Here let me take a stab at it:
Let’s say American’s as a group start ostracizing and limiting the resources of people that like to eat mangoes. Maybe they can’t have a job because they eat mangoes, they have a different bathroom because they eat mangoes, can’t vote because they eat mangoes. Then 10 years from now the mango eaters rise up and say they aren’t taking it anymore. And American’s as a group say “Yes mango eaters you are right! We were wrong to discriminate against you because you like mangoes.” That is most of Americans. Laws are written to protect the mango eaters but some still openly or overtly don’t like these smelly mango eaters. They won’t hire them when they find a Facebook photo of them eating mangoes. But they say they weren’t qualified instead. They think mango eaters must be deficient in brain power, after all they eat mangoes. We can pay them less because they should be happy to have a job. They eat mangoes so they don’t need as much money.
Mango eaters however start to feel pretty good about their accomplishments and start to make strides. They probably don’t always see the discrimination. Sometimes they do though. Its often in the form of an offhand comment that reminds everyone that they are a mango eater and reminds everyone what happened to them. The insidious comment leaves that niggling little doubt that perhaps this mango eater doesn’t know what they are talking about. These comments diminish them as a person, point out that yes we let you in but you are still a mango eater.
So here it is: When you’ve used something against a group of people to hold them back, keep them down or otherwise inhibit their success it becomes taboo. You can’t use it as a joke and be politically correct, you can’t bring it up in the workplace even as a casual comment, its off limits. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t a mango eater hater. Its still taboo.
This is why the comment by our esteemed President Barack Obama a couple months ago is wrong. When President Obama was introducing Kamala Harris the Attorney General of California at a Democratic fundraiser. The President said:
“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country”
He can’t introduce a brilliant, successful woman and then throw in a comment about her looks. It totally diminishes her and her accomplishments. Its a reference to her womanhood. Some say it was just flirtatious (Um Michelle where are you?). Perhaps. And Obama probably meant nothing by it, he was trying to be jovial. But the fact is it was an unnecessary comment thrown in about something that has nothing to do with her role as Attorney General, her role at the fundraiser. In my opinion it diminished her power the minute he uttered it. It was a comment about her personally that really only those intimate with her have a right to make. Most women do not want to hear from a business associate or colleague or male friend comments on their looks. Stick to the relevant items. Show us that you are paying attention to the work we are doing and that it doesn’t matter what we look like.
Sure Obama has a history of referring to guys as good looking in his speeches too. But nobody’s ever tried to minimize good looking white guys brain power, job prospects or ability to vote because they are white guys. If some white guy wants to write an incensed blog about the President’s remarks toward their group I’ll gladly support it. I don’t agree with referring to anyone’s looks at a business function.
I’m proud to be a woman. I feel lucky in my personal and professional life and do not feel gender discrimination. I’ve said it here before: Men and women are different and always will be. Its part of what makes life interesting. I enjoy being feminine and dressing up. I try to look my best and I would hope men are doing the same. But that doesn’t mean I want my appearance to become the topic of conversation at a business meeting. It doesn’t make me feel good, it makes me feel small.