GENDER ROLES AND LABELS

January 15, 2020 at 4:45 am

Irshad Manji, author, activist, and founder of “The Moral Courage Project” offers perspective on our divided nation.

Aired on January 14, 2020. 

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>>> THE GROUND BREAKING BOOK,
THE TROUBLE WITH ISLAM, MADE HER
ONE OF THE MOST ADMIRED AND MOST
REVILED WRITERS THINK ANDERS
AROUND THE WORLD.
A VOICE WHO REFUSES TO BE
SILENT.
HER SEEMING MASTERY OF MORAL
COURAGE.
SHE'S HAD MANY LABELS THROWN AT
HER AND SHE REFUSES TO WEAR JUST
ONE OF THEM.
HE MUSLIM, REFUGEE, LESBIAN, AND
BY SOME, HAIR PARTICULAR.
SHE JOINS US TO TALK ABOUT HER
NEW BOOK, DON'T LABEL ME.
AN INCREDIBLE CONVERSATION FOR A
DIVIDED TIME.
WONDERFUL TO HAVE YOU HERE.
>> RIGHT BACK AT YOU.
>> LET'S START WITH LABELS.
WHY DO YOU THINK, I KNOW YOU
TALK ABOUT THIS, WHY DO YOU
THINK WE AS A SOCIETY FIND
LABELS SO SEDUCTIVE?
>> IT'S NOT JUST WE AS A
SOCIETY.
IT IS HUMIDITY.
WE HUMIDITY -- IT IS HUMANITY.
WE THINK EMOTIONALLY AND
BIOLOGICALLY SPEAKING, THE
EASIEST EMOTION TO HAVE IS FEAR.
TALK THAT ONE THE FACT THAT WE
ARE ALL IMMERSE IN THE DIGITAL
TECHNOLOGY THAT'S ARE DESIGNED
TO AMP UP OUR EMOTIONS.
AND THEN FINISH IT OFF WITH THE
FACT VERY FEW OF US HAVE EVER
BEEN TAUGHT TO BE AWARE OF OUR
EMOTIONS, LET ALONE EXPRESS THEM
CONSTRUCTIVELY.
SO IN THIS TOXIC CAULDRON,
LABELS BECOME CONVENIENT TOOLS
WITH WHICH TO SORT OF INDULGE
OUR EMOTIONS, AND AVOID
REFLECTION.
>> CONVENIENT AND REQUIRE VERY
LITTLE WORK.
>> EXACTLY.
CONVENIENT.
WE ARE ALL BORN WITH BRAINS THAT
ARE BOTH PRIMTY AND EVOLVED.
THE FIRST THING THAT ANY STILL
EYE GOES THROUGH IN THE BRAIN,
THE PRIMITIVE PART DOESN'T WANT
TO WORK.
IT ONLY REACTS.
WE HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WAYS TO
OUTWIT OUR OWN BRAINS.
>> AND YOU TALKED ABOUT THIS.
ON I DON'T WANT TO MINIMIZE BY
CALLING IT A DEVICE THAT DRIVES
THIS CONVERSATION.
IT IS A UNIQUE CONVERSATION THAT
YOU'RE HAVING.
SOMETHING THAT WAS VERY SPECIAL
TO YOU.
YOUR DOG.
BUT A CONVERSATION WITH THIS.
AND I HEARD YOU TALK ABOUT, IT
IS WHAT HELPED TO STIMULATE THE
IDEA BEHIND THAT.
>> ABSOLUTELY.
I JUST MENTIONED THE MOST
DANGEROUS FOUR-LETTER F-WORD IN
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, FEAR.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I GREW UP
WITH A VERY UNHEALTHY FEAR OF
DOGS.
ONE YEAR I WAS HAVING
PARTICULARLY TOUGH TIME WITH MY
HEALTH.
AND MY THEN PARTNER, NOW WIFE
LAURA SAID TO ME, YOU KNOW, YOU
HAVE TO EVOLVE.
YOU'VE GOT TO GET PAST YOUR
FEAR.
LET'S ADOPT A RESCUE DOG AND YOU
WILL SEE.
HOW CAN I ADOPT MORAL COURAGE IF
I'M NOT WILLING TO GO FIRST.
WE BROUGHT LILY HOME.
FOR THE TWO PRECIOUS YEARS THAT
I'VE HAD WITH HER, NOT ONLY WERE
MY OWN FEARS OF DOGS BEGGING TO
BE OVERCOME.
WHEN DID I OVERCOME THOSE FEARS,
I LEARNED SO MUCH FROM LILY.
THE VALUE, FOR EXAMPLE, OF JUST
GETTING OUT OF OUR DEVICES.
CLOSING UP THE LAPTOP AND
GETTING INTO THE GRASS AND
PLAYING.
YES, I KNOW, FOR ANIMAL LOVERS
THAT'S A NO BRAINER.
BUT UNDERSTAND THAT TODAY WE ARE
ALL DOING THIS.
AND IF WE COULD JUST REALIZE BY
SLOWING DOWN, TAKING A DEEP
BREATH, ACTUALLY, WHAT WE WIND
UP DOING IS TRANSCENDING THE
FEAR BASED PART OF THE BRAIN.
EVEN WHEN WE'RE ENGAGING SOMEONE
WE DISAGREE WITH, THE FIRST
THING TO DO AND THE BEST THING
TO DO IS TO JUST BREATHE.
SO SIMPLE.
>> FOR LILY.
WE TALKED ABOUT THE NOTION OF
LABELS.
YOU MENTIONED THE CONCEPT OF
TRIBALISM.
WE'RE HARD WIRED FOR THAT.
YOU LOOK AT THE WAYS IT
MANIFESTS ITSELF.
PEOPLE DON'T HAVE CONVERSATIONS
ANYMORE.
IT IS AS IF FEAR, WE'RE FEARFUL
OF SOMEONE REJECTING OUR
OPINIONS.
WE DON'T WANT TO ACCEPT THEIR
OPINIONS.
HOW MUCH OF THIS DO YOU THINK
FLOWS FROM WHAT WE SEE, AND I'M
GOING TO TALK ABOUT BOTH PARTIES
IN WASHINGTON.
>> YOU BET.
>> YOU CANNOT HAVE NOW A
DISAGREEMENT POLITICALLY WITHOUT
VILIFYING THE PERSON YOU
DISAGREE.
WITH IT IS CALLED THE POLITICS
OF PERSONAL DESTRUCTION.
HAS THAT ALWAYS BEEN?
OR HAS IT BECOME MORE ENHANCED
LATELY?
>> I'M GOING ON GUESS THAT WOULD
YOU AGREE WITH ME THAT IT HAS
BECOME MORE ENHANCED LATELY.
WE'VE BEEN LIVING WITH THE
POLITICS OF PERSONAL
DESTRUCTION.
I THINK THAT WAS BILL CLINTON'S
PHRASE FROM WAY BACK WHEN.
WE'VE BEEN LIVING WITH IT FOR A
LONG TIME.
IF IT IS EVEN WORSE NOW, I WOULD
SAY IT IS THE IMPULSIVE TRIGGERS
THAT IT FEEDS TO US HAS MADE
THINGS THAT MUCH WORSE.
SO LET'S GET OUR HEADS OUT OF
THAT MONITOR OR THAT SCREEN AND
SPEAK WITH ONE ANOTHER FACE TO
FACE.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT?
I TELL A STORY IN THIS BOOK THAT
TWO YOUNG PEOPLE.
ONE, A BIRACIAL HIP HOP ARTIST.
THE OTHER, A WHITE GUY.
BOTH OF THEM COMPLETELY DISAGREE
ABOUT WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN WITH
THE MISSISSIPPI STATE FLAG.
>> IT HAS THE CONFEDERATE FLAG.
>> EXACTLY.
SHE WANTS IT TO CHANGE.
HE DOESN'T.
SOMETHING SHE SAYS AND DOES GOES
VIRAL.
HE GETS IN TOUCH WITH HER.
SHE INVITES HIM TO THE BACKYARD
TO SIT DOWN AND TALK.
LET'S DISCUSS THIS.
BY THE END OF THAT EXPERIENCE,
IT'S NOT THAT HE CHANGES HIS
MIND.
THAT WOULD BE TOO EASY A
CONCLUSION.
HE REALIZES HE CARES MORE ABOUT
HER THAN HE DOES ABOUT THE FLAG.
THAT IS WHAT HUMAN TO HUMAN
RELATIONSHIPS, OR HUMAN THE LILY
RELATIONSHIPS CAN DO.
>> HOW DO WE GET OURSELVES AWAY
FROM IT?
I THINK THIS IS SOMETHING,
SURROUNDED BY LIKE MINDED
PEOPLE.
WE LIKE TO BE SURROUNDED BY
PEOPLE WHO SOUND LIKE US.
WHO THINK LIKE US, WHO LOOK LIKE
US.
AND WE KNOW THAT.
SO HOW DO WE GET OURSELVES TO A
DIFFERENT PLACE?
EVEN THOUGH THAT'S ALL
REINFORCED IT.
YOU LOOK AT THE NEWS.
THERE'S AN AGENDA AND THEY'RE
BEATING THE DRUMS.
OPINION HAS BEEN AN INTEGRAL
PART OF JOURNALISM.
WHAT TROUBLES ME IS WE'RE SEEING
MORE OPINION AND LESS FACT-BASED
DISCUSSION.
HOW DO WE GET FEMALE REMOVE
THEMSELVES FROM THE ECHO
CHAMBERS.
AT LEAST BE WILLING TO LISTEN.
>> FIRST IT BEGINS WITH EVERY
ONE OF US.
IN OTHER WORDS, INSTEAD OF
POINTING FINGERS AT SO AND SO,
HE DOESN'T LISTEN TO ME.
ASK YOURSELF.
HOW AM I CONTRIBUTING TO THIS
PROBLEM?
MEANING, IF I'M EYE ROLLING, IF
I'M BERATING INSTEAD OF
RELATING, IF I'M LABELLING THIS
PLACE.
FROZEN HIM IN TIME.
WHAT MOTIVATION HAVE I GIVEN?
HERE'S WHAT I SAY.
WHEN YOU ARE ENTERING A
CONVERSATION, OR WANTING TO
ENTER INTO A CONVERSATION WITH
SOMEBODY WHO PROFOUNDLY
DISAGREES WITH YOU ON SOMETHING
THAT YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT.
ASK THEM.
TELL ME, WHAT AM I MISSING ABOUT
YOUR PERSPECTIVE?
DON'T GO IN MAKING STATEMENTS.
ASK SINCERE QUESTIONS.
AND THEN LISTEN.
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND.
NOT TO WIN.
THIS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A
DEBATE.
IT IS A DISCUSSION.
>> THAT'S INTERESTING.
I WOULD SUSPECT.
I KNOW THIS.
THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT I
DON'T GET INVOLVED IN
DISCUSSIONS WITH PEOPLE ANYMORE.
I KNOW IT WON'T CHANGE THEIR
MIND.
BUT I PROBABLY SHOULD.
I THINK THE FEAR IS YOU SAY TO
YOURSELF, WHY SHOULD I BOTHER
ENGAGING IN THIS DISCUSSION?
I WON'T CHANGE MY MIND.
>> BUT WHY GO IN THERE EVEN
WANTING TO CHANGE THE OTHER
PERSON'S MIND.
IMAGINE WHAT YOU MIGHT BE ABLE
TO LEARN FROM THAT OTHER PERSON
BY SIMPLY LISTENING.
THIS IS NOT BEING POLYANNISH.
LET ME TELL YOU.
IF YOU CAN FIGURE OUT WHAT
VALUES THEY HAVE, WHAT
PERSPECTIVE THEY'RE COMING FROM.
THAT IS CRUCIAL INFORMATION WITH
WHICH YOU CAN RE-FRAME YOUR
ARGUMENTS DOWN THE ROAD.
SO IF YOU ARE REALLY STUCK ON
NEEDING TO CHANGE THEIR MIND,
YOU'LL HAVE THE INFORMATION
NECESSARY TO NOW EXPRESS YOUR
POSITION IN A WAY THAT THEY CAN
FINALLY HEAR.
>> LET ME TALK ABOUT THE YOUNGER
GENERATION HERE.
I KNOW YOU TALK ABOUT IT IN YOUR
BOOK.
I WAS IN COLLEGE AT A TIME WHEN
THE NATION WAS ROILED OVER
VIETNAM.
ONE OF THE THINGS I REMEMBER IN
MY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE, I CAN'T
REMEMBER THE COURSE I TOOK.
SOME OF THEM WERE FAVORITES.
BUT DO I REMEMBER THE
CONVERSATIONS.
I REMEMBER SITTING IN DINING
HALLS AFTER DINNER AND TALKING
ABOUT THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
AND THE VIETNAM WAR.
AND YOU GET THE SENSE THAT
THERE'S NOT THE SAME LEVEL OF
CONVERSATION ON CAMPUSES.
AND SOME OF IT I THINK COMES
FROM THAT FEAR THAT YOU
MENTIONED.
>> YOU NAILED IT.
I WORK WITH COLLEGE STUDENTS
AROUND THE COUNTRY.
AND MUCH MORE OFTEN THAN NOT,
REGARDLESS OF THEIR LABELS,
WHATEVER THEIR COLOR, THEIR
GENDER OR RELIGION, THEY SAY TO
ME, I'M AFRAID TO BE JUDGED IF I
ASK, GET THIS, THE WRONG
QUESTION.
THAT'S WHERE WE HAVE ARRIVED AS
A SOCIETY.
AND YES, AS HUMANITY.
IF YOU USE A WORD, YOU MAKE A
CLUMSY MISTAKE, YOU ARE HONESTLY
JUST MISSPOKEN, IT IS JUST VERY
EASY TO GET SLAMMED, SHAMED,
BLAMED, AND GAMED.
AND NOBODY WANTS THAT.
SO THIS IS WHY I THINK TEACHING
THE 60s OF MORAL COURAGE IS SO
IMPORTANT.
>> WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY MORAL
COURAGE?
>> DOING THE RIGHT THING IN THE
FACE OF YOUR FEARS.
AND SO IF, FOR EXAMPLE, YOU KNOW
SOMETHING SOMEBODY IS PROMOTING
IS SOMEHOW EITHER INACCURATE OR
DEROGATORY, THE WAY TO APPROACH
IT IS KEY.
I'M BE SAYING DON'T STAND UP TO
INTOLERANCE OR HATE.
ABSOLUTELY STAND UP TO IT BUST
THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO GO
INTO IT GUNS A-BLAZING.
YOU REALLY WILL BE SHOT DOWN IN
THAT CASE.
RATHER, BE INTELLIGENT ABOUT IT.
THAT MEANS LISTENING BUT THEN
ASKING.
AGAIN, HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH
THIS?
I'M GENUINELY INTERESTED.
IN THE BOOK, ANOTHER STORY I
TELL IS ABOUT A NOW FORMER WHITE
NATIONALIST WHO REFORMED
HIMSELF.
NOTICE, I DIDN'T SAY WAS
REFORMED.
HE REFORMED HIMSELF.
HOW?
BECAUSE IT IS AN AMAZING
FRIENDSHIP HE HAD WITH A
RESILIENT JEW WHO DIDN'T TURN
HIS BACK, WHO DIDN'T TRY TO GET
IN HIS FACE OR MAKE HIM
DISAPPEAR.
BUT RATHER WHO LISTENED AND
ENGAGED.
OVER THE COURSE OF THREE YEARS,
THIS WHITE NATIONALIST REALIZED
THE VIEWS I'VE GOT, THEY'RE NOT
FACTUAL.
AND MOREOVER, THEY HURT THE VERY
PERSON THAT I CARE ABOUT.
>> THAT IS A GREAT STORY.
THE BOOK IS FILLED WITH GREAT
STORIES.
IT IS CALLED, DON'T LABEL ME.
AN INCREDIBLE CONVERSATION FOR
DIVIDED TIMES.
YOU AND I COULD TALK FOR HOURS
HERE.
WE'LL CONTINUE THAT BUT FOR NOW,
ONCE AGAIN, A VERY PROVOCATIVE,
THOUGHTFUL, AND I THINK
EXTRAORDINARILY HELPFUL LOOK.
OUR THANKS TO YOU AND TO LILY.
>> LILY GIVES HER THANKS RIGHT
NOW.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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