Friday, August 26, 2011

3342 I think, therefore I say

Friday, August 26, 2011

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.


I was just reading a book review, some guy's book (James Pennybaker, The Secret Life of Pronouns), about how one's use of pronouns and sentence structure reveals what one is actually thinking.

Yeah, ok.

The comments kicked off some memories.

When I first started working for The Company, in 1968, I was a rare female in a male-dominated area.

I noticed that I often seemed to turn the guys off, offend them, when it came to technical discussions. No matter how much sense I was making, they would turn away and stop listening, until I was talking to a wall. I finally asked a friend what I was doing wrong.

He explained that I make definite statements, and that's not allowed for females. Males can say "This is blah blah." Women, especially small women like me, must say "I think this may be blah blah", or "It seems to me that..." or "Do you think that..." For a female to make a definite statement is seen by males as challenging their authority. A woman should appeal to that authority, not challenge it.

He was serious. This was 1968. Before women's liberation was in full swing.

His analysis infuriated me. "If I say it, it's obvious I think it, that it seems so to me, so why should I have to say I think it or it seems so to me? And especially if I know that it IS, if this is my area of expertise, why should I say it may be? That's stupid!" Especially when the guys don't have to weaken statements of fact.

Infuriating. Even worse was when guys would later take my analysis, when they rejected it coming from me, and present it as their own conclusion.

Young women don't know what it used to be like. The subtleties. How difficult is was to get past that. I'm afraid that young women now are backsliding, wagging their tails to appease men, not knowing the dangers and what it can lead to.


the queen said...

In our department, the boss, the bosses boss and HER boss are women. Of the 20 employees, 5 are men. The one man who does NOT preface his statements with "I think" and "Perhaps" has had many conversations with bosses about his "Arrogant attitude." So it goes both ways, nowadays.

little red said...

Very interesting. I have gotten into the show "Mad Men" set in NYC in 1960. It's about an advertising agency and the drama and day to day-ness going on there. The men are all arrogant pigs and all of the secretaries have to pander and cater to them. In one of the first episodes, the head honcho ad man said "I don't have to be spoken to that way by a woman" and stormed from the room. It's really interesting the way the wives interact with the men, etc.

I don't see how I could have lived that way. But being who I am and brought up the way I was, I'm sure I would have been very different back then, had I lived in the 60's.

~~Silk said...

Actually, Queen, it sounds like your department is female dominated, and expects and enforces a self-denigrating manner of expression.

If there is a direct connection between the female domination factor, and the strong expectation of self-denigration, I find that alarming.

It is not necessary to weaken oneself to "get along".