10/10/2012 07:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The End Of Sexism

"For thousands of years, males have seen women not as women could be, but only as males want them to be." Marvin Harris, Anthropologist

Lately, I've been seeing some references to guys feeling like they are experiencing sexism, if you will - not from me, mind you, but from society at large. Peter Moore, the awesome editor of Men's Health Magazine tweeted an article in the NYTimes by David Brooks on Why Men Fail, giving voice to a rumble of discontent. Now, my office is right down the hall from the staff of Men's Health, so it could be just the proximity of a bunch of big, smart, funny, and wonderful guys, but I kind of have to smile a bit. After millennia when the sexism was (and still is) targeted on women, the guys get their first taste of it and boom: they're crying foul. Well, get used to it, guys. And talk to me after another thousand years, and we'll see how you're feeling then.

I stopped by Peter's office the other morning on my way in to work and said something to the effect of: "When men have prevented women from education, working, economic, sexual and religious freedom, and the right to get involved in politics for THOUSANDS OF YEARS, you shouldn't be surprised that we are whooping your ass when that said playing field is finally leveled and fair."

We chatted and joked a bit. He wants me to read a book called The Second Sexism, and I want him to read a book called Sex at Dawn. We both agreed that my book recommendation sounded a bit more fun to read.

"I feel a blog coming on..." I muttered as I left his office. I think he muttered something like "Well, you are the CEO..."

The point of David Brooks's column was that women might be better at adapting than men. I had just told my whole leadership team (including Peter) about Darwin's theory of evolution. Contrary to popular opinion, it's not about "survival of the fittest," the theory of evolution is really about the ability to ADAPT. Which is what we are all having to do these days in this world of tumultuous technological disruption....adapt, and damn fast!

But this is not a blog about evolution or adaptation. Actually, maybe it is. Because the question to me isn't who's right or wrong or what's fair or foul, but how do we all win and adapt? How do we ALL evolve and succeed. Is that a uniquely female perspective? Perhaps.

But the truth is, I do have a unique perspective on this situation. I am going to make an outrageous claim and say that I have probably read more books on women's history than all the men in the universe combined have read. Just kidding, but not really. So I do consider myself an amateur expert. And I have managed to get to a leadership position "beyond the glass ceiling." I like men. I really, really like them. They are not perfect. But neither am I. They are not all alike. But neither are we.

I often wonder if I would have gotten to my position as CEO of Rodale (a family business), if I hadn't been born into the family and adapted to my circumstances. The answer, I think, is probably not. I don't think I would have even thought of it. But then I think maybe that's why I was born into the family I was born into, so I could prove it to myself and to others that it is possible. Don't get me wrong, I'm still proving it and have not declared victory and might never be able to. No man has ever made it easy for me. But neither has any woman. As a person who manages and works a lot with both men and woman, I will say we all have a lot to learn and neither sex is better or worse. Some people are better at some things and others are better at others. The sooner we can stop trying to win at the expense of someone else, the faster we will all succeed...and that obsessive/compulsive insistence on winning is what seems to blind men the most to true success.

Maybe our biggest difference may be in how we define success. The traditional male stereotype has to do with gaining the most money, the fanciest surroundings, the hottest lady or other friends, the most powerful cars and yachts, the biggest bank accounts....and the biggest charitable contributions, too. Yet deep down we all know that doesn't necessarily bring happiness. And I think reality shows have probably proven it, though I don't watch them.

Personally, I define success as a feeling of security, comfort, and clarity when I know that everyone in my family and in my business is treated well and taken care of properly - and for me personally to have enough means to feel a sense of freedom - that I am not letting fear of money determine what I do or don't do. I was lucky enough to make this discovery relatively early in life. But on a related note, I just read about a study online that said what the truly rich spend their money on isn't watches and cars, but travel (experiences) and home renovations (security and comfort). It's about the freedom to go on adventures and the pleasure of coming home!

And when we do come home, we all want to feel loved, cared for, and appreciated (and yes, that includes for both men and women LOTS of hot sex! With orgasms for everyone!). We don't want to have to tip-toe around fragile male egos or continually have to scrape our own decimated egos up off the kitchen floor with a dirty mop (this goes for work, too!). As Riane Eisler says in her awesome book, Sacred Pleasure, true progress and evolution between the sexes is about partnership. True partnership.

Can men and woman both adapt and evolve enough to make true partnership possible? I don't know. But if we want to, and if we choose to, we can have fun trying!


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