Projecting Rules

One thing I’ve noticed that happens on feminist blogs is that they have a peculiar way of phrasing their questions. A common one I’ve seen (or been asked) is that they’ll ask “how is this empowering?” or “is this subversive?” Of course, this is to demand adherence to a standard which no one ever agreed to meet. In other words, to continually set yourself up for disappointment and frustration.

Consider the logic in applying the “Bechdel Test” to Christopher Nolan movies, or to any movie for that matter. The fact that it’s often also called the “Bechdel Rule” is illustrative. Essentially, this is to assert an arbitrary benchmark, apply it retroactively and then angrily wonder why it wasn’t respected. Such behavior is voting on reality.

This is different than disliking something or having an intellectual issue with some practice or form of art or whatever. One is to disagree, or perhaps better yet, propose an alternative. The other is an entitlement that will always leave you perturbed and upset because you’re expecting to see your personal views reflected back by the world around you. The difference between the two is the difference between asking “Why” or “How come?” and “Why are you doing this TO ME?”

There’s no reason to live like that (unless your goal is to gin-up pageviews). It’s miserable and exhausting. And when we look at most of the sources of frustration or disappointment in our lives, there’s a good chance that this kind of attitude is behind it. Each time you can get rid of it, you feel a little bit better.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.