I picked up Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead at Barnes and Noble the other day. I’m in the middle of another book, so I haven’t bought it yet, but I will. I still read a little while I’m in the store, though, and am in love. Vulnerability is a subject that comes up a lot in gender relations. It’s hard to be vulnerable because it means that we can be attacked. It’s hard to put ourselves out there when we know how quickly people will criticize our efforts, how quickly it can go horribly, horribly wrong. We also know that nothing will change without us getting past this vulnerability. I know it’s particularly confusing and difficult for men because it’s hard to explain the difference between vulnerability and weakness and they are often accused of being weak when they were shooting for vulnerable or they steadfastly refuse to be either.
It all gets very convoluted very quickly and so I encourage everyone that considers themselves to be a part of the gender conversation to read this book. I have seen both talks that Brene Brown gave at TED and they are wonderful.
The Power of Vulnerability:
Listening to Shame:
I know I’ve shared them before, but it seemed applicable to do it again. Definitely check out the book. In the beginning she shares that the title comes from a famous speech that President Theodore Roosevelt gave once, here’s an excerpt:
It is well if a large proportion of the leaders in any republic, in any democracy, are, as a matter of course, drawn from the classes represented in this audience to-day; but only provided that those classes possess the gifts of sympathy with plain people and of devotion to great ideals. You and those like you have received special advantages; you have all of you had the opportunity for mental training; many of you have had leisure; most of you have had a chance for enjoyment of life far greater than comes to the majority of your fellows. To you and your kind much has been given, and from you much should be expected. Yet there are certain failings against which it is especially incumbent that both men of trained and cultivated intellect, and men of inherited wealth and position should especially guard themselves, because to these failings they are especially liable; and if yielded to, their- your- chances of useful service are at an end. Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who “but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.”
For the rest of the speech, go here: http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html
The italicized portion is the part that she references and is commonly known as the “Man in the Arena” speech. I thought the rest was equally applicable to those in the gender discussion. It’s a difficult discussion to have and one that will likely not completely go away ever. When we tentatively reach a gender balance in opportunity and choice, we will need people still in the conversation to ensure that it stays in balance and doesn’t pivot in one major direction or the either, to ensure that those who are not part of the bigger elements don’t get swallowed up by either and have just as much. To me, the first part up there even warns against “white feminism” being the only kind, even though it’s not specifically about feminism.
Part of it just affirms why he’s my favorite president. Anyway, it’s an interesting train of thought to take and definitely an idea that I mused upon this week.
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