Monday morning I awoke in Palm Springs after a weekend of heady Chairman Mom product brainstorming. (I have so much to tell you all in a few months!) My skin smelled of chlorine from a late swim the night before, the mountains soared outside my window, and coffee was a short walk to the kitchen away. What could be better?
And then I opened Feedly…and just ughhhhhhhhhhhh. There was that old familiar feeling like a ton of bricks landing on my gut: “Uber CEO calls slaying of Jamal Khashoggi ‘a mistake’ and compares it to a self-driving car crash.”
I am well beyond my long slog of convincing the world what a toxic, misogynist organization Uber is, I am NO LONGER A JOURNALIST, and as a consumer I deleted Uber long before it was a hashtag or they threatened my children. I shouldn’t have to continue to respond to awful things this company does, should I?
So frequently there are things that are absolutely blindingly obvious about Uber that need to be said. And so, I am writing this intro even though I’d rather just shrug and move on with my day. My deal with myself (on my flight back to bro-topia SF) is to make it as painless on myself to write this as possible.
To that end….
Do I need to explain why these comments were disgusting? No, I do not.
Do I need to point out that the subsequent “I didn’t believe the things I said!” walk-back makes zero sense? Why should we believe you are gonna be more hard a** in private with the Saudis than you would be on national TV? No, I do not.
Do I need to remind everyone how toxic the Uber CEO chalice was, how many rumored high-level CEO candidates hard passed, how Khosrowshahi was reportedly no one’s top candidate, and how we all should have been suspicious of the character of the person who thought “DEAR GOD YES!” when they were offered this job? No, I do not.
Do I need to remind everyone that Khosrowshahi isn’t alone? That existing Uber board member Kalanick himself seems to share this “live and let murder” view of the Saudis? That his new company just took $400 million in capital from them—the first startup deal since the murder? No, I do not.
Do I need to again quote Maya Angelou and the whole “When someone shows you who they are believe them” line? No, I do not.
Do I need to ironically slow clap the Washington Post’s BELATED #deleteuber movement, pointing out the many other times the organization should have taken issue with such a toxic organization? Smearing women sexually assaulted using their service? Threatening journalists? Stealing trade secrets? Systemic harassment? That’s all good, WaPo? No, I do not.
None of those are the points I wanted to rehash. And I’ve long argued that the wishful thinking that Dara Khosrowshahi would wave a magic wand and change the culture was just that.
So what is my point? To name this thing we keep seeing from Khosrowshahi and others: Himpathy.
I have just finished Kate Manne’s AMAZING book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny. I will need to read it about six more times to get everything out of it. It’s dense and packed with “Oh! that’s why the world is the way it is!” insights.
But one of the big takeaways was about something she calls “himpathy”—how our cultural structurally works to make men who did awful things the victims of their own actions and how that robs their actual victims of their story, their humanity, their trauma, their everything.
Himpathy was expressed when Brock Turner’s dad lamented that his son could no longer enjoy a steak after being found guilty of sexual assault. Himpathy was expressed when the GOP decried how unfair the world had been to Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. Himpathy is expressed every time that guy you know laments that Billy Bush, Matt Lauer, Woody Allen, or Louis CK totally deserves a comeback. It’s like “mansplaining”: Once you have a word for it, you see himpathy everywhere. And boy does it piss people off when you call it out.
Khosrowshahi’s comments about the Saudi’s murder of a journalist were pure himpathy. “It’s a serious mistake. We’ve made mistakes, too… I think that people make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven.”
As TechCrunch astutely pointed out, this is hardly a first for Khosrowshahi: “…he has applied this people-can-change-and-mistakes-happen attitude to serious infractions before.
During an interview in 2018 at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, Khosrowshahi defended Uber COO Barney Harford, who had reportedly made insensitive comments about women and racial minorities. Khosrowshahi described Harford as ‘an incredibly person’ and ‘one of the good people’ as it relates to diversity and inclusion.”
One of the “good people” unless you are a woman or person of color, I suppose. Just like the Saudis are great if they’re giving you billions of dollars, and not so great if they murder you?
Said Khosrowshahi about Harford, ‘I don’t think a comment that might have been taken as insensitive… should mark a person…I don’t think that’s fair. And I’m sure I’ve said things that have been insensitive…’”
Sound familiar? It’s move-for-move the same himpathy playbook we’ve seen Khosrowshahi play twice, and the world post #metoo play hundreds of times.
“Yes this is bad” -> “but we all do bad stuff, right?” -> “This [group/person] has totally learned and is sorry” -> “YOU are the bad person if you don’t forgive them and give them another chance.”
We should note, Khosrowshahi has similarly still called Travis Kalanick an “asset” to the company, and the two did a chummy selfie at the all hands when Khosrowshahi was announced as the man who would reverse all the horrible things Kalanick did…moves that imply some sort of “forgiveness” for someone who has learned as well.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- 10 month old just refuses solid food. Mealtime has become a war scene. Help!
- Have you successfully navigated starting a new company “on the side” while working full-time BEFORE you can be public about the new thing?
- What questions should I ask a potential financial advisor?