the status quo does not like to change

While not sleeping – relatively briefly – last night, I came across this video of another talk by Malcolm Gladwell. He consistently makes me think. This particular talk is on tokens v pioneers and the strategy of using tokens to maintain the status quo.

Yeah, I can’t explain it that well. But remember when Hillary Clinton was campaigning to be the presidential candidate? Gladwell asserts that should she win, she would be the last female president of this country for probably a very long time. Why? Look around the world. When she was campaigning, we kept hearing how behind the US was – lots of other countries have had women presidents/prime ministers/etc. And many of them have had one and only one woman as head of state.

He used the Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard as an example. I don’t recall all the details and it would make sense just to watch the video rather than to trust my memory. He recounts how the press treated Gillard – and how so much was about what she wore and how she looked, things that never would have been covered if she had been male. Everything she did was criticized and judged based on her being a woman. So, in the end, the country ( press? ) was so convinced how horrible she was that if another woman runs for the office, they can say we tried that – look at how awful it was. And another woman won’t be the head of state for a long time.

I suspect we can say the same thing about the first black president. It will likely be a long time before another black president is elected in the US at least based on Gladwell’s theories. Consider all the ridiculous press about birth certificates – still today after all this time.

He answered questions toward the end of the talk about why some are pioneers and some are tokens. Why was Jackie Robinson a pioneer while in other fields (i.e., women in neurosurgery) a token is allowed in and then the door is closed. It’s interesting, thought provoking.


5 thoughts on “the status quo does not like to change”

  1. Interesting. Never thought of that distinction before. Of course, if Mr. Gladwell were to go around talking about how Hillary was a pioneer, then he might contribute to that perception. It’s all in how you spin it.


    1. Interesting thought Ms. Bean! I think that we won’t know whether the first female president is a pioneer or a token until it happens. It does worry me to hear how it has played out in some other places but I suspect that it will take people like him viewing it as pioneering rather than tokenism to help make that difference. I am curious to see how the Obama presidency plays out long term since much of the vitriol of the press does seem to keep coming back to race. Will he have been a pioneer or a token?


  2. I think Obama was a pioneer, but the amount of vitriol that occurred when he was elected was horrifying to me–and most of it not related to his politics or his decisions, but instead his birth certificate or ancestry. I guess we have a lot farther to go in this country than we want to think. 😦


  3. And I’ve disagreed with a number of Obama decisions and been angry with him(not as much as I was with GWB though); however, I’ve never demonized either one of them. They are people in a tough, tough job! Also can’t believe the horrible things people say about Michelle Obama. I don’t say those things about my worst enemies in real life!


    1. I hope you’re right Margaret. I fear that we’re not as far along as you and I would like to think. Some of the things I’ve seen on news sites lately, such as 40% of Americans don’t believe evolution is real, scare me for our species. The problem with news anymore is you don’t know who to believe.

      Gladwell is very believable and I have to pull back and remember that there’s spin there, too. Still, statistics like only 7% (if I remember right) of neurosurgeons are women are scary. Here we are in the 21st century and statistically, women’s pay and representation in traditionally male professions is still not equitable. And one of those professions is artist which I just find mind blowing. If I am remembering right, again, 5% of the art on gallery walls is from women.


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