that vulnerability was the key to just about everything. Five million views and a lot of embarrassment later, she emerged a star. Brown is just as popular with women as Peterson is with men and just as successful with several different enterprises based on her work. But, of course, primarily, she wants to “heal our divisions”.
Which is becoming big big business.
Therefore with stunning predictability on Tuesday Oprah signed on to the healing-our divisions-cash-cow. In a cover story in the Hollywood Reporter Oprah declares she had NO IDEA people were so pissed they elected the Orange Monster. Therefore, lucky lucky us, with the help of Apple, she is aiming at her old influence where red and blue states people adored her and she brought people together under the great banner of feelings trumping reason. In order to corral her former red state women, she is super super super sorry that she got mired in the progressive elite where only one kind of feeling is permitted (I added that last bit).
Last Sunday, Helen Andrews, editor of the Washington Examiner Magazine, published a long essay in the New York Times, bemoaning the fact that there are no women on the right standing up for the family. Where? she asks, is our Phyllis Schlafly? Where is our Michelle Obama, our Oprah, our Brene Brown?
Um, hello? We’re pretty much hiding out from the empowered women Oprah and Brown and Michelle have stood up. Who are very very scary. Who feel very very strongly about stuff. And they like to kick us out of well … everything. This week, for example, Erika Barootes, the young woman president of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, a few days after running a stunningly effective campaign, left her running group.
“I am stepping away from Run Collective indefinitely.
I am stepping away because I felt I had no other option.
I am stepping away because I received comments of hate, as did those I care about, and I won’t tolerate others being subjected to that.
I am stepping away because for the first time I saw hate in the run community.
I am stepping away because I was discriminated against.
I am put in a position where I feel I must step away because I am conservative.”
“I fear that the actions taken against me due to my political affiliations are not making the world a better, more inclusive place, but rather a divisive black-or-white one, where we cannot have more than one passion (emphasis mine) or that our character is solely attributed to our political party of choice.”Erika Barootes
Brown and Oprah, while standing up their army of empowered, deep-feeling women, have stood up an army of vicious harpies ready to destroy anyone who does not agree with the prevailing feeling.
Brown identifies the chief need of women as ‘belonging’. This is evolutionarily correct. Women need the tribe to protect their children. It is why women are so quick to conform. The Alpha female acting against the prevailing winds usually ends up in the tundra, with her children at extreme risk.
I have dozens of conservative women friends, maybe hundreds. Many are closeted because they are afraid. Unless they live in a Red State community (and even then…) they don’t want to be cast into darkness. They need to be silent because of their work, or because of their husband’s work, or because they need to feel at home at their church, town meeting, garden club. They need to be invited to the right parties, to feel part of their community, to smile at people when they walk down the street and have them smile back. They need to not be accused of being racist, bigoted and white supremacist. So they stay silent. They know that the moment you become visible politically, you are immediately vulnerable. Actual vulnerability.
Test this. Think of any visible conservative woman. Google her. If a bunch of vile mean-spirited, character-destroying “facts” don’t emerge, it’s just a matter of time.
Brene Brown tries to fix this. She writes about civility, deep listening, empathy, curiosity, sitting in pain with others, about countering ideological bullshit. She recommends a vulnerable front and a strong back. She says if you choose authenticity, people will inevitably attack you.
“You will be in the wilderness….I may not have been liked, and that didn’t feel so great, but I was in my integrity”
Brown’s definition of ‘wilderness’ is the state of being emotionally vulnerable, not the state of being a functioning adult at severe financial risk. And with that, she loses all my respect.
Brown and Oprah have some work to do before they can figure out how to heal the divisions they in part, caused. Fine to splash around your multitude of fans, feeling as if the sun rises and sets at your will, ladies, but by privileging feelings above reason and common sense, you have created this hellfire of a mess.