all riled up

Is everyone aware of the buzz that's going on about this post by Shirky re: how women need to man-up or face eternal second-best-ness? It was forwarded to me by a friend, and I read it not knowing that the author is a man. It rubbed me the wrong way anyway, but now that I know the gender of the author I'm annoyed by it all over again.

There are a lot of responses to the article bouncing around, but I think my overall attitude about it, and this kind of sentiment in general is pretty well captured in this post, in which the author says:
Personally, I'm just not that interested in acting more like a dude for the chance that my work gets more widely recognized or that I get paid more to do it...
And in agreeing with that, I'm not saying that I'd accept less out of some sense of righteous indignation and refusal to be mannish, but rather that it does not occur to me that I would be worth any less in my own natural behavior and presentation, and it is only when presented with articles like Shirky's that it occurs to me that I could feel otherwise.

This gets to my general feeling about the place that 'feminism' has come to for women of my generation, which is, for better or for worse, that we have been gifted by our mothers the luxury to assume that we can achieve whatever we want, simply because we want to, not because we are "strong enough", or have learned to navigate a man's world. It is our world, we are shaping it, and defining our own roles that have not necessarily descended directly from feminist stereotypes.

The kicker then, comes when you have to face the cold hard facts that there aren't as many women CEOs, 77cents on the mans dollar, etc. etc. But more women are graduating from college, and just today NPR reported that women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. To me this indicates that things are still in transition, and as more women of my generation climb the corporate/intellectual/academic/political ladder, with our blasé lack of apprehension that we can achieve our goals, then the men of the workplace will simply be swept along with the tide. At a time like this is seems more than backwards to prescribe "act like a man" to a young woman entering the workplace.

A person very close to me has been struggling with a workplace issue that, at least on the surface, smacks of a bunch of dudes taking advantage of a nice, smart young woman and getting her to do nine times the work at ten times less pay. My advice to her all along was to get in their faces and demand what she deserved. She's confident and ballsy and did it and it is finally starting to pay off. So, yeah, by Shirky's standards, this is an example of how being aggressive can help you to get ahead. But seriously? Is that where we want to end this discussion? Because to me it seems like the message in that is that the aforementioned crappy working environment will/should stay the status quo, and best of luck to all of us who have to deal with it, may the best man-impersonator win. I'm crying foul on that. That may be the way things work in some companies, but I refuse to believe that is the best way to run things overall, and it seems to me that in our globalized, multicultural world, the spoils are eventually going to go to those companies/employers that inherently value the contributions of workers with diverse strategies for getting ahead, not simply reinforce white-dude stereotypes.

Hegemony is hegemony, but the women of today are aware enough that we approach things differently than our male counterparts-- trust us, we have had the results of sociological studies dangled around us for years, and bringing it up again and again seems counter-productive to me. Let the interia of my generation's enthusiasm carry us over the dam toward a new workplace norm.


Brian Marston said...

This is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing
Not one little thing
Without a woman or a girl

Anonymous said...

Morning Edition had a similar report...about the changing face of relationships. More women than men 44 years and younger (odd #) have college degrees. I though it was interesting, but also rubbed me the wrong way...why is it funny to have a "Sugar Momma"? Why is it a source of amusement when guys get together and joke about how their women take care of them? Am I just being an angry feminist? Or maybe I'm being an equalist? hmm...

LAURA!!! said...

yes. yes. and

one thing i have to say is that I have learned the hard way to play.
(poet and didn't know it!)

Of course I am equal, in fact, quite better. of course those are my ideas, and yes, they are damn good. of course I am worth this much, or I will walk. oh course you will be intimidated by me, because I am better. of course I wear high heels, and stand taller than you. bitch. oh I'm sorry, bastard.