Corporate Peon: I am Woman, Hear me Roar.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I am Woman, Hear me Roar.

I was watching episodes of Real World/Road Rules challenge last night while I did Pilates and jogged in place. I don't understand why every show that pits guys against girls shows the girls as whiny, backstabbing, neurotic bitches. Where are the competent, confident, capable chicks? The guys don't backstab; they have fun - and WIN! The girls bitch and moan and repeat as desired, and LOSE. Their attitudes - and those of the whiny bitches on Apprentice - perpetuate the negative image of women.
While in Madison the other weekend, I went to a great used book store and picked up a bunch of books on womens' studies. It's so interesting to me that an 8yr old girl can be confident, but by age 11, she's lost that. In 3rd grade, I was in the accelerated math class, and enjoying it. By 6th grade, I was struggling with math and hating it. Was the math too complicated for me to enjoy? Or did being in classes full of boys, who don't hesitate to speak out of turn or shout the answers, push my enjoyment and, relatedly, my abilities down?
I was in what was called 'Academic Talent' classes, which was basically a class period each day that segrated the 'smart kids' from everyone else, and had us do special projects. I remember learning about dinosaurs in 2nd grade; the rainbow (ROYGBIV) in 3rd grade; the stock market in 5th; advertising in 6th, etc etc. Each 'lesson' or 'subject' was accompanied by a special project. For advertising, we created commercials, a portfolio, packaging, etc. I still have mine somewhere - MAJIK, for Marie-Anne-Jenna-something-Katey. We had a character, Super Pizza! who saved boring parties by bringing good pizza with him. Hey, give us a break - we were, like, 12.

I don't know what the other kids did while us smarty pants were in AT. Napped? Cleaned the erasers? Yeah, I felt a bit of pride for being in this class, although I'm not sure how they picked us, especially in the earliest years. How do you tell a 2nd grader is smarter than another? I'm sure that my early involvement was due in large part to my sister's enrollement before me. I know that when a kid joined AT, after years of not being in there, it was surprising: why are they smart now, when they weren't before?
In my 10th or 11th grade English class, there was a guy, Brian, who had no qualms about asking questions if he didn't understand something. He was quick to answer when he did know the answer - or thought he did. He was in the 'popular' clique and got stellar grades. I, on the other hand, was more apt to ask my questions of the teacher in an aside, after class. I rarely answered, whether I knew the answer or not - and when I did speak up, it was mainly because the silence of nonresponse was deafening.

English has always been my favorite subject - I'm the kid who read the entire book of stories for fun, rather than only the assigned ones. I read them so far in advance that when they were assigned, I had forgotten them and had to re-read. So where did I change into the girl who was afraid to ask a question in class, lest it be a 'stupid' one? Who was the girl who didn't want to answer for fear that she'd be wrong? And where did this fear come from?

Did Brian not have this fear because he was already in the 'in' clique and knew he could suffer no social consequences? Did he not care? Was it something his parents taught him? Was it a guy thing?
I'm still trying to find my way. Grad school has helped me a bit with that; I've been lucky to be in class with some truly helpful people who help me work through things and value my opinions.

A lot of times I don't see myself as particularly capable or intelligent. Sure, I do a good job, but let's me honest - a monkey could do this job. But actually, that's not true, because not everyone is good at this job. I AM. I'm good at it, and that's known, and I'm recognized for doing a good job. It's sometimes hard to remember that. I suppose that keeps me humble.
I can't remember if I've written this before or not - but when I got an unofficial promotion a couple years ago, I spent the next couple days feeling really good about myself. Well, at least until I was pulled aside by BossMan to say I was acting a little uppity. Me, I was just proud of myself, and glad to have validation that I was doing a good job. I was crushed that people thought I was flaunting it.

So how does a female exude confidence without being cocky? Be smart without being offputting? Hold her own without dominating or excluding? And why shouldn't we be cocky and offputting and excluding? If others can't handle our competence and confidence, why should we change our bearings?

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