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Sunday, July 30, 2006

How to be a Woman, Explored

Quite early on in my life, I learned that I was pretty much a fearless individual in terms of trying new things and going places. This doesn't mean I am without any fear or insecurities. I was a tomboy growing up. I loved playing sports, I was very strong for a girl and I loved being near the boys so I played the games they did. I didn't think I was very pretty and the strategy was to do what they did so they would like me. That worked a little bit but not as well as I hoped. Still, I enjoyed having crushes on different playmates and being admired for my sports prowess. However, secretly inside, I wanted a boy to bring me a flower or walk me to class.

The days of my youth, the rights of women were coming more into play. Up until the time I was born, women did usually did not serve in high level positions in the work force or even in many civic groups. I didn't understand that. I also knew that girls were targets on the playground for bullies, usually boys, who would pull their hair, knock the ball out of their hands or engage in similar antics to upset the girls. What I did to prevent that from even happening was take on a tough air. Fortunately, since I was fearless and physically very strong, I usually could repell an attack by a bully - male or female - and repel it so that bully never considered doing it again to me or my friends. I would fight to defend my friends on the playground too.

I more or less acted like a boy and dressed the part. I have androgynous features and that was certainly true even in elementary school. My being able to walk the walk and talk the talk did keep the bullies away but also any potential boyfriends and some girls who thought I was "too rough." I didn't know my own physical strength and my strong personality, fueled by the manic energy of a hyperactive child, let me be the type of person most could only handle in small doses even if he or she liked me.

That adopted demeanor stayed with me in adulthood though I slowly discovered there are ways to remain feminine without being aggressive or boyish/manish. There are ways to be assertive, be open about what you want and expect, and express anger in a constructive way. Of course, there will always be people who associated feminity with being a wallflower and accepting whatever comes your way graciously. I have observed over the years women in charge who married their instinct to nuture with professional responsibility and adopting a demeanor that maintained the female identity. Why associate levels of responsibility with male qualities?

Yet, for the most part in the professional world, I prefer working with men than women. That's not just because I love men but men have less to prove - they're established as belonging in the profession of their choice. So many of the women I've worked with in various businessness tend to act as if they need to prove something and you'd better watch out. I don't know how to adapt to all that but I do know there are constructive and powerful ways to make your statement and wants known without coming across like Rambo or dressing like him either.

Some lessons can take a long time but in the end they are well worth learning.

1 comment:

Bruce said...

There's nothing worse than to have a woman boss who's insecure, who thinks her subordinates only want her job, and thinks they are qualified or even better qualified than her. It's a very dangerous cocktail. That type of person will want to know everything about everyone, and will only surround herself with people she knows are not a threat to her. That usually means incompetent people get promoted and the better ones become frustrated. It once came to my boss' boss that I had mentioned that the way the company was run was in a typical woman management style. What did that mean? A huge grey zone where she could do what she wanted: unqualified brown nosers were her favorites, and those with drive, ideas and a go-get-'em attitude were frowned upon. After 2 years, I had to get out. Long story. Over a beer some day. Oh! And usually women are the ones who agree with this more than men, because men are afraid to admit it.