Why the Messiah Fallacy Hurts Female Empowerment

Messiah Fallacy symbolism

The Messiah Fallacy: What is the drop-off point? Photo Source: Seth Anderson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Flickr.

I am not hiding in hopes that someone else will take the reins in female empowerment campaigns. I admit to doing that in the past, watching the likes of Gloria Steinem stand up for women and not doing my part. That has changed; I have changed. I am now speaking and writing my views to help lead change.

With the concepts of leadership and female empowerment consistently on my mind, it’s with great interest that I am rereading portions of David Castro’s Genership 1.0: Beyond Leadership Toward Liberating the Creative Soul and discussing his sections on the Messiah Fallacy.

What is the Messiah Fallacy?

As Castro explains, the Messiah Fallacy is a technique that is not useful yet still exists in society, such as within some business organizations. It is the fallacy that a group’s success depends on the success or failure of a specific figure who is seen as a messiah type.

This way of thinking is destined to failure, explains Castro, because the group is putting its hopes onto one person to do more than is possible. He discusses in the book why people go along with the messiah. At least part of that reason is for the safe feeling that it provides as they look to another person for guidance and to lead the way. Group members feel that they are protected and are themselves free from risk when they project success onto that one figurehead.

Two left hands forming a heart shape-2.jpg

Female issues; they are close to my heart. Photo Source: Eymery, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Connecting the Messiah Fallacy to Female Empowerment

As I read through sections of Genership 1.0, I began to form links between Castro’s words and the female issues close to my heart. I began thinking through how the Messiah Fallacy is going to take females backward rather than advancing, if we keep thinking this way in the business environment.

Why is that? My reasoning can be simplified down to two facts. First, we live in a world that has one set of rules for women and another for men, both in personal and professional situations. Second, women and men have different ways of looking at the world. Taken together, that means that if female employees follow a male CEO under the Messiah Fallacy, they are destined to get unfulfilling outcomes and, in fact, may be detrimental to both their jobs and self-confidence.

I form that conclusion because I have seen and read about the differences between how men and women view the world. It’s not personal; it’s science. We’re built differently, with women being “more perceptive to color changes,” for example, than men, according to a Live Science article. So we literally have different ways of looking at situations. In addition, even if men don’t realize it, they are afforded opportunities at work that women are not, and that’s simply a product of how society is built right now, unfortunately.

So, returning to the example of a male CEO calling the shots for female employees, it’s not going to be completely for the females’ betterment. Please understand that I’m not saying he wouldn’t have the women’s best interests in mind; even if he does, he can’t put himself into their shoes and fully understand their concerns, issues or needs. If he asked them to tell him these things, many women would likely hide their true thoughts as they fear losing their jobs or other repercussions if the answers aren’t what the boss wants to hear.

The result here is that the women would likely not have completely fulfilling jobs if they follow the male messiah. They would also be perpetuating an already male-dominated society, encouraging men to be its leaders. As women’s empowerment is a campaign that I highly support, I refuse to take the route of the Messiah Fallacy.

What are your thoughts on the Messiah Fallacy?

 

©2014 Christy Birmingham

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38 thoughts on “Why the Messiah Fallacy Hurts Female Empowerment

  1. Hi Christy.
    I really enjoyed the reading and your reasonings here…
    The Messiah Fallacy, as you have explained above, is related to the idea that held that a group’s success depends on the success or failure of a specific figure (who is seen as a messiah type).
    I agree with you when you conclude that this fallacy would take females backward rather than advancing…
    But I am now wondering… Do we still nowadays have that type of top-down structured organization… Even if we assumed that a CEO is the main head and the most important decisions would have been taken by him… I tend to think that successful companies are more open nowadays and that they assume their own organic consciousness… I am not saying that the environment is perfectly horizontal… A leader is always a leader… Even though bureaucracy supports the division of labor (positions and functions).
    The Messiah Fallacy would entail inconclusive results in the practice I think… And that would count to male and females, both… Unless we are talking about smaller scales (and by that I mean small but still powerful business).
    Thanks for the clever post!… It is always a pleasure to visit you!,
    Happy weekend ahead to you & best wishes, Aquileana 😀

    • Hi Aqui,
      Thank you for stopping by with such a clever comment here. I believe that unfortunately the Messiah Fallacy is still in effect in businesses. It is likely that these companies are not ones that are highly successful and that is why they do not come readily to your mind. While it’s an unhealthy approach to depend on the CEO, for example, it leaves the employees feeling safe as they follow a so-called guide and carry little responsibilities themselves. There is certainly much to ponder!

      I always enjoy your visits too! Thanks for taking time to comment here, BGP! 🙂

      Happy Monday!

  2. I agree that following, depending on one person, means falling back, lacking progress in personal spiral to “greatness” – Messiah Fallacy I think applies to situations where a head figure like CEO – regardless of whether male or female – not only take and hold the lead but allow employees to stay dependent on them – not a healthy situation at all…then again, at times, I see (from experience) that there actually are people who welcome a “Messiah”, fallacy or not, because they themselves find life easier that way – they can just “cruise along” in life and there is a ride I would never be a part of 🙂

  3. Hi Christy… Over the years I have worked with and for many ladies with amazing talent and have nothing but respect for their dedication and commitment for what they do. Most are very gifted and professional at what they do and can conduct themselves better than most men in a boardroom setting or meeting. Great post you have put together here… keep up the blogging on this subject…

    Hugs from Alberta

  4. My thoughts are that the “Messiah Fallacy” also exists among women. Jobs where women have had the leading role for years (such as teaching, nursing, bookkeepers, sales, among others) this fallacy is still seen. Some government jobs, for example, have a hierarchical structure where the time the person has been working is what’s more valuable. Thus a “senior” nurse or teacher may well carry a “Messiah Role” simply because the hierarchical structure of the system that has worked like that for decades. It’s an old fashioned model the gubernamental careers follow. So the “senior” employee who’s reached the “25 years of service” mark IS LIKE a Messiah; it still goes on, I saw it with my own eyes. This is why I prefer private industries. Going back to the morphological differences between men and women’s brains. I agree, they are there, and they exist. But even when these differences are there, jobs should not be viewed as gender-specific. A male nurse can be just as compassionate and nurturing as a female nurse. Careers definitely transcend these morphological differences in our brains, why, because in dealing with the public, each gender has to compensate for his/her lacks.

    “In the unconscious of the male, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.
    The anima and animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possesses or the masculine ones possessed by the female, respectively.”-Jung Wikipedia

    I’m very Jungian about this matter.

    • Maria, Thank you for adding such a valid point here that women too can act as messiahs. Absolutely. There really needs to be more emphasis in teamwork for a successful business environment to grow, and I hope more people start to see this. How interesting about Jung’s quote. The mix of masculine and feminine in each person is intriguing – I may have to do some research! Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, my friend.

  5. Hi Christy. I love what you are doing with this blog. Talking about the empowering of women and delving in to so many fascinating aspects. I applaud you and look forward to coming here each week. xo 🙂

  6. Hi Christy, in the world of political leaders and religious leaders it’s the same, too – humans love to have a dictator,regardless of our blah blah blah about democracy. We even let the 5oclock newscaster do our thinking for us, don’t we?! But my personal opinion of women’s empowerment is that it is a mental state where we have the power to rise above the dictators who oppress our ability to think for ourselves. If we are rising to our highest ability in any task we are pursuing,we are empowering ourselves, are we not? Love the discussion, Dear! ❤❤❤;^)

    • Hi Aisha, Oh yes we are only hurting ourselves if we don’t live up to our maximum abilities! And that also shortchanges people around us as they can benefit from our skills too. You make many great points! Thank you for contributing here 🙂

  7. “It is the fallacy that a group’s success depends on the success or failure of a specific figure who is seen as a messiah type.” I think it is nonsense. True success is achieved through team work. The star player in the game cannot score a touch down without the help of his team mates.

  8. My experience shows me that the Messiahs, whether male or female, have become bigger than ever. In a world of corporate take overs, the ladders to success are becoming joined. There is only room at the top for one Messiah, and 2.3 4 or more M’s will lose position to the most powerful. All up the ladder work teams and individuals. Nonetheless, the M makes all final decisions.
    Yet, the M’s are mere mortals who may or may not like you on a personal level (race, creed, sex, age etc.not that they would say)
    Before, you could try another company. You had a fighting chance.
    Now, it’s kind of like …. One strike, and you’re out.(until when/if the M falls off and maybe the next one has a different agenda) The Messiah fallacy hurts more than just women.

    This is why I support small local businesses that support my local economy, as much as possible.
    I hope I made sense, Christy!

    • Your comment makes complete sense, Resa. I think it shows that you are taking a ‘real’ view of the world that’s not behind rose-coloured glasses. I like the idea of supporting local enterprises too and the way they operate. I always appreciate hearing your views, thank you!

  9. When we do not follow our own path but instead allow ourselves to be directed or led by others, most especially by those who do not walk in our shoes (I mean that literally) we lose. We are not finding our most fulfilling roles in life. We are so much more, can do so much more, can be so much more.

    It is for us to choose.

    Nicely done, as always.

  10. Pingback: The Observer Effect: How it Ties to Feminism—or Does it? | When Women Inspire

  11. Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    I think the Messiah Fallacy is another way for people to avoid taking personal responsibility for their decisions. It’s another way of shirking duty. How easy it is to hide your own sins if EVERYTHING is corrupt and making it right is the job of the messiah. Nice job on this Christy!

  12. Good post. I watched an interesting “60 Minutes” segment on the Bonobos, a dwindling species of monkeys due to hunting, poaching, etc. The monkeys are ruled by the female monkeys and if a male monkey tries to dominate, the females give him a come-uppance. Interestingly, this is a rare species that does not kill each other like other monkeys do. They tend to relieve stress by being horny little devils. So, the saying make love not war holds true.

    I mention this as I long believe that we would be better served with more women in seats of authority. It took ten female Senators to prevent the US from defaulting on its debt the night before when a certain male Senator (who ran for President) did a one person shut down of the government in October, 2013. Defaulting would have been a disaster and these females told this male to get out of the pool, as it is time for an adult swim.

    Plus, one of the positives about the potential of Hillary Clinton winning the Presidency is her global cache and work and advocacy on addressing the maltreatment of women and girls around the world. I recognize she is not perfect as none of us are, but she deserves kudos for elevating these issues and, if she became President, there would be more hope around the world for women and girls. The book “Half the Sky” is a tough, but essential read, as it defines that treating women poorly is not only wrong, it is economic suicide, as a region is competing in a world with only half its intellectual capital.

    Sorry for the soapbox. Keith

    • Hi Keith, Thank you for such an interesting comment here. I was particularly taken by your words about Hillary, including: “I recognize she is not perfect as none of us are, but she deserves kudos for elevating these issues…” –Here, here! No one’s political platform will be flawless but her ability to bring female rights to the forefront may prove very important in the coming years if she becomes President. I hope to see gender equality in my lifetime or at least have the next generation experience it.

      • Thanks Christy. I think she will be a better President than candidate, which she hates to do. One of our fellow bloggers equated her to Hermione in Harry Potter. She is the studious one, who just does not do as well with the PR aspects as her husband did. What is not lost on me, she has life long friends dating back to grade school. That is telling.

  13. I beg to differ.

    I believe women should not be equal to males.

    They are better. The day that this world will learn this fact and become female-dominant, we’ll achieve World Peace. Women hate violence and all evil while men love evil.

    The “y” chromosome is a manufacturing defect and women have no “y” chromosome, do they?

  14. One great thing about reading other people’s blogs, despite being a chore, it’s that give us fresh ideas in to what to write for our next post.

    I commend the idea women should be more empowered, but as to be the one calling the shots, I don’t know, ideally should be 50/50 which at the moment it’s not.

    Total woman domination it will turn in my opinion like a British/German very funny but short lived sitcom with Judy Geeson whose name was Star Maidens, here is the IMDB plot summary:

    Set in the “present” Earth of the 1970s. A planet from another solar system drifts into Earth’s system and is detected by some Earth scientists who investigate. The surface of this planet is no longer habitable and the residents have moved to a high-tech underground city. The society is ruled by the women, who of course, are all beautiful. Men are considered mentally inferior and are divided into two categories: the “adequately intelligent” who are selected by women to act as their personal “domestics” for household chores, and the remainder who are forced to perform menial labor under the supervision of female guards. The guards are attired nicely in visored helmets, boots, hot pants, and elbow-length gloves which are used to control the men through some sort of apparent force. Scientists from Earth (one men and one woman) find their way to the planet, and are forced to take their stated places in society. The man is chosen as a domestic, sometimes is forced to work on a city maintenance crew, and the woman is assigned a white-collar job. The aliens also visit Earth clandestinely in their tear-drop shaped ship. Some episodes bluntly address the issue of unfair discrimination based on sex.

    We saw some old reruns on the mid eighties my girls, children at the time love them, and wanted to be like Fulvia, and Octavia, the women dominant characters! 🙂

    • Oh wow, now I’m going to have to research and find clips online of Star Maidens! I am going to have to look up the female characters 🙂 It would make a great blog post, you are right. Would you be interested in writing a guest post for this site about the sitcom and your daughters’ reactions to watching some episodes in the ’80s? No pressure, only if you want to. Thanks for the quality comment. I love learning from blog posts and comments like yours 🙂

      • Well actually it was a response to the Messiah Fallacy what give me an idea for a new post of my own..

        Naturally I sympathize with women empowerment and equality, but I believe you probably will be more interested in writing about Star Maidens, if you enjoy the few clips I found on youtube

        As for collaboration with a post I am not opposed, however have enough trouble finding time to write my own blog and deal with the volume of comments, and responses on my blog and others, plus add to that my twitter account that seem to consume all my free time! 🙂

      • Haha yes Twitter can take up our time – along with blog reading and living life outside of the online realm 🙂 Not to worry about the collaboration as I understand having a lack of time and wouldn’t want to stress you in any way. I will check out the YouTube clips and thank you for taking the time to find them for me!

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