Friday, February 25, 2011

On being a girl in a boys' club

Amber linked this article entitled "How to be a Girl in a Boys' Club," which might fairly have been subtitled "How to Avoid Misadventures in Being a Woman in the Libertarian/Conservative Legal Movement." The sections about getting along with other women and the frustrations associated with feeling "exceptional" are particularly on point. Fear and Loathing in Georgetown also weighs in by acknowledging some of the article's better points and making sensible criticisms about others.

Other addenda:

1. Yes, it is good to try to communicate with some of the more sympathetic members of the boys' club about what you are thinking and experiencing. That said, please keep in mind the problems associated with "sanctibullying" during the course of your conversations. Phoebe's posts about why the "your privilege is showing" line of conversation is unlikely to be effective and how one should instead make the same point are a good place to look for advice on this.

2. Sometimes, the guys in the group will say things that rub you the wrong way, although you are not quite sure why. Or, alternatively, you will try to explain to them why you found something confusing or offensive, only to met with an argument that seems plausible enough but that you can't quite bring yourself to buy. Too often, you will feel like you have two choices: either you give in totally, or just keep in effect yelling loudly, "But you hurt my feelings!" Neither will feel quite right.

I have found remembering a tidbit from (of all sources) Nathaniel Branden's My Years With Ayn Rand useful in these situations: Emotions are not perfect tools of cognition, but they're not useless either.

Or, in words less off-putting to those who didn't spend their teenage years soaking up Objectivist jargon: your feeling that something is wrong and offensive about what was just said is a valuable sign that something is. But it's not an infallible sign that something is. In such cases, the best thing to do may be to say something like, "You raise reasonable points, but there's still something about X incident that doesn't sit right with me. I need to think more about why, though; I'm just not able to put my finger on it right now. Maybe it would be best if we talked about something else and revisited this another time." I have occasionally wondered if I am being a bad feminist or somehow unforgivably weak-willed for putting ideas in these terms. Perhaps it is terrible that I'm not more articulate and insightful in these situations; I wish I were. But fessing up to my own uncertainty seems more helpful and more likely to lead to productive discourse -- at least among friends -- than faking certainty and moral clarity when I haven't found such yet.

3. That said, once disengagement is complete, do actually take the time and space to think through the incident. Sometimes, upon reflection, you really will come to a better understanding of what transpired.

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