Journal 9.14

Thursday September 7, 2017

9:40am — 11:00am

We discussed gender in different capacities. The prompt was how gender had affected our lives and situations we’ve seen.

  • Someone mentioned that people tend to put their race ahead of their gender which is something that we saw in the last election. We wondered if the President had made explicitly racist remarks akin to the sexist remarks he made, would it have hurt him more?
  • The work environment came up fairly often. Whether it’s the military or a restaurant environment we noticed that the relationship between men and women in the workplace mimic the relationship that they have in the home. This means men are expected to be leaders in those environments even if they are not the best choice. It was also interesting how personal experience seems to dictate what we think is appropriate in terms of leadership.
  • We noticed that when women take leadership roles they are expected to act more like a man because the man is the model for what a leader is supposed to look like. However, by perpetuating this idea we lose something — those qualities that women c
  • We talked about a concept that says the Republican model is that of a strict father figure while the Democrat model is that of a nurturing mother.

We related our experiences with women in leadership to the survey results and the words that were used to gender both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

  • Bill was one of the words that came up in the survey. She was not able to separate herself from his legacy or the mistakes he made while he was in office. She has to carry the baggage of his time in office while Trump does not have to carry the baggage of his wife posing nude, for example. It was interesting to me that where a regular woman who would have been cheated on may be seen as a victim but Hillary was actually blamed for her husband cheating.
  • We associated the term patriotism with a man which is not something that I would have done originally. The prefix of the word is the pat- which gives us father. And we refer to the country as the fatherland.
  • Hillary had more gendered words on her survey. This means that man is the default where woman is a characteristic that is notable enough for people to mention it.

Friday September 8, 2017

11:00am — 12:00pm

I read the post that Dr. Sandridge shared titled #ClassicsSoWhite by Hilary Lehman. I thought it was interesting that they compared Classics and Classics professors to Republicans. As a black leftist it is so painfully obvious why Republicans cannot and probably will not soon gain our vote or our support. Republicans want minorities to come to their side without offering them anything. There is no incentive for minorities to become Republicans which is why only ~2% of black people are registered Republicans. I think the same can be said for Classics. What is it that Classics professors are offering minority students in exchange for taking their classes? To white students they are offering the opportunity to compare themselves to gods and intellectuals. I was almost finished high school before I knew that these philosophers and creators and intellectuals were not white in the way that white americans believe they are. We don’t talk about how Muslim scholars were translating and laying the foundation for the people we tend to study in Classics. I’ve not been inclined to take a classics course before because it often seems like there is nothing there for me or people who look like me. Classics has only ever a held a strong reminder that white people have always done better or more. And I resist that idea. That resistance is part of what drew me to Howard University; I am tired of being told that black people did not accomplish anything before slavery and classics have long been a tool of what superiority. Even now, if this promotion of white superiority is not intentional on the part of Classics professors, they must make more of an effort to make black students feel included so that they can engage in the course. If the default is white pride then the remedy must be to make a conscious effort to do something radically different each time the class meets.

Monday September 11, 2017


I read the article written by Ta Nehisi Coates titled ‘Donald Trump is the first white president.’ He touches on this idea that whiteness had made all but one president before Trump nearly untouchable. If they play the role of a politician well enough and hit certain notes then they can have the presidency no matter what their shortcomings. While past presidents have used their whiteness more subtly, Donald Trump has demonstrated the extent to which whiteness (when applied to a man) can cover someone who is unqualified, vulgar, crass, dishonest or what have you. We touched on this in class on Thursday. Trump is a case study on how far being a white man can get you, especially if your adversary is outside of the political norm (read: not a white man). In this situation, Trump was able to juxtapose himself with both a black man and a woman, people whom Americans genuinely do not believe are fit to lead a country whether they admit that explicitly or not. Coates also made the point that political scientists keep asserting that the white working class had almost no choice but to embrace Trump because they were fed up with the way that the system was not working for them. However, black people have never been so wholly driven to embrace a figure like Trump even though we have been mistreated for the entirety of America’s violent history. This is unsurprising given the history of the relationship between black people and the white working class. The white working class has never had any moral issue with standing on the necks of black people in order to get ahead. Ever since slavery the prevailing belief has been that ‘if I must be poor, at least I can be white.’ and I do believe that will continue indefinitely.

So what does that have to do with classics or leadership? I think it’s important to examine this theme demonstrates that certain characteristics can allow someone to rise to leadership even if they do not have the qualifications that are listed on paper. One can be white and choose to be a leader on a whimsy and become the most powerful leader in the world. Even being a man offers some advantage that both Trump and Obama benefitted from during their respective campaigns. Hard work seems to be a filler in our system of American politics. The amount of hard work required is dependant on how much a person has to make up for; anything less than being a white man is something to be apologized for. And while the American dynamic of race did not exist in most of the classic literature we will need, birthrights did. It was nearly impossible to ascend to any throne without either being born into royalty or a literal god. I wonder if America is not that different from those societies. The presidency is the white man’s birthright in this country. If someone who is not a white man wishes to become a leader in that way, they must fight for it. And as Hillary Clinton has shown us, all the hard work in the world still may not be enough to win.

Monday September 11, 2017

3:10pm — 5:00pm

Listening for Leadership One:

  1. In lines 354–358 we see that one of Narcissus’ personality traits is haughtiness. He thinks himself to beautiful and too good for the dames who seek after him. Furthermore he cannot even stop thinking about himself and his looks long enough to give them a second glance.
  2. In lines 782–790 we see that Narcissus is also callous. When Echo tries to approach him he tells her that he would rather die than to be held by her which causes her great pain.
  3. Another trait of Narcissus is that he routinely uses others. In lines 402–407 we see that not only did he mistreat Echo but many other nymphs as well to the point where they hoped he would never find love.
  4. In lines 408–434 we see that one of Narcissus’ personality traits is self-absorption. When he sees himself in the pond, he is so stricken by his own beauty he cannot look away.
  5. In lines 475–478 we see that Narcissus is emotional and irrational. He cries because his reflection will not return his love.

Listening for Leadership Two:

  1. One responsibility of a leader is to set an example for people beneath them. Whether that’s as a politician setting an example for the whole population or a teacher setting an example for how students should behave. I don’t know that Narcissus would be able to perform this task because he is mostly focused on himself. He does not express a lot of concern for what others are doing.
  2. A leader must exhibit diplomacy and the ability to communicate with other leaders. Most leaders do not work in isolation and must cooperate with some kind of staff. I don’t think Narcissus would be capable of working with others especially those to whom he is required to show respect.
  3. A leader must discipline others. When students, employees, etc. are out of line it is the leader’s job to take them aside and let them know they need to straighten up. I’m not sure that Narcissus would be able to do this unless the infraction has to do with harming him. If it’s not happening to or about him, there is not much reason for him to care.
  4. A leader must call meetings and set goals for their staff. It’s important that everyone has the right goals in mind going into each week to ensure success. I do not think that Narcissus would be able to focus on something besides himself for long enough to do this. Additionally, Narcissus doesn’t seem to have foresight or direction.
  5. A leader must self-promote or campaign to promote their product or political office. They must be able to get the word out about what they’re doing and convince people that they or their product are capable. I think Narcissus might be able to complete this leadership activity because he has a high estimation of himself. However, he does not show a lot of interest in talking about himself except when it comes to rejecting potential love interests. His beauty is assumed.

Tuesday September 12, 2017

9:40am — 11:00am

  • We discussed Narcissus and the fact that as a people we keep electing narcissistic leaders. We explored the fact that Narcissus does not have the makeup of a leader because he is mostly focused on himself.
  • Someone mentioned that this might be because he would probably never work with others but would like to work alone.
  • We talked about how Narcissus is selectively empathetic and explored the idea that it might be better for politicians to be selectively empathetic because they have to make tough decisions such as bombing countries to protect American interests. We idealize a leader that cares about us and has each of our best interests at heart but we tend to be attracted to leaders who do not. This is also something that’s gendered because a lack of empathy is something we associate with men and that might be a reason that we choose male leaders. When women show a lack of empathy in an attempt to prove that they can be strong leaders too, it can be met with distrust because it’s not what we’re used.
  • We also discussed that it can be valuable to know the latin when reading texts like this because some lines have double meanings.
  • The module also asked whether we associate Narcissus with masculine or feminine traits. I hadn’t thought about it very hard before the question was posed but it was interesting to hear the answers. Personally, I associate the kind of beauty that Narcissus is described as having with femininity especially as we described him in class as beautiful and gorgeous — those are words I associate with women. I even associate vanity with women in a sense because women tend to have to (or want to) put so much more effort into looking good and into admiring our beauty once we feel we have achieved it. However, I associate being vain and self-centered to the point of lacking empathy with men. Men are socialized to be less empathetic than women and even praised for showing that they do not have empathy. And though this does not have directly to do with leadership, the concept of Narcissus constantly using, humiliating, and discarding the nymphs is something I see often with men who move from relationship to relationship or are dishonest with their motives towards the women (or men) that they entertain. I know more men are diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder which is an interesting connection to that idea of masculinity. Perhaps they are more easily diagnosed because we associate men more with those traits.

Tuesday September 12, 2017

8:30pm — 11:30pm

Listening for Leadership Three:

  1. Narcissus exhibits a grandiose sense of self importance which is demonstrated in the passage that starts with line 435. When he is attempting to convince his reflection to love him back he speaks about how he is “young and fair” and how the nymphs love him and he can tell how hopeful they are that he’ll return their affections. He clearly thinks highly of himself and has no trouble speaking about how desirable he is.
  2. Narcissus is preoccupied with fantasies of ideal love so much so that he exhausts and starves himself in the process of trying to gain his reflection’s affection. In line 484 it says he literally becomes love consumed.
  3. Narcissus does believe he is special but does not seek out others like him so I do not believe he meets the third criteria.
  4. Narcissus does not seek out attention from others so I do not believe it is something that he requires.
  5. Narcissus demonstrates a sense of entitlement when he is trying to convince his reflection to love him. In the passage starting with line 435 he keeps emphasizing the fact that the nymphs love him. He believes that because of his beauty, everyone should love him and he doesn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t return his affections.
  6. Narcissus is interpersonally exploitative when he takes advantage of the nymph’s affection for him in line 402. It states that he received Echo and many more which indicates that this is clearly a pattern of behavior and not simply a one time event.
  7. Narcissus demonstrates that he lacks empathy through his interaction with Echo when she first reveals her affections to him. He outright says that he would rather die than have her touch him and he does not show any empathy towards her when she is distraught over his response. He is blunt and irresponsible with his words. This exchange occurs between lines 394 and 400.
  8. Narcissus does not demonstrate envy as a pattern of behavior in this story.
  9. One of the first descriptors of Narcissus is that he is haughty and prideful on the inside. His haughtiness informs many of his decisions and his interactions with the nymphs. This trait is first mentioned in line 357 but is a running theme throughout the story.

Although Narcissus might be a special case because the personality disorder was literally named for him, I do not think it is ethical to diagnose a famous or historical figure based on their public behavior. The first issue that I have with it is that it is often the general public who is eager to put a label on a politician that they do not like or understand. And while I have felt the temptation to label Trump with many different labels, especially given his lack of empathy, I am not a therapist or a psychologist. Most people are going to prescribe the label are not therapists or psychologists. And even when psychologists like those of NYU or different news outlets do label politicians like Trump, I think there is still a lack of ethics there. Personality disorders are especially difficult to diagnose and the process of diagnosis involves sitting down with a (willing) patient and studying their pattern of behavior and self-reported actions and feelings. It takes a long time of working with someone personally to qualify them for a personality disorder. I think that those psychologists who do diagnose public figures do so hastily and without the proper course of action. I say all of this not in sympathy for Trump (who is someone who fascinates me as a political science major but whom I have also grown to hate for his utter lack of regard for human life and dignity) but sympathy for people who actual do have mental illness diagnoses. As someone who has been in therapy and had to deal with the stigma of going to therapy and of mental illness as a whole, it is very difficult to navigate a diagnosis when the only examples of it that you’ve seen are in a negative light and ascribed to literal villains on and off screen. I do not have a personality disorder but I spoke to my mother (who is a therapist) after class today about how clients with personality disorders navigate things like Trump constantly being called a narcissist and she told me she believes it makes the process of therapy and behavioral improvement much more difficult. As political science majors and philosophers and students of classics it is really interesting to muse about what personality disorders various politicians or classic figures might have or have had. But at the end of the day, there are real people who are affected by our words so it is important to choose them wisely.

Listening for Leadership Four:

I chose articles from very different sources and made sure that the political alignment of the publications varied. I found that many of the information presented in the articles was based on opinion rather than facts. There were very few references to DSM and the evidence provided by the authors was primarily circumstantial.

The Atlantic: The Mind of Donald Trump

The author of this article is Dan P. Mcadams who is a professor of psychology and the director of the foley center for the Study of Lives at Northwestern university. He based his article on information drawn from the fields of personality, developmental, and social psychology. He draws his knowledge of Donald Trump from Trump’s own books and speeches, biographical sources, and the press. He goes directly from describing the story of Narcissus to calling Trump narcissistic. He does touch on some traits that ‘prove’ Trump is narcissistic but he does not ever go into the traits in any detail. He frames this piece more as explaining than proving anything. Our belief is supposed to come from the fact that many psychologists agree and one even uses Trump for his lessons on narcissism. He also focuses more heavily on politics and past politicians than the psychology behind his claim. The only thing that lends to this author’s credibility is that he is able to provide several different contexts where Trump has exhibited the listed personality traits however it is still hard to tell because this author does not know Trump personally. Overall, I feel this is a shaky diagnosis.

Politico: How to Deal with the Narcissist in the White House

The author of this article is Emily Yoffee who is a writer for politico and a contributing editor at the Atlantic. Yoffee is not a psychologist nor does she seem to have formal training — she actually lists this as a reason that she can ignore the Goldwater rule. She states immediately that a formal diagnosis so she does not try to go by the criteria listed in the DSM. Instead she points out different things that Trump has done like appointing his family members to important positions which she cites acts as a psychological balm for Trump because narcissists see family members as extensions of themselves. Yoffee goes on to provide other examples like these with a notable amount of citations from psychologists and experts. The article also provides strategies: not just for dealing with or thinking about Trump but all people with narcissistic personality disorder. This article was an interesting read but incredibly careless in my view.

Washington Times: What to do with the narcissist’s children

The author of this article is Wesley Pruden who is the chief emeritus of the The Washington Times. He does not appear to have any degree in psychology. This article is an opinion piece and primarily an argument against Trump appointing his children to important positions in the White House, again using the argument that he sees his children as extensions of himself. Like the two previous authors, Pruden cites psychologists who have pubicly diagnosed Trump with narcissism. While he is not convinced by those psychologists (he refers to them as witch doctors) he calls their diagnosis “at least plausible” and uses it as a jumping off point for the rest of his piece. He does not reference the DSM nor does he even use too many facts in his article. It is an opinion piece but there are places where he presents his non-professional opinions as facts which is misleading and concerning. His argument lacks evidence and does not really follow any of the criteria listed for diagnosis.

Extra Credit

After reading the Goldwater Rule in more detail it makes sense that it exists in the context of the APA’s rules of ethics. The APA is incredibly strict about therapist-client relationships. For example, my mom has stayed off of social media for her entire career because it could break the rules should her clients find her facebook page or something like it. I think these rules exist because the relationship between a client and a psychologist is an inherently fragile one. The contents of one’s mind is the most personal thing that they have and a psychologist has an ethical responsibility to be careful with it and to respect it whether they are prying for research or for individual counseling. That being said, I think the Goldwater rule should be kept because a person’s mental health diagnosis is something that should be private and not shared with millions. It should not be speculated about or publicly picked apart, no matter how awful the person may seem. It is unethical to take a guess at whether someone has a personality disorder. Beyond unethical it is harmful to those who do have personality disorders. For a psychologist to make a diagnosis and then declare a president “mentally unfit” is for them to demonize the disorder and people with it. And while a personality disorder can have negative traits and person with a personality disorder can be harmful to others if they are not mindful of those traits, they are still people and to promote the idea that they are inherently bad leads to things like a politico contributor with no formal psychology education posting an article about how to “handle” narcissistic people. The article in question is an example of psychiatric expertise misapplied; the author is taking psychiatric advice and extrapolating from it with no real regard for the consequences of doing so. The Goldwater rule should remain intact based on the ethics of the situation and the way these diagnosis contribute to the overall stigma of mental illness in this country.

Though I am an advocate for the Goldwater rule, I am not against some kind of regulation or psychological exams for those who become political leaders. I just think they would be difficult to perform without bias and it is incredibly subjective to state that a mental health condition completely excludes someone from being president. Were something to be set in place it would be difficult to keep it from becoming partisan. If we did have some kind of measure I would prefer it to be like the questionnaire assigned to potential supreme court justices — some answers would remain private. Additionally, I would recommend that all politicians regularly go to some form of therapy because I think most of the issues we see from the politicians in question could be addressed with self awareness. What I would like to avoid is this idea that any mental illness or even brief mental health issue makes someone not eligible for the presidency because as long as they can still do the job well, that is not true.

At the root of people’s desires to get rid of the Goldwater rule is the desire to make sure that our leaders exhibit sound leadership and are capable of leading the country. Donald Trump is clearly not a good leader and people want to diagnose what it is that makes him a poor leader so that we can avoid it. We’re scared. Those who did not vote for him feel utterly powerless to watch as turns the country in a completely different direction. I think these feelings are absolutely valid and I share them. However, it’s important that we don’t lose our ethics or hurt others who are completely uninvolved in the process.

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