When I was a teenage girl who wasn’t shy about pointing out the advantages I didn’t have, I was surrounded by teenage boys who weren’t shy about telling me, “Stop whining and just do something about it.”
I took their advice. I studied the people who had the social standing I wanted, which in my part of the world was white middle to upper class men, ostensibly heterosexual. I learned the vocal tones and pitches they use and avoid (almost the opposite of what most women do). I learned how they stand, how they approach one another, how they negotiate. I learned what they’re allowed (in their social contract as members of the dominant group) to express and how they’re allowed to express it. And I discovered that by merely using these techniques, I got taken about 300% more seriously than far more competent women who didn’t. And all that well before the age of 20. It’s easy hard to learn if you have a natural talent for reading people, which I do.
What’s hard to do is to apply it. Because even though I could walk into a crisis situation, take charge, fix it and win kudos even from the most neurotic misogynists in about five minutes flat, there was always a backlash. The better I performed, the bigger the backlash. During the crisis, all people saw in me was an individual who projected leadership and competence and showed them how we could all work together to fix the situation. Afterwards, many of the men saw an unmistakably female person of unimposing size, and they were ashamed of having “taken orders” from me, so to even that score they’d play tricks on me, or yell abuse at me, or just ignore me (by “ignore” I mean to the extent of mowing me down in a corridor rather than step aside). A lot of the women, too, would have second thoughts about me after the fact and join in with the men.
I’m not looking for sympathy – I got over this bullshit years ago. But the other day on a website, I saw someone saying that women don’t get paid as much as men because women don’t negotiate like men, and it reminded me of all this. When women do negotiate like men, they risk being shunned by a community that doesn’t believe they should negotiate like men, but wants them to stop “whining” when they don’t have what they want. It’s a perfect catch-22.
And of course, a lot of men don’t see it because they’re not even conscious of the way they react when a woman does approach them the way men are trained to do. They think they’re being perfectly fair, and it’s just a coincidence that every woman who successfully commands men calmly and naturally is later realized to be difficult, intimidating, unapproachable or a just plain mean ol’ bitchy man-hater.
Is it any wonder history fails to record any effective women in history? Fails to recognize them now? Is it a surprise that Hillary Clinton can do no right in a society where the only “right” way to be is male/white/etc., and women aren’t allowed to be that? Is it any surprise that when women react well to an effective woman because we don’t have any manhood to feel threatened by them, it’s suspicious, a conspiracy, an illogical emotional malfunction?