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women expected to put themselves down?

(70 Posts)
HeifferunderConstruction Mon 29-Aug-11 20:32:17

I think this is sort of a feminist point not sure, its kinda trivial compared to other stuff.

Do you think women are expected to paly down good points e.g. looks.intellect,personality,capability??

as opposed to men?

It came from a moment the other day and others an older relative of mine was talking about how much attention she got as a yw and how she wasn't surprised as a very attractive women, the little voice in my head was like 'How arrogant'!!! then I thought I wouldnt think that of a man, I find it interesting I put myself down becasue I genrally do think that way.

Do women ever put themselves down to fit in? not appear arrogant ? when they actually think good things about themselves ?? Have you ever done that??

UsingMainlySpoons Mon 29-Aug-11 21:04:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

greencolorpack Mon 29-Aug-11 21:12:33

I used to work in an organisation that did direct sales, and it irritated the hell out of me when the women who were incredibly good at their jobs, sold things in their sleep, had amazing sales figures and made money without seemingly having to think about it, kept on putting themselves down. "It's so simple even I can do it!" They kept on saying. Acting like they were incompetent and that they were somehow more cute and endearing because of it.

At sales conferences we were told, this is actually a good idea because if you appear too frighteningly competent then nobody who comes to the show will be able to see themselves doing it (because they're thinking "Ooh I'm so rubbish I couldn't possibly do that!")

All the faux-modesty pissed me off. Also, these women were incredibly good at what they did and everyone in the organisation underneath these top sellers hated them. Nobody had a good word to say about the top women, everyone slagged them off behind their backs because they were so obsessed with selling that they couldn't talk about anything else. So it was all rather counterintuitive - either be really good at your job and everyone secretly hates you, or be a warm, friendly person who makes rubbish sales but everyone loves.

I left the company, I couldn't be assed with all the sales bullshit and the competent women pretending to be incompetent.

madwomanintheattic Mon 29-Aug-11 21:15:33

yy. self-deprecating men are non-existent, it does seem to be a trait adopted by (foisted upon?) women.

hadn't thought about it before though. off to ponder. i do it myself, i know i do. hmm.

EightiesChick Mon 29-Aug-11 21:24:36

Ye, it is more expected of women - but also, it is more often taken at face value. So women belittle themselves and their skills or achievements, as they are culturally conditioned to do, and people think 'yeah, she probably was just lucky', whereas when men do it it's taken as being modest or funny and that they are actually really skilled. Women are conditioned to play down their successes so as not to upstage men. Men are lauded for being competitive, ambitious, Alpha males etc for theirs.

I try really hard now to say a straightforward 'Thank you' now when I am complimented, praised or thanked for something I've done, as opposed to saying' Oh, no trouble, it didn't take long, I'm not that good at it anyway...' etc. Men IME rarely respond like this. They accept praise when it's given.

EightiesChick Mon 29-Aug-11 21:25:52

Heiffer and actually I don't even think it's trivial. I think this is a key part of what keeps women 'in their place'. Good point to raise.

EightiesChick Mon 29-Aug-11 21:26:38

In fact Heiffer weren't you actually doing this yourself in saying your point was 'kind of trivial'? wink

greencolorpack Mon 29-Aug-11 21:26:41

I don't do it cos I was raised by a feminist who wouldn't let me. I tell off my dd for doing it. I saw friends of dd railing against one of them because she's considered "geeky" cos she's good at computers. I told her not to listen to them, and it's great that she's good at computers. Girls learn very quickly what the rules are and round on anyone who is out of line. So depressing to see!

HereBeBolloX Mon 29-Aug-11 22:10:00

Not sure if men aren't self-deprecating.

The ones who are, are considered devastatingly attractive aren't they? Hugh Grant made a very good living from pretending to be a self-deprecating man in films. Jeremy Hardy's humour is based on self-deprecation (but he's not devastatingly attractive so there goes my attractive point).

But yes, in general, if a woman doesn't play down her strengths, she's considered arrogant and pushy. Or just foreign, in which case people make allowances.

LRDTheFeministDragon Mon 29-Aug-11 22:26:24

I think this is a really big feminist issue.

I notice it a lot - women will often apologize for what they are saying when there is no need (I do it myself sad), and will apologize for saying good things about themselves. Yet in many situations, they are seen as arrogant if they don't belittle themselves.

I'm a student and it happens so, so much in academia. What is rewarded is confidence in your own ideas - but women are often shouted down by men, and I have seen very often when women stand up for themselves, they are mocked or told they are being aggressive. One professor systematically told me every single thing I had written was wrong, until (I'm not proud of this) I started crying. He then commented that he couldn't take me seriously because I cried when told of my faults. I later discovered in the course of my research that there were factual errors (ie., not just opinion-based things, but errors) in what he had claimed to be true and that I had been right all along. I later presented paper that included this research, and he was in the audience. He has never apologized or acknowledged his mistake.

I'm a pretty confident person and if he could make me feel that shit, I only shudder to think what he's like with other people. I found out later on there is a pattern of his supervisions - he only promotes men and very, very, very bright women (so far more men than women). The women all work on things that confirm the conclusions of his own research; the men don't. Telling.

HereBeBolloX Mon 29-Aug-11 22:29:44

If he were doing this to any other group than women, he would be investigated.

LRDTheFeministDragon Mon 29-Aug-11 22:30:52

Btw, I think men who are genuinely self-deprecating (which I don't think Hugh Grant-type characters are ... not really) do often lose out. But they're not caught in the double-bind that women are, that they lose out both for being self-deprecating and for being assertive.

LRDTheFeministDragon Mon 29-Aug-11 22:35:35

Here - I'm not so sure, I think in his position if he cared to be racist, he'd get away with that too. sad But I take your point in general.

So, so many people complain that their female students just do not know how to be assertive enough ... then they describe their teaching habits and I'm thinking 'oh, right, you bully them and think that will help?!' hmm

garlicnutter Mon 29-Aug-11 22:47:14

I vaguely disagree. A man who goes around bragging about his good looks, charisma, yadda yadda, is considered in Britain a big-headed twat - if anything, more so than a woman. I've seen lots of women going on - directly and indirectly - about how gorgeous they are, and getting away with it more than a man would.

I really dislike this aspect of British culture. I prefer the Latin tendency to encourage children, from very young, to celebrate their own amazingness.

I used to genuinely underestimate myself; that's not because of being female, it was due to my shitty upbringing. My famously life-changing assertiveness training fixed that.

Professionally, I think you do see a different dynamic. Women strike me as less good than men at promoting their work confidently. If they try to sell their stuff, they do it without conviction. Luckily, that's only most women - not all - and I've seen it changing quite fast. Been out of the formal workplace for 8 years now, so I trust that more women are displaying quiet power at work!

Honestly - if any reader thinks they're failing to sell themselves properly, it would be worth getting assertiveness training.

HeifferunderConstruction Tue 30-Aug-11 10:18:28

In fact Heiffer weren't you actually doing this yourself in saying your point was 'kind of trivial'? wink

haha good point

ElephantsAndMiasmas Tue 30-Aug-11 10:28:33

Yes but there's a difference between avoiding actively going on and on about how great you are (which I admit, is not v popular most of the time, except with bankers who seem to thrive on it) and ACTIVELY putting yourself down.

And if women are less good at confidently promoting themselves, you have to ask yourself why.

stripeybump Tue 30-Aug-11 10:41:54

Garlicnutter - assertiveness training sounds fab - what course did you do?

Am about to leave my current workplace after being bullied by my male line manager. He was threatened by my experience and treated another experienced female member of staff the same way, undermining her work and taking credit for work. He was demoted after HR agrees his behaviour towards me was unacceptable, but my confidence at work is shot to pieces and as a result, I take less risks and am doing less well and have less job satisfaction. Gah. And my male assistant now takes advantage of my weakened status which must be emanating from me to take the piss with his own work. I know if I was a man I would be doing the job my line manager left - on every measure I'm more qualified than he ever was.

Sorry, that turned into a rant! My self-worth is boosted now I'm pregnant and I can think work can stuff themselves. I hope that when I return to the workplace (somewhere new) that I will be able to be more assertive, so training sounds like a plan.

joaninha Tue 30-Aug-11 11:07:20

Oooh interesting thread! Has anyone read Deborah Tannen's "You Just Don't Understand!" which is a socio-linguistic look at the differences in the way that the sexes communicate? It really changed my perspective on things. It details this phenomenon whereby women are caught in a double bind of being thought to be less intelligent because they are self-deprecating yet when they are more assertive they run the risk of being thought of as strident. Not sure if it's always the case, but I've seen it happen a lot.

Sometimes I wonder if having a kid is part of it - I noted that my mum has always downplayed her intelligence in order to encourage her kids - like "ooh I don't know where that piece goes - can you show me?" or "you're so clever, I would never have known that!" The result is that everyone loves my mum but underestimates her abilities. I try not to do the same with DS because, well, I want him to know that women are clever too!

NormaStanleyFletcher Tue 30-Aug-11 11:34:55

I struggle with this. Writing my appraisal and saying just how fab I am and why is a real struggle. (I am fab at my job though wink)

skrumle Tue 30-Aug-11 11:35:41

i'm not sure i agree - in my experience (small town scotland) nobody is expected to boast about their abilities/skills/appearance.

i do think it's interesting though that the comment that jarred with you was one about her looks - would you have been as bothered if she'd talked about how much attention she got due to how intelligent she was? i think being proud of how you look is much more likely to be viewed as arrogant (after all it was only really a passing comment she made) which is a bit of a problem as women are encouraged to value themselves based on how attractive they are...

skrumle Tue 30-Aug-11 11:37:34

and joaninha i don't let my kids win all the time/impress me because i'm too competitive to let them blush might use your explanation in future though when my H slags me off...

Hardgoing Tue 30-Aug-11 12:52:11

I think both men and women are threatened by attractive clever successful women, so it's not all about batting your eyelashes at the men and hiding your PhD, I think some women are often very threatened by other women.

In academia, there are lots of women as teachers and in less senior positions. Many haven't got the stomach for the verbal sparring and rudeness that often accompanies valid criticisms of their work. I now see that the male professors see this like a sport, as a fun activity (although they do genuinely hate each other too on occasions), and have massively toughened up myself regarding being criticized.

garlicnutter Tue 30-Aug-11 13:30:01

Isn't there an element of 'deserving' to this, though? An aesthetically beautiful person was just lucky to have inherited the right genes, developed undisturbed in utero, be born smoothly and to have escaped disfiguring injuries or illnesses. It's not an achievement, so a bit wrong to boast about it much. Someone who's bust a gut to get their PhD, decorate their house, write the deal-sealing presentation, etc, has the right to ask for praise - they deserve it, iyswim.

Having extensive expereince of people, male and female, who dismally underestimate their own qualities - and feel, therefore, undeserving of praise - I'm not the best person to say whether the problem affects women more than men. I've seen women putting themselves down to curry favour, being 'nice', but actually it gets on people's nerves. Is that the sort of thing you were talking about?

Stripey - I am really sorry you've been going through that. It is horrific, and can do long-term damage. Congratulations on getting the twat demoted!!! grin grin
Mine was a pyrrhic victory, as well ... I got my employers to send me on the assertiveness course, and to pay for excellent follow-up therapy. Well, actually, BUPA paid for it: my mental illness was triggered by the bullying, so it counted as a medical need and allowed the company to claim they'd offered sufficient redress.

Meanwhile, this is my favourite assertiveness primer: www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A2998551 smile

SardineQueen Tue 30-Aug-11 13:48:04

If anyone needs assistance with this from a workplace POV then try to get on a thread with Xenia and somehow get her to cheerlead you. It is highly invigorating and has actually changed the way I approach things like job interviews (with little success yet though I have to say!!!).

SardineQueen Tue 30-Aug-11 13:50:52

Hadn't read all posts (always a mistake!) and it seems that there are indeed women who would like assistance with this in the workplace. So sorry for y slightly flippant (although true!) post on the topic.

hardgoing yes I didn't realise until a few years ago that many of the men I worked with saw work as a "game" with an aim of "winning" or "beating" others at this game... All very odd hmm

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