The Burden of Perfection

Women and minorities have the burden of being perfect. They can get ahead, as long as they make no mistake whatsoever. The issue with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is that black people of Sidney Poitier’s character’s merits are accepted; the problem is that every woman or minority who falls short of that standard is considered defective, while majority-race men who do but are still overall good are accepted.

Ségolène Royal, who up until this point hadn’t played the gender card, is now saying she’s being unfairly attacked for being female. The various gaffes that have eroded her support in the polls wouldn’t hurt her nearly so much if she were male. For example, one of the most nagging problems she faced was insufficient support and dissension in her party’s ranks; but Chirac hates Sarkozy, and yet Sarkozy’s support isn’t eroding the same way Royal’s is.

The same double standard props up a lot of systems based on boundedness: radical groups, racism, sexism, cliques, nationalist circles. Every issue that can distinguish a member of the in-group from a member of the out-group is then blown out of proportion, at times to the point of totalization.

For a concrete example, take a radical group’s treatment of criticism from outside. Let’s say that feminist groups have only two main issues to worry about, abortion and equal pay. Some invariably emphasize one, while others emphasize the other. Within the movement, these differences are perfectly acceptable. But when someone outside the movement ever suggests focusing on one, the people within the movement will immediately totalize the other and declare him an intruder.

This is not to suggest that feminism works like sexism. But some of the pathological characteristics of radicalism are results of its fundamentally egalitarian worldview, which focuses on internal equality and strong boundedness. As such, radicals will share them with those conservatives who, without displaying other radical pathologies, engage in traditional sexism or racism.

To put another spin on it, the people who say that the intra-Socialist dissension reflects negatively on Royal and then support Sarkozy, who can’t get the support of his own party’s incumbent President, are as bad as the people who participate in communist cell activity or Evangelical housegroups.

2 Responses to The Burden of Perfection

  1. SLC says:

    Mr. Sarkozys’ support isn’t eroding because he has made fewer mistakes then Ms. Royal has.

  2. Ran Halprin says:

    Interesting, I think Israel also suffers from this burden. Most countries cause much more mess then Israel (wars, conflicts, murders, oppression, genocide etc.), but are excused. Meanwhile, if Israel makes the slightest mistake, it is immediately front paged and harrased, even to the point of UN intervention. I remember the last time the UN almost condemned Israel for accidently killing 13 children in Gaza. During the same week, Sudan’s “ethnic cleansing” forces killed over 50 Christian civilians in a village raid, and the US forces accidently killed some civlians in Iraq – but the UN committee chose not even to bring these up.

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