Guys, it’s time to grow up

After this Google memo broke over the weekend, I wanted nothing more than to ignore it. It’s another wearying example of how white men can move throughout the world completely oblivious to anyone’s feelings but their own. But I am a host on This Week in Google and so had to prepare some thoughts.

Rest assured, this is not a so-called “hot-take”. This is an extremely considered take that I’ve developed over the last decade having heard this type of stereotypical thinking (and obliviousness to it) in person, and even from my search history.

I am not going to engage in nonsense, so I’m not taking apart the memo. You can find that here and here. All I want to say is this.

If you don’t see that white men have an advantage over women, people of color and basically everyone, I can’t make you. The repeated exposure of men behaving badly in tech, in media, in manufacturing and in myriad other examples isn’t going to change your mind.

This feeling that you are persecuted for being a white male is exactly like that of a child claiming that the world isn’t fair. The world has revolved around their needs so long, that as parents begin to set limits they rebel and claim “that’s not fair” as a reflex. And you know what, that’s fine.

That’s how we grow. We reflexively cry out against things that make us unhappy or inconvenience us. And it is upsetting and inconvenient to have to adjust to a world where you can’t coast on layers of institutional advantage, or when people call you out all the time for behaving in ways that you have behaved your whole life.

But as children mature their reflexive cries of unfairness should become reflective. They will be able to look at a situation and realize that what looks like a parent favoring a younger sibling by giving them the last cookie is actually fair, because the eldest already had ice cream. They will start to evaluate the world outside the prism of their own needs.

This is part of developing empathy. And empathy is something everyone should develop. Women don’t have a lock on it. Empathy is a valuable trait because it turns those reflexive cries of frustration into something that can help people mature and improve the world around them.

And for all of the men being held responsible for their actions, their immature ideas and their unexamined insistence that their feelings matter more than anyone else’s, it’s time to reflect.

In short, for those who are frustrated with life as a white man and feel like it’s not fair that they have to now think about the effects of their actions on others and others’ experiences, I have one thing to say. Grow up.

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