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January is one of my favorite times of the year. I relish the chance to push the reset button and begin anew. I use it as a time to reflect about what worked in the prior year and what can be done in the coming year to make life better.
Looking back at 2012, two major public issues rattled my sense of rightness: the negative campaigning in the 2012 elections and the posturing about the fiscal cliff. Both issues call for an infusion of feminine values into the public square.
Please don’t be confused. When I speak of feminine values, I’m not speaking directly about gender. I’m speaking about values like compassion, stewardship, fairness, beauty, civility, cooperation, optimism, continual productivity and goodness that exist in both men and women. I call them feminine values because they tend to be more dominant in women.
Masculine values, which are more dominant in men, include traits like efficiency, ambition, power, achievement and competition. I’ve known plenty of women with these traits as well. Successful societies esteem both masculine and feminine values and find a way to balance the two.
Masculine values ran amuck in 2012. Nowhere was this more evident than in the presidential election campaign, where the Obama and Romney teams spit out ad after ad with mean, negative and uninspiring claims about the other candidate. Gov. Mitt Romney’s call for “self-deportation” and reference to the “47 percent” showed his insensitivity to the feminine side of his nature. President Barack Obama’s admonition that “voting is the best revenge” showed his masculine values got out of balance as well.
Locally, the Mia Love and Jim Matheson campaign mirrored the presidential race to the bottom. It displayed the masculine values of ambition, competition and power colliding, bone on bone. It left little to feel good about.
Thankfully, here in Utah we saw a contrast to the presidential and 4th Congressional District vitriol. The Ben McAdams campaign got it right with a positive and informative campaign that lifted him to an unexpected victory. The feminine values of stewardship, civility and optimism won the day. We need more of this approach in 2013.
The interplay of masculine and feminine values is a key construct of successful societies. Masculine values come from a place of strength. Feminine values come from a place of goodness. When we are at our best, both strength and goodness combine to create a better future.
Without strength, goodness goes unrecognized, is unheard, unseen and unfulfilled. Without goodness, strength leads to harm, abuses of power and petty infighting without purpose.
Case in point: the infuriating debate in 2012 over the fiscal cliff. Unchecked masculine values created a war instead of a solution. It’s as if the American people are watching a giant chess match that gambles away our future with the potential of checkmating ourselves.
There is a better way, and I hope we find it in 2013. We need to build from the dual foundation of strength and goodness—masculine and feminine—that is the source of human progress.
The men in our society need to reach a little deeper and let their feminine values shine. We need more cooperation, compassion and optimism in our lives. On the female side, we need more women in public office, more women in boardrooms, more women in senior decision-making positions and more opportunity for our daughters.
So here’s to a wonderful 2013 and a call out for the feminine values within us all. May we—male and female—let our feminine values shine in the coming year.
Natalie Gochnour is the chief economist at the Salt Lake Chamber.