Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moral Parsing

In a published letter about sexual harrassment to Marilyn vos Savant, Barbara DeBaere Poppy wrote, "I consider any woman who has the combined (typically female) traits of being submissive, tender minded, and security-motivated, as inadequate for a job in business. Top it off with naivete', and you have an individual who is easily manipulated, takes everything personally, and refuses to accept responsibility..."

Moral parsing works like this: a submissive bloke gets called a team player, if he's tender minded he's done a course in emotional intelligence, and if he's security-minded he's responsible. If he's easily manipulated they'll call him workplace-compliant, if he takes everything personally, they'll say he's passionate about his work, and if he refuses to take responsibility he's assertive.

I got the term, 'moral parsing' from my late friend Ian Hinckfuss. Moral parsing inhabits the unconscious, and emerges in a category of learned conventional practices variously described by sociologists like Mary Douglas and Pierre Bordieu , who calls them 'habitus'.

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