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Book review of “Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing” by David Leser

Book review of "Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing" by David Leser“Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing” by David Leser

Timing may be everything. The day I first read the title of this book early in September 2019, France had just announced its one-hundredth “féminicide” for the year: one-hundred women murdered mostly by the men who once claimed to love them. Without that context, I might not have registered the importance of Australian journalist David Leser’s book, “Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing” (Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2019; ISBN 978 1 76087 772 9; 297 pages).

As it was, I was shocked enough by the French feminicide statistics to mail order Leser’s providential book from Australia (A$24.24 with zero postal charges through The Book Depository). By the time I had received it, France, where I am a permanent resident, was declared the third most dangerous country in Europe for women, right behind Denmark and Finland. Worldwide, statistically, one out of three women is a victim of physical or sexual abuse, according to tv5monde (3 September 2019). And, in the United States, women had somberly marked the first anniversary of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s humiliating, legal defeat when Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court despite her accusations of sexual aggression and his cringe-worthy denial.

So I did a bit of weeping over my intellectual loss of innocence during Leser’s heartbreaking audit of the no less shocking state of affairs between men and women over the ages. One wonders how the human species has survived.

Exploring the battleground

David Leser is a brave man to address the Great Gender Divide of the Twenty-First Century, the battleground where mostly women are the victims and men the losers. Leser’s gender itself lends gravitas to the relating of the feminist movement’s evolution and its perceived effect on mankind – a word that has suddenly taken on considerable irony. He has done his homework well, revealing worldwide historical cases of sexual abuse, current international cases of high-profile celebrity sexual aggression, as well as all the outrageous, culturally-incited incidents of feminicide in China and the Subcontinent.

Leser explores profligate male mentality, the pervasive entitlement of male-dominated society that keeps women “in their place”, and the recent #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. He explores the leadership myth that erroneously holds up Steve Jobs, Vladimir Putin or Richard Branson as models of “strong leaders” whereas studies show that effective leadership is more apt to be self-effacing, a trait more prevalent in women than men. He decries the blindness of masculine power and the deafness of male entitlement as causes rather than effects of women’s liberations efforts.

And then, from the “Augustine Confessions” chapter forward, the author gets personal, describing his own pilgrim’s progress down the gender-brick road. He discusses the “tyranny of masculinity” in the chapter appropriately called “The Man Box”, a kind of coffin for masculine sensitivity and chivalry. He identifies the Industrial Revolution as effectively compartmentalizing Western Civilization’s previous parenting partnership model into a necessity-driven model with clearly separated His and Her roles. This cleavage, in turn, has resulted in a kind of militarization of masculine “He-man” norms and the commodification of women as subservient sexual objects.

Ironically, the first violence of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century patriarchy was done to men themselves, by depriving them of free access to their “archetypal feminine” (though some would call it humanity), thus stifling the softness and vulnerability necessary for emotional attachments, such as marriage and parenting. This, in turn, sets the stage for emotional upheaval and even violence later on in life – violence that men perpetrate on men, in wars and work, but eventually, inevitably, also on women. It’s no wonder that some modern men have become, according to Leser, “…confused, broken, angry boys ready to inflict damage on themselves and others.” The theory goes that it is this “fragile masculinity” that may explain why men (and some women) are enthusiastic dupes for posturing males like Donald Trump.

(I encourage you to watch HBO’s “Succession”, S2E3, “Boar on the Floor”, if you need an example of emasculating violence in the making.)

For whatever reason, says Michael Kimmel, the international authority on masculinity, it would appear that men in this day and age “would rather see themselves as being battered by feminism than being shaped by the larger culture (p. 155)”.

Better to beat up a woman than attack your Archetypal Father…

Men’s liberation

The author then explores perspectives on men’s liberation and men’s rights put forth by not only Kimmel, but also Robert Bly and Joseph Campbell, as attempts to fill the larger cultural void. Unfortunately, such efforts to allow men to be emotional with other men are often stymied by homophobia. In that context of fragilized masculinity, feminism is seen as an assault on masculine identity, rather than a call for social fairness and equality. (“Succession” educates us in this again, by exploring the fraught relationship between Siobhan Roy and her husband Tom, whose last name never really seems to matter.) This creates what Kimmel calls “aggrieved entitlement” among men, a kind of patriarchy that strips not only women of power but also most men.

Kimmel further points out that violence is the only behavioral attitude and trait in which there is significant gender difference: men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violence. Most acts of violence can be seen as acts to destroy the shame of a fragile masculine ego. It portrays Man as an irresponsible Adolescent attempting to gain pride without taking personal responsibility. Only toughness counts. The corollaries are the over-sexualization and objectification of women.

Lest we forget or our minds get jaded by the endless sexual and psychological violence we see on television, sometimes with breathtaking portraits of cultural sickness, such as in “Succession”, Leser reminds us in the chapter entitled “The grey zone”, that violence in the form of “rape, bullying and workplace discrimination (are) all of them unlawful acts”. You can’t repeat that often enough: rape (including sexual aggression) is against the law in most “civilized” countries.

The impact of #MeToo

So, how did it happen that so many men were getting away with so much unchallenged law-breaking until the #MeToo Movement?

One of the many interesting cases Leser explores involves the Australian feminist Helen Garner who, born in the 1940s, was culturally programmed to think of parrying uninvited sexual advances as an unavoidable part of life – just something to put up with. She was blown away when young women in the 1990s started taking complaints of a sexual nature to the courts, even for what she saw as minor offenses, like sexual aggression, possibly unworthy of the courts’ attention. It shocked her to see a prominent man whom she admired being targeted publicly, so much so that she took it upon herself to apologize to him for his attackers’ behavior. [This is a perfect example of the Blame-the-Victim mindset that continues even today, to wit the outrageous attacks on political grounds that Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford has endured since she “dared” to confront Yale graduate and now Justice Brett Kavanaugh for his adolescent infringement of the law.]

Leser also addresses the flap over Catherine Deneuve’s bombshell rebuke of the #MeToo Movement, claiming her “right” to receive catcalls and flirty passes from men. As one of his interviewees observes, probably “80 percent of the (#MeToo) cases have nothing to do with Harvey Weinstein, and everything to do with issues of intimacy, connection, consent and power”. Deneuve apologized.

Many women have realized only since the #MeToo campaign that what they may have called being “taken advantage of” fifty years ago was, in fact, unreported sexual aggression or even rape. And that it is and always was, even back then, against the law. (Despite the vicious attacks against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for dredging up her decades-old memories, that met with an unlawful crowd-sourced “statute of belief limitation” from the U.S. Senate, many men and women are increasingly willing to talk about old memories now, in particular with regard to the egregious molestations by priests in the Roman Catholic Church for over half a century.)

Rather than simplify male-female relations, the #MeToo movement appears to have exposed new intricacies. Attempted solutions now range from “new” Christian celibacy programs to “pre-sex dating contracts” that aim at removing ambiguity (and romance) from precarious social relationships. Just when it’s most needed, sex education in schools is being contested or “sanitized”. Uncontrolled adolescent access to online pornography further distorts reality, leaving both young girls and boys learning practices that are not pleasurable to either sex when separated from relevant emotional content that requires maturity. This kind of immature sex experimentation has led to fewer and fewer women enjoying orgasm, and fewer and fewer men understanding that they have anything to do with that failure.

One of the results of the #MeToo Movement is that many older men are living under a sword of Damocles, wondering if what they did in the past will be re-evaluated in the light of these new, confusing rules. (Frankly, I’m wondering if I even care when I learn from Leser that nearly 18 million women in the U.S. population have been raped and that one in four will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. OMG.)

“We know,” says Leser, “that every time women demand that we reset the rules of life, so that they are treated equally (…), there is a predictable counterattack, subtle or overt (by the male population).”

Moving forward

This looms ominous for continuous progress toward solving the finer points of relationships between men and women. Judging people’s pasts by the values of the present may prove tricky ethically in an era when, especially in the USA, politics has already curdled ethical justice.

Leser doesn’t think that shaming or humiliating anyone is the best way to get results. He also thinks that there should be some proportionality between the “crime” and the punishment, and that women who understand this male anguish will contribute the most to healing the collective wound.

“We need new conversations and role models to light the way, and we need each other now, more than ever”, concludes Leser after quoting New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s 2018 statement to the United Nations: “#Me Too must become #We Too [because] we are all in this together.”

I would highly recommend that this excellent book be made obligatory reading for everyone as a rite to passage into adulthood, even retrospectively.

A Book Review by Constance G. Konold
November 19, 2019

NPD for the Layman

Yesterday, I attended an interesting and useful webinar on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). (My excessive personal experience as a former victim in the matter makes me a default expert on the topic; however, it’s always best to check in with the pros from time to time.) It’s learning that possibly 20 percent of the adult American population – I mean, we’re talking about 60 million people – are somewhere on the spectrum of abusive narcissism, that has prompted me to keep writing about it in my career coaching blog. The implications for the United States are staggering because, conservatively, that means that upward of 60 million Americans must be victims of this particular psychological affliction since it takes two to tango, so to speak. Just think what it must be worldwide!

Sources: I thank Robyn Walser, PhD, and Avigail Lev, PsyD, of the Bay Area Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Center of San Francisco for organizing their important webinar and Isabelle Nazare-Aga, author of “The Manipulators Among Us” (“Les Manipulateurs Parmi Nous”) for first removing the scales from my eyes and me from the NPD Victims List. (The many NPD-afflicted experts who spontaneously provided me with my extensive training deserve no credit at all.)

NPD for the LaymanBriefly, the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is rendered difficult by the very instrument that is supposed to clarify us on the topic. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, describes NPD as basically “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy” but falls short on offering a behavioral diagnosis. This is the gap that my sources at the Bay Area Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of San Francisco have attempted to fill.

In reality, NPD manifests itself over a spectrum of observable traits and behaviors in which empathy diminishes with each of the increasing levels:

  • Entitlement (“I deserve this.”)
  • Narcissism (“I, in particular, deserve this.”)
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) (“I deserve this and you don’t if you disagree with me.”)
  • Malignant, sociopathic tendencies (“I deserve this and am going to take it from you for myself alone.”)
  • Psychopathic degree (“I deserve this and will hurt you badly to get it.”)

Narcissism may be either “overt” (visible) or “covert” (hidden). It’s pretty easy to spot an overt narcissist. (I was tickled that the webinar leaders used a certain current American president as a prime, classic example.) After a few encounters with one, you are probably clever enough to know instinctively to run the other way. Identifying the covert narcissist, however, is more difficult because we will be manipulated by the offending narcissist to doubt our own evaluation of him/her and his/her problem. The covert narcissist may appear to be vulnerable, perhaps posturing as a victim; s/he may be reserved and charming, hiding grandiosity in smugness and claiming to be misunderstood.

What can cause NPD?

The causes of narcissistic personality are usually to be found in early childhood, when a child is not accepted for being the way s/he is, resulting in the child feeling shame about who or what s/he is. The child will then begin to project this feeling onto other people, becoming envious or deceitful, constantly measuring him/herself against an ideal that can never quite be achieved. The narcissistic child will feel frustration at this and attempt to reset the balance in his/her favor, often by inflicting (psychological or physical) pain on the person envied. Consequently, the young narcissist matures into not only being addicted to the other person for feedback, with the intention of always being able to stay in control, but also with polished manipulating skills.

Narcissists (and often their children), as adults, will have developed a false sense of self, leaving them fragile and in need of having their egos constantly fed by other people who, unwittingly, become at once their drug and their victims.

Covert narcissists use strategies that reverse the Victim-Abuser roles. (“You’re so mean to me!” for complaining that I forgot to take out the garbage.) The narcissistic parent will tend to use strategies to control children, playing them off against each other (Golden Child, Bad Child, Failed Child, etc.), and the fragile child will become codependent on the narcissistic adult for approval. The narcissistic parent will inevitably extend only conditional love, thus harming the child. (If you see a child who is suffering from a narcissistic adult, the best thing you can do for that child is to dilute the situation by helping the child meet lots of other people.)

Further, narcissists – if they are able to extend empathy at all – will manifest “cold empathy” or the ability to intellectually put themselves in other people’s shoes without themselves experiencing any measurable emotional or even physiological impact. (As my webinar leaders were prompt to say, whenever you’re confronted with someone who doesn’t feel empathy, run!)

There is little chance that the narcissist will change, so your best bet is to invest in some self-care in some form of therapy and an Escape Plan for yourself (and, above all, your children). If you take your NPD partner to meet your therapist, don’t forget that your NPD partner is a past master at manipulation. S/he will be sufficiently energized by the challenge you’ve raised to show you that s/he’s Right and In Control by attempting to turn your therapist against you or even seducing the therapist.

How does a narcissist work?

If you want to see a perfect example of psychopathic NPD dynamics in action, watch the Netflix three-season bonanza “Big Little Lies”. The character Perry Wright, played so frighteningly well by the actor Alexander Skarsgård, as The Psycho-Narcissist, renders his gorgeous, bright wife Celeste, played equally brilliantly by Nicole Kidman, The Classic Victim: she is battered, belittled and shorn of any source of personal satisfaction other than sex with her husband.

Perry offers us a demonstration of the basic NPD process: 1) Idealize the coveted object; 2) Devalue the object to gain control; and 3) Discard the object to inflict pain, demonstrating the abusive narcissist’s perceived superiority. Being human, the recipient of this unhealthy attention is confused, destabilized and transformed into a Victim. (This is also a mechanism frequently used by NPD bosses in professional situations that keeps the recruiters busy looking for new victims!) And, in Season Three, thanks to the outstanding, subtle portrayal of Perry’s mother by Meryl Streep, we get to see why Perry excelled at his Narcissistic Personality Disorder with a vengeance.

The fictitious Wright couple demonstrates the Narcissist’s Abuse Cycle:

  • HONEYMOON – The NPD Abuser “grooms” his Victim by demonstrating his love for the Victim.
  • ROUTINE – Life is pleasant, normal, and idealized. (They have home videos to prove it!)
  • TENSION – The NPD Abuser finds fault with his Victim, whom he may feel is about to escape him (like go out alone or get a job).
  • TRIGGER – The Victim, in perfect innocence, hits the NPD Abuser’s hot button by acting on her own needs (to socialize, to take initiative alone, to have an existence independent of her partner).
  • ABUSE – The NPD Abuser attacks the Victim, physically or verbally.
  • EXCUSES – The NPD Abuser extracts from the Victim recognition of guilt by means of an apology.
  • HONEYMOON – They kiss and make up.

Another public example of a perfectly perverse narcissistic mechanism, known as Reversal, that many of us cringed through, was Brett Kavanaugh’s trial, on October 3, 2018, when he – accused of attempted rape by the plaintiff – dramatically attempted to transform himself into The Victim, blaming the plaintiff for ruining his life.

Since the jury is still out on whether or not Narcissistic Personality Disorder (more darkly known as a perversion in French) can be cured, the victim’s best strategy is to:

  • Inform him/herself about NPD;
  • Predict consequences on his/her health, wealth and happiness;
  • Learn practical self-care skills like detached empathy, Nonviolent Communications (NVC), and the Grey Rock Method (playing the dormouse); and
  • Clarify and commit to values.

If you want to join the ever-increasing ranks of NPD Spotters International, please send me other cases you’ve documented around the world. (Boris and Bibi are already on the list!)

By Constance G. Konold
August 19, 2019

The development of corporate coaching

corporate coaching, executive coaching France

Build a stronger team with corporate coaching

The rapid development and acceptance of the coaching profession, beyond sports and music, is no mystery. It has evolved out of the void left by corporate downsizing, which has eliminated traditional in-company mentors – senior persons who used to “groom” younger employees over the years for certain functions and responsibilities in the company. Now those traditional mentors are put into retirement at an early age and “grooming” is at best haphazard. This, combined with more rapid personnel turnover than in the past, has prompted management to seek the services of outside contractual professionals known as “coaches”. Coaching has thus become part of corporate value-added strategy as well as a smart investment in an individual’s personal life and career.

If you feel that you or your organization can benefit from career coaching, reach out today to Constance G. Konold.

[Read more…]

Michel Jauslin, Area Vice President Operations France & Morocco, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts

Nothing predestined Michel Jauslin to a forty-plus year career in hospitality and yet he jokes that he has always had “a career road map” in his head.

Born in the Swiss Romande, Jauslin pursued a typical Helvetian education, attending the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce of Neuchatel with the intention of later studying law, until one day he picked up a friend’s book on wine and within a week was enrolled at the Lausanne Hotel School.

He remembers that decisive moment of sudden enlightenment with gratitude; it gave him the impetus and motivation that has propelled him through four decades of a passionate, international career. [Read more…]

An Exercise in Emotion

First, let’s recognize that some of us are illiterates when it comes to describing our emotions. We tend to use just the “primary colors” of emotions such as love, anger, fear, and the spectrum of sadness-happiness. They are instinctive. But guess what: they are not enough to describe the rich and varied lives most of us live in the Twenty-First Century.emotions

The first step of emotional literacy is to recognize emotions as an important form of mental activity, on par with thinking (cognition) that takes place in the frontal cortex; emotions just inhabit a different area of the brain called the amygdala, but are far from being minor in our overall functioning. Culture has sought to prioritize the various parts and functions of the brain, with horrendous consequences when we see what a mess our fight-or-flight world has become today.

The essential fact we need to retain is that all parts of our brain provide equally important services for a normal existence. As important as frontal-cortex intellect is, it cannot happen in a vacuum devoid of the rest of our brain functions without serious repercussions on our health, happiness, and ability to achieve full potential, or success, in our lives. [Read more…]

Realign your Career to 2020 Expectations

No sooner had the World Economic Forum established the specific skills set needed to survive in the 2020 workplace than it stated that “the problem is that none of these skills are easy to learn alone, online, or without effort”.

goldfish after career coachingEmotional intelligence and relationship management appear on the list as sine qua non for attaining top-ranking skills: complex problem-solving (#1), critical thinking (#2), and creativity (#3).

Career coaching would also appear to be the sine cure for professionals of all generations attempting to make the transition to the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution Workplace. Coaching is not a metaphorical crutch but a learning tool and a success accelerant that can no longer be considered as “optional”. [Read more…]

The Melting Pot(ential) Forum

On International Diversity Policy: A Summary of the first OECD-COPE Diversity Forum

Preface

On January 22, 2018, the OECD pioneered the first international forum on Diversity and Inclusion of disadvantaged groups (women, immigrants, LGBTQ, seniors and the disabled) under the auspices of its Centre for Opportunity and Equality (COPE).  The purpose was to provide “a platform for promoting and conducting policy-oriented research on the trends, causes and consequences of inequalities in society and the economy…” and to inform and influence the international policy debate that inclusive growth policies encourage shared prosperity.

The purpose of this summary is to share its valuable content with DHRs, CSR managers, recruiters, and policy makers and to help people of diversity get on The Right Career Path in the Right Company in the Right Country. [Read more…]

François Delahaye, Chief Operating Officer, Dorchester Collection – PDG du Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris

Ma curiosité sur la carrière de François Delahaye révèle qu’on peut bien réussir une carrière brillante et toujours trouver qu’on aurait pu mieux faire.

François Delahaye

Je voulais surtout l’interroger sur sa motivation, que je trouve parfois élusive pour mes étudiants et mes clients en coaching.

Une carrière satisfaisante, est-elle le résultat d’une révélation intuitive? d’un planning cartésien? d’un enchaînement d’opportunités – identifiées et relevées – sur le chemin du hasard?

Tous les modèles sont valables. En voilà un qui brille de par son originalité et la passion qui l’anime.

Que sont les “moteurs” dans votre carrière – les personnes ou événements qui vous ont inspiré de devenir ce que vous êtes devenu aujourd’hui ? [Read more…]

François Delahaye, Chief Operating Officer, Dorchester Collection – President, Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris

François Delahaye can enchant you with the extraordinary trajectory of his exceptional career and still make it seem somehow less than satisfactory. To him.

François Delahaye

The purpose of my interview was to inquire about the role of motivation, which I often find eludes my students and coaching clients, in a career that deserves the limelight it’s enjoyed for many years, at least among hoteliers.

Is a “successful” and thus supposedly satisfying career like Delahaye’s born whole from a moment’s inspiration? Does it require Cartesian planning? Does it emerge from a series of opportunities – identified and seized as such – on the yellow brick road of life?

While all those models may be valid, it’s still energizing to explore a model that is as brilliant and passionate as that of François Delahaye’s with the intent of passing some advice on to those waiting in the wings.

What are the “motors” in your career – the people and events that inspired you to become who you are today? [Read more…]

Les Recruteurs membres du Club des Chasseurs de Tête en font les cobayes pour Vous les Candidats

To read the article in English, click here.

Où est la limite au-delà de laquelle une simple évaluation de vos capacités et la transmission de vos résultats peuvent être ressenties comme une invasion de la vie privée et un grand méchant jugement moral ?

Bibliothèque de l’Hôtel de l’Industrie

Tel était le contexte de l’atelier proposé par deux cabinets d’assess-ment connus, invités du Club des Chercheurs de Têtes le 17 janvier 2018 à l’Hôtel de l’Industrie à Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris.

A tour de rôles, nos coachs du jour – Madame Claire PERES, Fondatrice et dirigeante de CAP Conseil à Paris et Madame Céline LABAUNE, chef de projet de CCLD Recrutement de Lyon – s’appliquaient à nous expliquer leur métier et nous rassurer dans nos forts intérieurs qu’il s’agit de techniques pointues et efficaces plutôt que d’instruments de torture pour nous infliger des critiques démoralisantes et désobligeantes. [Read more…]