For the first time in a long while I took a vacation in New Zealand where I am for LCA. I decided to also take a break (mostly) from the Internet but I decided to it was worth to come back to write a brief response to Clay Shirky’s “rant about women,” which I find pretty unsettling. So the basic upshot of his entry is that for women to get ahead in this world, they need to not only behave more like men but in specific, like all the effing blow-hard jerky self-promoting men like, well Clay Shirky (I guess, right? and he in fact might be proud, I a woman, made this accusation).
What I appreciate about the post is the fact that he does not pigeon hole women as caring, maternal, and meek. I have always resented the idea that women can’t be assertive and confident. However, confidence and self-esteem, which I agree are vital for getting noted, does not inherently entail jerky behavior.I think Shirky’s perspective might be skewed because of his home field, which is filled with just the type of guys he is describing. I call them pundit-entrepreneurs (though to be sure some are pretty darn nice).
If you take the field of anthropology, for example, it has traditionally and for a long time been known for grand slam female scholars from Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead in the past to the ones of the present like Nancy Scheper Hughes and Jean Comaroff. During grad school, I was surrounded by strong, smart, witty, confident ladies and always felt I had role models to follow and emulate. They were not, however, low-life jerks clawing their way to the top of the academic mountain leaving a trail of destruction behind their path.
Then when I started to go to the tech and media academic conferences, I was soon swimming in a sea of mostly white men and the vibe was different. I was ignored and talked over a handful of times, which had never happened to me before. There was a lot more self-promotion than I had seen in other fields, in part, it seemed because the media pays more attention to this field so folks are trying to get the media light focused on them.
While I don’t disagree that many fields from medicine to law promote and reward “blow-hards” and massive unrestrained arrogance, I would rather not create a false binary between meek/low self-esteem/female and total-jerky/arrogance/confidence. Why not instead promote and highlight behavior that rewards confidence sans the arrogance?