It talks about various world leaders and CEOs visiting the monastic community at Mount Athos before the big annual World Economic Forum summit at Davos, Switzerland. Everybody's doing it, and various people explain how it was a very private experience, has changed their lives, and so on. "Every CEO needs to visit Mount Athos" enthuses Interaction Fund manager George Karaplis, the former chief financial officer of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization. There's only one tiny problem... so tiny it's glossed over in one section header and a background sentence.
It's men only. No women are allowed on Mount Athos, by the rules of the orthodoxy that the monasteries there belong to.
This is a longish article, above the fold on the front page of the business section, and all it has to say about this is:
No women allowed
Other than those making pilgrimages, which usually last three days and are free, the monks allow about 120 daily visitors to the heavily guarded Mount Athos, where entry is by boat or helicopter and women are forbidden.
That's it. A parallel to a minor inconvenience of travel methods. You can't drive there, and by the way don't bother showing up without a Y chromosome.
Now religions, not requiring logic, are allowed to foster all sorts of dumb ideas - preferably on their own time and far away from me. Mount Athos fits both of those criteria, so I don't exactly have any reason to quibble with them. Certainly CEOs of any sex or gender should be allowed to seek spiritual enlightenment howsoever they wish.
But the Business and Technology section of the Seattle Times promoting this as a "Best Practice" type of activity strikes me as a tacit endorsement of some pretty ugly sexism.
Did the article somehow fail to mention that they make exceptions for female CEOs? Or does it offer the background assumption that the set "every CEO" contains only males? Does that mean the Times buys into the notion that women aren't important business leaders (who might have spiritual needs, or business needs for that matter)?
The article claims, you see, that Mount Athos is the place the elite go to "get their God on" (to borrow a construction I really really dislike, but find appropriate for its level of detachment here) - and certainly implies that a sense of brotherhood and mutual support has developed between men who have this experience in common. Sounds like an endorsement to me - the tone of the article is upbeat and admiring, so clearly we are to come away thinking the process is a good one, for business leaders, and therefore their businesses, the World Economic Forum and the world in general. It's always nice to be part of something, and humans so naturally divide the world into us and them that being one of them can be pretty detrimental.
I doubt I'll actually get to writing a letter. I line everything up like this and think what's the point. It's the underlying assumptions that bug me, but the idea of trying to change them is exhausting all by itself.