More on Shirky’s women rant: speaking up, “natural” behavior, and storytelling wins

Some more thoughts on my previous post, and a couple of things to clear up. Two misconceptions arose from my post because I chose not to lay out a lot exposition on some of my own beliefs on how the world works. Let me rectify that now.
I absolutely believe that women need to be better at self-promotion than they are right now in the culture. I’ve been saying for a long time, but it was only when it was drilled into me last year during my training at the Progressive Women’s Voices program that I understood really how we (myself included) just don’t volunteer ourselves as much as men do. This is different than the aggressive, be-like-men tactics that Shirky seems to be calling for, though if others read him differently, speak up. So: yes, women need to assert themselves. But no, not to mimic men, or become “successful” in the same ways men are.

It was also pointed out to me that it seems like I’m saying that confidence and assertiveness are the purview of dudes only. This is a layered argument, one that’s a bit complicated for me to take apart, but let me give it a whirl. First and foremost, I am an ardent, aggressive nay-sayer of anything seeming “naturally” female or male behavior– I believe all our crap is learned, almost 100% entirely. So, M, apologies if it sounds like that in my first post. What I’m doing here is running with Shirky’s version of the argument to concentrate on taking apart a cultural standard that we’re all forced to live by– not one that I believe myself. The fact that dudes hold most of the power, and dudes believe a lot of the ickier stuff in Shirky’s post themselves, etc., reinforces this cultural standard.

In the dept-of-personal-sharing that’s been happening, I’ve also always been one of those outspoken, brash ladies and it’s often served me well professionally. But personally, that’s still up in the air. There are times that I feel damaged and inauthentic when I’ve been acting like an overconfident jerk, and that’s not how I want to ultimately live my life. I wrote this post from that place, of wanting to change the culture so that different personality traits can be rewarded, so that we can have (as I said) a more holistic, welcoming set of standards.

My last point is on the note of personal sharing– just a quick observation, I have been simply bowled over by the number of women who’ve come out of the woodwork in this discussion to share their own stories of self-promo BS, things they were told to do, what not to do, etc. This kind of storytelling and sharing is what’s so powerful to me about our ability to connect, mostly through social networks, and raise each others’ consciousness around these discussion. It’s not just facts and overheard anecdotes, it’s our lives. And that, my friends, is a very very powerful thing.

One Response to “More on Shirky’s women rant: speaking up, “natural” behavior, and storytelling wins”

  1. [...] UPDATE, 1/19: Follow-up post is here. [...]

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