Perfect is the Enemy of Good

April 30, 2018

Kat Gordon

Kat Gordon is a Creative Director turned social change entrepreneur who has been named "Visionary of the Year" by Advertising Age and one of "30 Most Creative Women in Advertising" by Business Insider. 12 years ago, she launched The 3% Movement to spotlight the enormous underrepresentation of women in creative leadership. Through the movement's events, research and culture consulting, female creative directors now account for 29% of the industry. Kat lives in Napa Valley where she coaches creative leaders and hosts creative retreats. She has two young adult sons and a Black Lab named Trixie.

I just attended a function at my son’s high school where Dr. Jackson Katz spoke. His work centers on getting men to own and solve the problems that they themselves disproportionately cause -- harassment, violence, rape and bullying – rather than leaving women to solve these ills. He’s especially clear that ALL men need to speak out and up.

At one point, he talked about how so many men are reluctant to take a stand because they think “well, I haven’t been 100% perfect, so I don’t have the right to speak out.” What he said next was this: “We cannot wait for men who have never done or said anything even remotely offensive to lead this charge. It will be too quiet.”

Afterwards, I met Dr. Katz and told him that his words echoed something I said to the press a while ago. After the 2017 Super Bowl, Audi was taking lumps in the news for producing a stunning TV commercial about pay equity, when they didn’t have decent female representation in their own ranks.

Here was the quote I gave: “If we wait for brands who have 100% solved the diversity riddle to generate dialogue about important issues, it will be very quiet.”

Different issues. A year apart. Yet Dr. Katz and I both arrived at the same conclusion: social progress can’t rely on perfect spokespeople to push it forward. We don’t have that kind of time.

This past weekend, I thought again about this as Joy Reid faces a pitchfork-wielding online crowd who aim to discredit her due to old blog posts that recently surfaced that she allegedly wrote about the LGBTQ community.

Those who are yelling loudest about Joy’s past writings are alt-right folks who don’t support gay rights anyway. They’re just happy to try to crucify and discredit someone on the left. And in the eye of this hurricane, Joy Reid managed to rise above and issue a thoughtful and nuanced apology for her own actions, including these words:

“I’m heartbroken that I didn’t do better back then, to just walk around in the world, especially for trans people. And I feel like I should have known better than to ever write or tweet in a way that could make fun of, or make light of, or make light of that pain and that experience. Even a decade ago, when the country was in a very different place. But I cannot take any of that back. I can only say that the person I am now is not the person I was then.”

We all arrive at social responsibility on different time-tables. Many of us have to unlearn things we were taught at church or at our family dinner tables. But the beauty of the journey is that our belief systems are elastic can grow and expand our understanding of the world. But only if we talk regularly and openly about issues.

Please, please, please think twice about discrediting others based upon old beliefs they have since shed. Yet please don’t think more than once about using your own voice to speak out and up – about your beliefs no matter where you are on the journey.

No one is perfect.
Diversity isn’t solved anywhere.
People can and do change.
Everyone’s voice is needed.