Dominic Cummings doesn’t want weirdos and misfits in the civil service, he wants testosterone clones: men like himself, writes Jo Bartosch.
The testosterone of middle-aged maverick Dominic Cummings seeps off his most recent blog post. In a series of buzzword-laden paragraphs Cummings tells prospective applicants to the civil service what he wants. With a staggering lack of self-reflection, he admits to over-reaching in his role; though this hasn’t dampened his messianic zeal for a bright, new edgy Civil Service.
It’s notable that the great leaders quoted in his introduction ‘Michael Nielsen’, ‘Colonel Boyd’ and ‘Charlie Munger’ are male. The only woman referenced in his piece is the somewhat two-dimensional creation of a boring male novelist in a third-rate novel. He doesn’t even name the fictional character, referring to her as ‘that girl hired.’ As an aside, the central character in ‘Pattern Recognition’, Cayce Pollard (‘that girl hired’), was in fact a thirty-two-year old woman.
I pity any adult human female who is hired by a man so embarrassingly unaware of his own sexism. One suspects Cummings’ new personal assistant role will be reserved for ‘that girl.’ Cummings’ demands include someone willing to undertake ‘lots of uninteresting trivia that makes my life easier which you won’t enjoy. You will not have weekday date nights, you will sacrifice many weekends — frankly it will hard having a boy/girlfriend at all.’ So, unlike the techies he’s recruiting, the ‘personal assistant’ will be a self-scarifying person willing to do grunt work and stroke the boss’ ego – he might as well have added ‘presentable’ with ‘bubbly personality’ because the inference is clear.
Cummings has a typically ‘knobjective’ worldview. Like so many mediocre men who consider themselves disruptors and leaders, he wants to recruit in his own fantasy image. Cummings is seeking typical techboys who think of themselves as men pushing frontiers, when they are in fact obnoxious, anti-social bores. If we’re honest, we all know the type.
I am talented and a weirdo, but not the sort Dominic Cummings would value. Invited to leave school following a series of unfortunate political incidents as a teenage communist, I then talked my way into university before dropping out to stop the military industrial complex. In the 15 years since I’ve had success in writing- published in some of the most esteemed outlets in the UK and beyond. Despite this, I know that I wouldn’t make Cummings’ cut, because what he wants is a male stereotype.
Being a rugged individualist is an option that simply isn’t open to women. There is no stereotype of the ‘frontiers woman’, and those who do break the mould are socially sanctioned. When women are workaholics we are uncaring, when we excel in any field we are a threat and when we show leadership skills we are ball-breakers. Those who have the same traits which are recognised in men as evidence of ability are written off as ‘difficult women’, as ‘nasty women.’
The one point it is hard not to agree with Cummings on is that identity politics has infected the humanities. The woke Oxbridge drones make me wince, though they are a product of today just as Cummings is of his generation. Moreover, Cummings’ derisive dismissal of the humanities is fundamentally wrong-headed. Indeed, were things truly to be ‘shaken-up’ perhaps it might be worth seeking out more employees with empathy, more of those who are carers, more of those who have had knowledge outside of Cumming’s testosterone-tunnel vision.
Cummings wants these men disseminating their genius all over Whitehall; spaffing it up the walls. By recruiting in his own ideological image, whether he realises that or not, it will mean white men with an inflated sense of their abilities. The testosterone injection planned for the Civil Service will not make it more dynamic, rather the changes he wants to oversee will push the same presenteeism and pissing-contest workplace culture that women have navigated for decades.