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January 26th, 2005

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08:05 am - *sputter*
There was an article in the business section of yesterday's Seattle Times that I am trying to calm down enough to write a cogent letter about. Although it looks like it was syndicated, I only find it on the Times site after a brief Google but that is very likely user error.

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.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 26th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC)

Go ahead & write

A few times when I have been moved in this way, I have written LOCS (heh. that's geek for "Letter of Comment" and applies to fanzines usually). And they often get published. It's fun to see your words and name in print, and you are contributing in a small way to the dialogue. There might be some young girl out there who reads the paper, and was bugged by that article, but can't put her finger on why. You can help.
[User Picture]
Date:January 26th, 2005 07:16 pm (UTC)

Monks...not newspaper

So, I read this article from the Business section of the Seattle Times archives (As it was in Tuesday's paper). I don't see the Seattle Times endorsing it as a "best practice". I do see some quotes from those who visit it saying it's a "must", but that's just reporting. The monks are, for whatever reason, rejecting women from their monestary. I read this as a curiousity piece, reporting some facts and endorsements.

I'm more worried that the CEOs of any company are going to a monestary to "develop an awareness of priorities and leave with a clear vision of what's going on in the world."

[User Picture]
Date:January 27th, 2005 01:41 am (UTC)
The idea of trying to change things is sometimes more exhausting than the attempt, just because it becomes this heavy stagnant thing. At least if you've written the letter, you've Written The Letter.

And yeah, I'm one to talk, being still not-quite-recovered from being burnt out. But I still gotta say that trying still feels better than not. Sometimes, you're even thanked for it! And, sometimes things change!!!

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