“He’s a Boss, She’s a Bitch”?


A respected writer asserts that men in power are liked and women are uniformly hated.

Let’s just stop and think about that.


My twitter feed is abuzz with comments on Jessica Valenti‘s article today in The Nation, “She Who Dies With the Most ‘Likes’ Wins?” The gist of the article is a feminist call to action that women stop trying to be liked so much, because it undermines their power, and accept the fact that their ambition may make them, by definition, unpopular. Ms. Valenti states: “When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave a TED talk in 2010, one of the issues she talked about—and later expounded on in her 2011 commencement speech at Barnard—was likability. ‘Success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women,’ she said.”

She goes on, “the implications of likability are long-lasting and serious. Women adjust their behavior to be likable and as a result have less power in the world. And this desire to be liked and accepted goes beyond the boardroom—it’s an issue that comes up for women in their personal lives as well, especially as they become more opinionated and outspoken.”

I really try to stay away from these gender debates. Honest. And generally I feel like despite having founded The Good Men Project and been a passionate member of our community for four years now, I know very little about the essence of men (or women). But articles like Ms. Valenti’s and comments like Ms. Sandberg’s really stick in my craw because they seem to me to be moving the ball backwards down the field of gender enlightenment and equality rather than forward.

One of the things I have become crystal clear on, the hard way by running my mouth when in ways that caused a justified backlash, is that talking about gender in universal terms is problematic at best. There is something that theorists call gender “reductionism” that means that if you say that women are always X and men are always Y, any man who is not Y or woman who is not X will be left out of the sweeping generalization. Often this is used in reference to the way that sexism reduces women to a false stereotype. But I refuse to accept that it is a one way street. Both men and women come in a rainbow of shapes, colors, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. There’s no box big enough to hold them and say, that right there is a real MAN or WOMAN.

So let’s come back to this idea that women in some generalized way attempt to be liked at their own peril. I am perfectly willing to accept that we have a glass ceiling that we need to continue find ways to break. And that gender, racial, and sexual preference discrimination does still go on. But a flat comment like Ms. Valenti’s rallying cry:

“Women’s likability is something feminists use as proof of inequity—he’s a boss, she’s a bitch—but not something we’ve put on par with standard feminist fare like reproductive rights or pay inequality. Because there’s no policy you can create to make people like successful women. There’s no legislation to fight for or against, or even a cultural campaign that would make a dent in such a long standing double standard.”

…just doesn’t make sense to me. Do I view every woman in a position of power as a bitch? Do you? How is that possibly a fair comment to anyone who thinks carefully about what it means to lead effectively. I have had plenty of male bosses who were roving assholes who got none of my respect. I can think of ten women in power from Hilary Clinton to Indra Nooyi (CEO of Pepsi) who I like and respect. Hell, I think Mark Zuckerberg is a raving lunatic asshole who is out to take over the world. And for the most part I think the only good thing about Facebook is Sheryl Sandberg. She’s likable, tough, rational. She doesn’t walk around in flip-flops and pretend that the entire world is her inferior.

Towards the end of Valenti’s piece she quotes Sandberg again as saying that women need to “lean in.”

She was referring largely to professional ambitions, but I think it’s good advice all around. We need to lean in to who we really are—not who we think people would like most. We need to tell young women that not being liked, as hard as it may be, is often as sign that they’re doing something right.

I ask again, why is this a gender issue at all? Isn’t a core part of becoming an successful adult, and authentic human being, shedding what people might think of you and having the courage to take off down the path of “who we really are.”?

I’d appreciate your thoughts on this. As always that means not just men but women readers of the GMP. Whether I like you or not I will listen carefully. I promise.


Image of Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, by AP

About Tom Matlack

Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist.


  1. Pollardsarja says:

    As a female teacher I confront this issue daily. My most powerful ‘disciplinary’ tactic especially with boys is to be liked. This contrasts entirely with my male colleagues who have size, voice, and general physicality with which to create a sense of respect and control in the classroom. This becomes even more apparent when dealing with students I don’t teach (ie those I just encounter in the yard) who find it particularly easy to ignore and dismiss me but do not do the same thing to my male colleagues. I find that I need an existing relationship with the students ie to be ‘friendly’ with them in some way and therefore to have some level of respect from them in order for them to comply willingly (or even at all) with requests. It disappoints me no end that these kids are still seeing the men around them as the ones who they “really” have to listen to!

  2. Equilibro says:

    In general, women want to be liked because that is a primal, female, savannah brain legacy. Like it or not, men still hunt and women still herd. Men form triangular hierarchies, women form circular groups. A woman’s greatest fear is exclusion from the group and her instinctive smile is her defence against this. It was ever thus and it always will be.

    • It’s an interesting and even contentious idea that all women have a proto-brain programmed by evolution and that it always ends up in Pointy triangular things. My response to that is Balls!

      I say balls because they are Three Dimensional and as soon as you step out of the mind limits needed to have a flat and two dimensional view of the universe that third dimension starts to make everything look like balls. Some of the balls may even come with a pointy bit (Just Look at the NFL), but I do find that no matter how flat some people want to amke the world, if you look at reality everything is a lot more rounded than people allow!

      So I do get your two dimensional ideas and how they play out, but really It’s more balls and more rounded.

      PS – when you mentioned the Savannah Brain it reminded me of one of my favourite books of all time “The Descent of Women” – Elaine Morgan. Some scream it is wrong, some that it’s pseudo science – but for me it’s brilliant as it re-frames so much of the debate into a way that people can get and understand. … and I still laugh my head off over the leopards breakfast. Elaine Morgan has not just a fascinating look at the world but a dry and highly ironic whit – she takes gender stereotypes, puts them through the laundry and sends them back Starched and Pressed.

  3. Wellokaythen:
    I disagree. I think women being likable in and of itself holds a lot of power. For instance, when the layoffs come rolling through due to down-sizing a likable women may be spared whereas a man (likable or not) may be less likely to be spared.

    Women have a same gender preference, men do not. If anything men have a women-centered preference.
    So what you see is that both men and women would rather be waited on, or interact with women (men because with a man you may or may not have to deal with a macho ahole, and it’s always fun to get face time w/even marginally attractive women, and women because it gives them a break of having a friction of sexual tension in the air (to quote chris rock, women are always offered dick, but men are never offered pussy) ).

    When women leave the shelter of assistant level positions (kind of like a quarterback leaving the protection of the pocket) it’s a free for all. These female CEO’s may feel like the men hate them, but what it is most likely really about is that the “kid gloves” the woman may have experienced at an assistant level are now off, and competitors (against the woman) for the next higher up position now STOP treating her deferentially.

    In other words women in assistant positions are sheltered (in a way that men in assitant positions on balance probably are not. Coming down hard on a female subordinate is viewed as tacky or rude, whereas men are viewed as tough enough to take it.

    When highly motivated women leave this shelter and are spared no punches and treated *EQUALLY* with the men, the women view it as “hate” because they thought the sheltered environment was equality (and goes a long way to show how confirmation bias goes a long way to erase the male on male bullying that goes on in workplaces, which I have been personally suggested too. Both men and women seem oblivious to this problem).

    It’s pretty similar to all the feminist articles on anti-girl behavior in gaming. It’s not that the behavior is anti-girl, it’s misanthropic behavior that uses hateful language against EVERYBODY. A girl may be called a bitch or c*nt, but men will also be called homo or fag. If you pay attention, you can see hatefully behavior for all being labeled as anti-girl.

    The reasons for this is obvious: in the real world men are polite to women (more so than women) most of the time. If they are not polite they risk the chance of being labeled a brute, fired, sued, or having the crap beat out of them as in the youtube video “how can she slap”.

    In an anonymous nameless world where real world dangers are removed (and the benefits of real world politeness–the thankfulness and attention of a live woman), women are treated by men just as poorly as these men treat other men most of the time in the real world.

    You can’t look out of your sheltered perspective fishbowl and expect to see the world as it truly lays.

  4. John Anderson says:

    Another aspect that is missing from the assumptions made about powerful women being perceived as bitches, while powerful men are perceived as bosses, is that it relates only to direct business related activities and only to the activities in a “standard” business. A female boss placing her hand on a subordinate’s shoulder is showing concern. A male boss doing the same thing is a perv. Unless it’s been changed, the last time I looked, this was codified in the law, the reasonable woman and reasonable man standards.

    I’ve heard of female executives entering a professional male athletes locker rooms, but have not heard about the reverse. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Female professional athletics doesn’t get the sports coverage, but I also wouldn’t doubt that it was another gender double standard. Women whether bosses or not get away with behaviors that would not be tolerated from men.

  5. John Anderson says:

    The obvious problem with Sandberg’s position is that maybe women in power are perceived as bitches because they act like bitches. Look at other areas where women are in positions of power. 50% of rape in adult prisons is staff on prisoner. 80% of that is female staff abusing male prisoners. In juvenile detention where the power dynamic is arguably greater, 95% of staff sexual misconduct is female staff abusing male detainees.

    Men have never been taught how to handle victimization. Could it simply be that women as a group have never been taught how to handle power?

  6. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Some of the women bosses I’ve had have been the best. On the other hand, some may have been far more invested in what I’ll call “attitude adjustment” than male bosses. As someone who is really straightforward and analytical in management situations, I found this type of boss to be awful. I was fired by two of them for being “negative.” I believe that I was mainly being analytical. The last one was before I returned to grad school and became a professor. I had doubled the business for the hospital for which I was marketing director, right before I was let go. This type of female boss seems to like to confer overmuch with other female managers, and has no boundaries between operational behavior and gossip. I can’t imagine a male manager doing this. (Well, maybe the ones in The Skulls.)

    The worst boss I ever had was a male sociopath– he was clearly a sociopath– though.

  7. wellokaythen says:

    I think Valenti’s article does describe something that is still too common in the workplace. It’s overhyped and overgeneralized, as you rightly point out, but there’s still some basis in reality.

    I think about this a lot with some of my more difficult coworkers. Would I find this person as offensive if she were a man and not a woman? Honestly, I admit sometimes the answer is “no,” so I do have a double standard. But, many times the honest answer is ”yes,” this person is just offensive regardless of gender.

    What concerns me a lot is that fighting this stereotype can lead to another extreme. I work with some women who seem to be convinced that being female means that they have a license to be as obnoxious, petty, and manipulative as they want to be, with the rationale that if a man acted like that no one would complain. They seem to assume that all men do whatever the hell they want to, therefore it is completely fair, just, and progressive to do whatever they want to.

    Articles like Valenti’s may inspire women to stand up for themselves in order to do the best job possible. They can also inspire some women to become even more obnoxious bosses.

  8. At work, I want to be liked, and I want to be respected. AND, I do my best to follow my inner guidance and do what I think is right, even though it may cost me like and respect. On a good day, I have the stones to live like that. On a bad day, I’m a people-pleaser.

    I think that 1> this concept of like and respect and success applies to everyone; and 2> it’s doubly true for women, who face a much tighter needle to thread of like and respect.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      yeah to some extent David. I have been known to be pretty touch when it comes to work and negotiations. But I don’t go out of my way to be an ass for no other purpose than to throw my weight around. I try to tell the radical truth and negotiate hard for my POV without screwing around. My hope is that people on the other side of the table, and who work for me, see me as tough but fair. And therefore like that I have integrity. If they don’t see it that way I frankly don’t care. As long as I feel in my gut that what I am doing is as right as I can be.

  9. Unfortunately, women often are not trained the way men are in the world. Just look at the image by Steven Bowler of his daughter’s “failed” homework assignment, an indication that people still think roles should be played based on gender. Women are still expected to fill motherly roles over managers-in-charge. Aside from gender bias, I can understand why people think of women as bitches more than as bosses. Many women allow their anxieties to rise to the surface and perpetuate bitchy impressions. But again, I think it’s a matter of women being thought of as “women” rather than managers. On the other hand, I know female managers who are not bitches in the least and can lead a team, give direction, and fire employees as rationally and non-emotionally as their male counterparts. Women will always have more estrogen and progesterone, and men will always have more testosterone, but that doesn’t mean women can’t use logic as well as men. By the way, I feel gender bias all the time. I fix motorcycles and am apt at repairing electrical systems. Can’t tell you how many times men think I’m missing some important piece of information about motorcycles because I’m female.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Kiai wicked cool that you fix motorcycles. I will say as a dad who is more at home than not I will say that plenty of moms still look at my sideways (like what are YOU doing here) at pickup or some kid event. I don’t let it diminish my engagement with being a dad one bit.

      • I just find this so so strange that you’d get the sideeye. Is it a Boston thing? A status thing? A culture thing? Cause there are dads all over the schools at the ones my kids go to. And at swim team and etc etc etc. Mine included. Odd. I realize more and more how lucky I am to live how I’ve lived, where I’ve lived.

  10. Peter Houlihan says:

    I’ve had good and bad bosses of both genders. I’d agree there’s some people out there who won’t respect a woman in power no matter what (or respect a man who isn’t in a position of power), but they’re definitely in the minority. Painting their sexism as being representative of the entire workforce isn’t helpful.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Well said Peter.

      • wellokaythen says:

        It’s fair to say that there are leaders who try to lead by being overly concerned with being popular and likeable. It’s something that both men and women do, though maybe women are more socialized to take this approach than men are. It’s a mistake that men and women both make, however.

  11. “A respected writer asserts that men in power are liked and women are uniformly hated.”

    I’ve heard sentiments like that so any times – and the Powerful Women And lady Bosses are hated always makes my blood boil – especially when it’s women saying it. People do look perplexed when you point out that they have just made themselves part of the hating group, and they better explain 1) negative views of all women – their hatred as women of other women, or 2) why they keep using language about other people is such a negative way and have they ever heard of good manners and not saying foolish things? I’m known for me tact and diplomacy!

    I actually find this offensive “We need to tell young women that not being liked, as hard as it may be, is often as sign that they’re doing something right.”

    I find it offensive because it actually runs the risk of convincing some young woemn (and even some of the alter kockers who are business savvy) that being disliked is a sign of being right. Sorry – but if you have a crap business model and crap product that will not fly, people will see it and possibly you in a negative way. Feedback is useful – but encouraging people to misinterpret feedback has more to do with lab experiments, rats and a Skinner Box to condition and even brain wash.

    Encouraging people to see such negative reaction as a Positive Indicator of success is a very bad way to promote good business. I do wonder sometimes if Ray Bradbury didn’t have the right idea when he wrote Fahrenheit 451 – I keep finding books that should not even be allowed to get remaindered. P^)

    • eh, that people (men and women) react poorly to aggressive women is well documented and supported by science. It’s the generalization from a statistical increase into becoming a blanket fact that is troubling.

      (for example – )
      Sandler, Bernice R. “The Classroom Climate: Chilly for Women?” in Deneef, et al, editors, The Academic Handbook, Durham: Duke University Press, 1988, pages 146–152. A good overview of research on subtle subconscious bias, although it does not contain references.

      • Lynne any-time there is a gross generalisation being presented as a blanekt fact it is an issue – a bit like spontaneously generated stats which occur around 68.3% of the time!

        It gets even worse if that pattern gets mixed up with some folks views on gender! Then you get multidimensional blanketing and factoidal drift … and it’s been documented it even bugger up the Giant Hadron Collider are CERN! P^)

  12. QuantumInc says:

    For the average woman this is a bigger issue than for the average man.

    Mrs. Valenti would agree with you that being yourself, being assertive, and focusing on the fewwho love you over the many who might like you are important for both men and women. However there are more women who neglect this than men and this fact necessitates callouts specifically to women on these issues and an examination of the exact relationship between gender and ‘likeability’.

    I feel conflicted here. On one hand it is extremely important to avoid generalizing. On the other hand I seriously doubt that Jessica Valenti meant ALL woman and ALL men. Considering her credentials she would understand the dangers of generalizing as well as anyone. When I read it, the fact that she was referencing a social trend and not an absolute truth seemed like obvious background knowledge. However in retrospect, unless the piece is meant for those familiar with social theory, she should have included more discussing the fact that this phenomena was a social trend; and thus applied to many, but not all.

    We would hope that the founder of “The Good Men Project” would himself be a good man, and thus avoid nasty sexual discrimination; however that doesn’t mean that Tom Matlack is going to be aware of all the issues that affect women, or other people unlike himself, let alone their severity. This particular piece doesn’t have a lot of hard evidence in it. However Feministing.com (the website that Valenti founded for similar reasons to Matlack) has featured the results from multiple studies confirming that people are biased against women in the workplace is many different ways, along with plenty of anecdotal evidence.

    In my opinion, this particular piece by Mrs. Valenti is lacking, but it is still important as it is one of the few to address an underestimated issue. Women feel a greater need to be liked, and for a woman to be liked that is more likely to mean shying away from power.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      “that doesn’t mean that Tom Matlack is going to be aware of all the issues that affect women, or other people unlike himself, let alone their severity.” Amen to that. That’s why I really tried to make this post an open ended question rather than a conclusion. I also think that it’s important to look at individual behavior rather than trying to globalize when it comes to gender.

  13. musicbabyz says:

    I will say that in general I have not noticed gender bias in the corporate or civic communities in which I operate. However, certain individual men have renewed my gratitude that I have had as little opposition as I have. I serve on a board of directors and requested financial information which I require to fulfill my role in the organization. The (male) treasurer suddenly insisted I go through him (instead of directly to the bookkeeper as I had been doing) and questioned why I needed the information even though he was well aware of my role in the organization (and my right to request the information simply because I am a board member regardless of my role). I replied with a description of my role and the information required to fulfill that role, and expressed my frustration at the difficulty of obtaining information that I was entitled to on multiple levels. I also explained how the delay impeded my ability to fulfill my role. He told me to “Chill out. With that kind of attitude cooperation might even be slower.” I ask the men on this site, have you ever received a response like that?

    • Tom Matlack says:

      I have. I have been on dozens of corporate boards over my career in VC and to be honest my experience is that getting financial information, like you, is crucial to doing my job. Generally the less well run, or successful, the organization the less forthcoming they are with the numbers. Or they present them in the most complex and un-intelligible manner possible to obscure the truth of their failure. I am not saying that you are not experiencing sexism. You very well might be. But you could also be experiencing someone protecting their incompetence too.

  14. Because as far as I can tell there is a word that has not come up yet.

    A word that is freely flung around in even so called progressive spaces there use of the word bitch would be (rightly) questioned and challenged.

    A word that no one seems to be able to remember when talking about gender insults.

    A word that was only mentioned in passing even here at GMP about a year or so ago when talking about gendered insults.


    This word, it’s use, and it accepted use (like I say even people who would challenge use of bitch will turn around the call someone a dick) pretty much tells me that this is nowhere near a one way street.

    Now is there a problem with assertive women being called bitches? Most certainly is but to try to paint this as a one way street and pretend that men don’t face similar treatment is dishonest. And is yet one more example where something harms women is propped up as if it is exclusive to women.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Danny – I completely agree with this. And I think one of the things people don’t realize is a very basic truth – it is hard to lead. It is hard to be a boss. You have to tell people – tens of people, hundreds of people, thousands of people — what they need to do over and over and over again – very clearly and directly. And you have to do it when times are good and times are bad – under moments of stress and in moments when everyone has to work as a team, doing things they have never done before, very quickly. That’s hard. And so eventually you are doing to tell someone what to do, and they won’t want to do it, and they will call you a bitch or a dick or an asshole. It simply comes with the territory.

      This is perhaps going to come across as sexist, so I apologize in advance. But I think that one of the gender differences that may be at play here is that women are taught they can complain about being called names, whereas men are taught to shut up when that happens. Anyone else think that might be the case?

      • But I think that one of the gender differences that may be at play here is that women are taught they can complain about being called names, whereas men are taught to shut up when that happens. Anyone else think that might be the case?

        Most certainly. And even though women are taught that they can complain it is still a hard time for women that complain or call out these things.

        There are definitely gendered differences at work here and those gendered differences complicate things a lot. Those gendered differences are, IMO, the main reason that the people on different sides of the gender discourse have such a hard time understanding how folks on other sides are experiencing their own gender differences.

        In fact check this out.

        In one of the recent posts about dating (I think it’s either “Nice Guys Again” or
        “Why do men take it as a personal judgment when they’re turned down? We’re ALL dealing with this.” which is a CotD from “Nice Guys Again” if I recall) some of the women over there have been commenting how guys are not understanding the way women experience dating in terms of approaching and being approached. As a result some of those guys over there actually do think that women don’t go through any complications (and those guys are responding to women who hold the belief that it’s not men but women that go through complications in the realm of dating). And of course the “who has it worse” comes out too.

        Well then I see this post that seems to about the idea that being called a gendered insult is something that is exclusive to women. Looks familiar doesn’t it?

        And mind you Tom is riffing off of a post from Jill Valenti, who was one of the main brains (or the founding brain) behind Feministing for a while. I know for a fact I’ve seen occurences at Feminsting where people would call guys dicks and it would go totally unchallenged. I wonder how many times someone has been called a bitch at Feministing and it went unchallenged.

        Ms. Kettle, Mr. Pot I believe you know each other already….

        • Saying something is dickish or a dick is not the same level of insult. That’s like he won’t give me time off to go to the dentist or ate my lunch out of the fridge. Bitch implies incurable malevolence. Dick is not caring, Bitch is purposefully trying to hurt others. Dick is a one occasion thing. Bitch is a core personality trait.

          I have no problem calling a man or woman a dick, but have an even higher bar for bitch than I would for slut, moron etc., which I also don’t use.

          • I have to disagree with that attempt at distinction. Even a man that asserts a strong position could be called a dick and it’s not just unquestioned by is actively defended because “women have it worse”.

            And besides bitch is often used in the very same terms as what you describe to be a dick.

            Both are heavily gender insults where jerkish behavior is associated with the person’s gender.

            But low and behold one is decried as horrible sexism and the other is actively defended.

            I have no problem calling a man or woman a dick, but have an even higher bar for bitch than I would for slut, moron etc., which I also don’t use.

            So you have no problem associating jerkish/inappropriately assertive/etc… behavior with male genitals, even if the person in question doesn’t even have male genitals?

      • “Anyone else think that might be the case?”
        YES x 1000. EVERTHING with regard to equality, gender issues, feminist/mra, even general health issues this happens. Men are so often told to shutup, man up, get over it whilst women do seem to be accepted and expected to complain about their issues (which isn’t good in some ways).

        • Dick has become gender neutral. I hear it applied to women as often as to men. However when you call a man a bitch, it’s an additional insult – he’s female as well!

          I would never tell a guy to man up, except jokingly, but I really can’t see this as an issue.

          MRAs are ignored because their math tends to be so bad and they are too often more interested in tearing down women’s accomplishments than helping men, not because we aren’t concerned about men. There are plenty of people fighting for equal access to children after a divorce, recognition of color blindness (12% of men, adjust your powerpoints accordingly), sexism against men (too aggressive, violent, inattentive), suicide reduction, etc. – just none of them are willing to work with MRAs.

          • @ Lynne – Just a quick point – recognition of color blindness (12% of men, adjust your powerpoints accordingly)

            That one does tend to catch a lot of folk out – Color Blindness is not a gender/sex issue even if there is a gender bias caused by genetics.

            It is in fact a Disability Discrimination Issue and using it in the way you have is a false representation, false argument and even sexist. I would have thought after 22 years of the ADA and the same with UK/Euro based legislation some would have gotten past that oft repeated error… well it used to be often, but in fact I have not seen it for about 15 years – and I’m the Crippled Equality Campaigner! P^)

          • Dick has become gender neutral. I hear it applied to women as often as to men. However when you call a man a bitch, it’s an additional insult – he’s female as well!

            But you don’t see the additional insult of attributing a woman’s horrible behavior with a set of genitals that she (more than likely) doesn’t have? It’s not that the peson is horrible it’s that they have a set of horrible genitals. Yeah….

            MRAs are ignored because their math tends to be so bad and they are too often more interested in tearing down women’s accomplishments than helping men, not because we aren’t concerned about men.
            Partially true at best. If that were the case then MRA wouldn’t be tossed at people who disagree with women and feminists. Yes there are MRAs that subscribe to what you describe here but it’s overblown to the point of generalization.

            • @ Danny

              Partially true at best. If that were the case then MRA wouldn’t be tossed at people who disagree with women and feminists. Yes there are MRAs that subscribe to what you describe here but it’s overblown to the point of generalization.

              You gentleman you! Talk about being chivalrous!

              I would never have phrased it that way – “overblown to the point of generalization.”? I would probably likened it to a stereotype taped to a nuclear depth charge. P^)

          • Bullshit, dick is heavily gendered towards men. A woman cheats? She’s a dick for doing so. Maybe you haven’t had the pleasure of being around such uses of the word but I have and being told the usage doesn’t exist is pretty insulting.

            “MRAs are ignored because their math tends to be so bad and they are too often more interested in tearing down women’s accomplishments than helping men, not because we aren’t concerned about men.”
            Where did that come from? I disagree with you again as most MRA actions I’ve seen are to helping men, unless you considered highly gendered n harmful laws such as VAWA a woman’s accomplishment, one I’d happily see burn to the ground. In Australia we have a national plan to address violence against women and children (hooray for misogynist views of women latching them to children to further illustrate their vulnerability) yet no indication of really helping men. MRA’s dislike this law because it ignores men and has quite the potential to harm men just as VAWA has. When you are having police come in, arrest the man because the duluth model portrays him as the aggressor, where men who call up DV helplines as victims and be told they’re the perps then isn’t that law, and advocacy surrounding it harmful? I’ve never seen MRA’s trying to reverse equal pay laws for women. And the maths I’ve seen coming from feminists has been a mix of good, and quite a lot of bad just as I see coming from the MRA camp. Thing is you can cherry pick stats to prove any point, and both have people that do it to say “But we get it worse!!1!” but really I think both sides are more closer than they think.

            Calling someone an MRA has become a strawman, I had it happen yesterday on a site for men and feminism when I talked about male issues as I was called an “MRA troll” on the thread asking if men can be a part of feminism. Giving a shit about men makes me an MRA troll when feminists on that site have been saying feminism is the egalitarian movement? THe labels feminism and MRA are so loaded these days that I see very little decent conversation happen, not enough collaboration because each side has too many people who are anti-feminist or anti-mra with both sides having plenty of people whoa re bigoted towards the other.

            • Archy – I have to agree with your research and findings in so many areas. But this is a thread about the Workplace and Workplace dynamics and you becoming worked up and frustrated – needing to explain in detail reminded me of an issue that has been glossed over.

              Work Place Bullying – on a European basis I have to say that the group who bullies most and is most likely to do it on none violent means is women. There is often an exploitation of being a woman and associated stereotypes.

              One of the defence strategies is to get a person to react strongly to a stimulus, feel obliged to justify and the bully just sits back and plays innocent whilst other wonder why the person targeted is acting in the way they are!

              I was surprised earlier about reports of violence in the work place and a group attacking a woman – and even how some seems to enjoy the reports. It’s important to remember that workplaces are not just places of works for some, but arenas and vanues for their own brand of abuse and control. I did comment that in the reports I promptly spotted a co-ordinator – leader and that made me click on Bully and Corporate Psychopath

              I find it funny too using a word like Psychopath to a female employee or manager. Some will say you are being nasty and abusive – and that just may be true, but also at between 2 and 5% of the time using the label is correct and clinically valid!

              Aint if funny – you see books about Psychopaths all over even in business and it’s always assumed to be men. Amazing how some can fly under the radar and not be noticed…. or so they think! P^)

              • Interesting, did I play into a trap?

                • Why you asking? I’m looking at the dimensions of feelings and language – or is that the feeling of language – or the language of feelings .. or maybe all 9 together ! P^)

                  Text is so two dimensional, and I never allow it to limit how multi dimensional I am.

      • This is perhaps going to come across as sexist, so I apologize in advance. But I think that one of the gender differences that may be at play here is that women are taught they can complain about being called names, whereas men are taught to shut up when that happens. Anyone else think that might be the case?

        I would go to an even more Subtle Level – they are taught how to react inspite of actual intent or feelings when certain words are used.

        I’ve seen people explode into faux paroxysms of indignation because a word was used, something said, something done and it was made to fit a gender trope. There is a funny story of a company that deals in pet supplies and in the main offices employees are encouraged to take their pets to work – predominantly dogs. The company also had a very high % female workforce due to hiring practices. One male employee was heard to say “I don’t always like bitches, but I may have to make an exception for you!”. A member of staff went ballistic because he was using offensive language when apparently talking to colleagues … she did not see anything only heard the language. Of course he was talking to a rather Fetching Dalmatian – and if you have any experience with the breed the dog is actually easier to handle and train than the bitch.

        I’ve also seen the same things happen with guys playing games when triggers can be pulled.

        In many ways, books like this and a number of the ideas which I fear are being badly communicated just make management and even basic business harder – and to get a valid promotion not only do you need to be qualified for the job, you end up needing degrees in advanced psychology, sociology, gender studies, Conflict Management and Bomb Disposal. P^)

    • It just popped up on the GMP twitter feed (whoever runs it pulls from past articles from time to time).


      Yeah gendered insults are bad, unless they are about men, males, or male parts. Then they might be okay to it’s worth debating and deciding on when it’s actually okay to make such insults….

  15. There are bitches and there are bastards, to say pejoratives are the domain of woman alone is untrue. All we really have is our own anecdotal stories of bad bosses. Personally as a man I have found no statistical bias on this matter.

    Women bosses by force of probability tend to be bosses in female dominated fields. Talking to women I find they prefer a male boss.

    • Having a female boss rules out some issues, but from personal experience, the best bosses I have had were male and the worst bosses I’ve had were male. Men may be more likely to help a woman out (in terms of mentoring etc.), but also more likely to have issues with you because of gender. They’re usually different men, so if you can rule out the latter…maybe.

      • Interesting… I’ve had the opposite experience. Best exec I worked for was a woman (amazing leader). Worst exec I worked for was a woman (stupid and arrogant make a bad mix). The men tended to group more narrowly.

  16. Lisa Hickey says:

    Tom, thanks for bringing this subject up.

    This is what stuck with me most → “How is that possibly a fair comment to anyone who thinks carefully about what it means to lead effectively.”

    Exactly. I posted this on Facebook and had a long debate with people I’ve worked with over the years. A long-ago boss of mine said, “Talent doesn’t have a sex. And karma has a way of taking care of assholes.” Just about everyone agreed that gender differences are less pronounced than they used to be. Another colleague said “I think it’s gotten better. Or maybe as I rose through the ranks I was more in contact with upper management and heard less complaints about upper management.” Ha. And sure, part of it is simply because more men and women interacting at all different levels in the workplace. But I also see even this difficult economy as a factor. I think more people, both men and women, have realized they have to understand *how businesses work* in order to survive. And that means understanding why bosses act the way they do — not from a personality standpoint but from a business decision-making standpoint. Every employee needs to understand the business strategy of the company they work for to survive. There certainly isn’t a gender difference in that. And I think that change, particularly, will become more widespread in years to come.

    Also, honestly, as someone who has run companies and managed teams of people for over a decade, gender may be a variable in the grand scheme of things but it is a very small variable. And how else to you get great results other than continuing to manage variables and always try to get things to work better? As a boss, my two biggest guiding principles are to try to get results and to be fair. Recognizing gender differences may actually allow me to do both of those things better, but it is only one a thousand other things that need to be even paid attention to.

    As for likeability — if someone doesn’t like me because I hold them accountable for results or because I need a higher standard of quality of their work — well, they probably shouldn’t be working for me anyway. I never try to be liked, but I DO always try to help the people who work for me to succeed. Sometimes that means telling people in no uncertain terms what needs to get done in order to get the results we need. If that comes across as “bitchy” in the short term, so be it. On the other hand, I’ve always found that people like me most when *they* succeed. Help someone to get the results they need to succeed, and everything else is a non-issue. Including gender. Especially gender.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Indeed Lisa. Success to me is finding great people who enjoy working for you. Or, finding people who have the potential to be great and helping them achieve that greatness. Gender is nowhere in THAT conversation.

  17. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    I’ll cite examples from my personal career as an engineer in the military-industrial complex. I had an 11+ year career starting at what was originally Hughes Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona, and ending it at the same location but (after being bought by Raytheon) at Raytheon Missile Systems.

    When I started, our company president was Louise Francesconi. She was very well-liked by the employees, hourly and salaried alike. It was very common to run into her in the hallway, and she was always very pleasant and personable and friendly no matter if you were a vice president or and engineer or a janitor. She knew many of the employees by name. We were pretty sad when she retired.

    Contrast this with two other executives who “led” the company while I was there. Bill Swanson was a CEO of Raytheon Systems Company (parent company of RMS) for a while. I think it was under Swanson (either him or Dan Burnham, see below) that we got saddled with a fake six sigma company initiative known as “Raytheon Six Sigma” which was quite a ridiculous touchy feely, mostly non-quantitative bastardization of actual six sigma quality control. He was also notable for a document known as “Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management,” which was later revealed to be largely plagiarized. Because our “leader” was an unethical asshole, all of us little people in the company had to take all kinds of extra ethics classes even though we had done nothing wrong. To put it mildly, he was not well-liked, nor respected.

    Prior to Swanson, Raytheon was “led” by Dan Burnham, under whom integration of several companies into the giant post-merger Raytheon took place. After Hughes Missile Systems was bought, Louise worked as a company executive under Burnham for a while. To sum up what the employees thought of him, I will tell you his nickname in the halls was “Slash and Burnham”. He was widely believed by the employees to be running our company into the ground. I believe it was Burnham who reorganized things around “Centers of Excellence”, nicknamed “Centers of Excrement” by the employees, to force us to in-source work to other Raytheon units to save money. Sounded good in theory, but it was a disaster in practive. Quality and schedules took a MAJOR hit thanks to this plan, which is how the “Centers of Excrement” nickname came to be. He was investigated by and ended up settling with the SEC for alleged improper accounting of losses at one of the company’s other units.

    In summary, as usual, a universal stereotype is simply not accurate.

  18. There are plenty of male bosses who are called C****’s here in Australia, not everyone likes bosses. Men are EXPECTED more than women to be assholes in business, it’s not like men are given a free pass on this in my experience. Being in a position of power is going to give you flack no matter who you are, you’ll be a bitch or an asshole or just a c**** to some.

    Those who bring up this point, is it possible that they are reinforcing women by telling women that the stereotype is they should be nicer in business? Who wants to go against the grain afterall….I’d be tempted to act nice after hearing this just to keep my progression in career as changing to be more man-like would be risky if this sexism is at play?

    • Reminds me of those asking “Are men turned off by confident, outspoken women?”. My answer is no, but it’s not uncommon to see someone calling themselves confident, and outspoken but really they’re just an arrogant bitch. Is it possible many of these women are trying to be confident, think of themselves as such but are more likely to be coming across as combative, aggressive, condescending? If men have grown up around men who had more years of practice in that role then maybe women simply need to be paying attention to how the men speak or it may change as more n more women learn to speak more confidently. You need role models to base yourself from but what role models do women have of powerful, confident, and non bitchy/assholey behaviour? Are there anywhere near as many as men have?

      I’ve never been bothered by confident women, I adore my friends who are outspoken and laugh my ass off when they serve someone verbally when they get annoyed (same with guy friends). What I am bothered by is aggressive n condescending women (or men), I dislike bitches n assholes. I know one woman being a teacher thinks she has a confident voice but really quite often she comes across as a bitch (and quite a few have said so). There are other women I know who are confident, outspoken, and well liked.

      Julia Gillard is someone in power I hateeee, she has a monotone voice which absolutely sucks for public speaking, she and her party lie lie lie, and her behaviour is piss poor. I have no problems with Gail Kelly though who speaks with confidence but her behaviour is good. I treat males in power the same, I hate Bush Jnr but I like Obama (to some degree), Obama has a lot of inspiring charisma and comes across as a decent guy which I think helps a lot for the type of job he does. You need to be likeable to be a good boss I think, the best bosses I’ve seen or heard about go out on the factory floor n say Hi to everyone, they engage their workers n treat em with respect.

      Part of the problem of course is that we probably expect males to be assholes more and tolerate it, but it’s not exactly a good thing for men.

      • wellokaythen says:

        “My answer is no, but it’s not uncommon to see someone calling themselves confident, and outspoken but really they’re just an arrogant bitch. Is it possible many of these women are trying to be confident, think of themselves as such but are more likely to be coming across as combative, aggressive, condescending?”

        Hmm. Perhaps self-reporting or self-definition of “confident woman” is as unreliable as self-reporting of “nice guy.” Perhaps women can sometimes be as clueless in how they come across as men are. Crazy, radical thing to say, but a real possibility, don’t you think?

        Perhaps “ego” is not a male monopoly…..

        • Would it be possible to have warnings on posts like this, concerning the risk of laughter accompanied by involuntary urination?

          • wellokaythen says:

            Beware the “post hoc” fallacy. Just because the involuntary urination comes after the laughter does not mean it was caused by laughter.

        • Hmm. Perhaps self-reporting or self-definition of “confident woman” is as unreliable as self-reporting of “nice guy.” Perhaps women can sometimes be as clueless in how they come across as men are. Crazy, radical thing to say, but a real possibility, don’t you think?
          Hold on now. I know we are trying to have a major conversation and get everything out on the table but let’s not get crazy here. Next you’ll be saying that the sky is blue and clouds are white. No of course self reporting confident women really are confident, we men are just so intimidated by them that we must tear them down. But self reporting nice guys are really just jerks.

        • Indeed, and there’s no shortage of these ones claiming to be persecuted for being their usual “confident” self.

  19. But then, id like to add – like blacks still ranting over 400 years of oppression, one cannot truly rule out the validity of their outcry. I am a man, and like with the civil rights movement, i don’t know what being hosed down feels like – so i respect Valenti’s article. With skepticism. None-the-less any noise is better than silence.

  20. with any power comes disdain. In a workplace where power games rule the office, a woman causing such ruckus only says more about the man liking her less as an insecurity derived from his experience and social forces that condition his validation. This whole boss and bitch thing is ridiculous. This contempt towards woman is a much more psychological thing cultivated far before the man knows what a suit is.

    Superb piece, Tom. I’m glad someone appointed the situation.

  21. Tom Matlack says:

    I don’t know AllyF even saying it’s relative rather than absolute is still making it a universal. My answer is I don’t judge bosses based on gender. I have seen women who were awesome and men who were awesome, men who were awful and women who were awful. Honestly in my business career it’s about getting shit done, not about judging whether their gender, sexual orientation, race or hair style. Individuals are individual, for good and bad.

    • You may not have this attitude, and most men may not either, but all it takes is one or two to cause an issue. Men or women.

  22. Richard Aubrey says:

    Jerks are jerks. Female jerks are bitches and male jerks are assholes. So, I suppose, there is a gender difference.

  23. …just doesn’t make sense to me. Do I view every woman in a position of power as a bitch? Do you? How is that possibly a fair comment to anyone who thinks carefully about what it means to lead effectively.
    Read more at http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/hes-a-boss-shes-a-bitch/#CyFek8VW0qlwh74V.”

    You’re assuming that the effect JV describes needs to be absolute and binding. It doesn’t. At a social level, it only needs to be relative. Does she assume that every man and every woman thinks the same way about every man and every woman? I doubt it.

    All she requires is for the bar to be set a little higher or lower for one or the other gender. Perhaps a woman needs a bit more charisma than a man would to be able to retain popularity alongside power.

    Perhaps a man in power needs to be a bit more of a jerk than a woman would to be disliked.

    Sure, not everybody likes and dislikes the same qualities in a woman or a man, so it will always be a spectrum rather than discrete categories.

    But can you honestly say to yourself and others that you react emotionally exactly the same to a woman and a man? I can’t, even though I have no personal problem with powerful women, and can find them likeable or admirable. But I don’t think it is far-fetched that I still react differently, and that might include having a lower threshold before I say “jeez, what a bitch” or whatever, while I’d possibly not even notice a man acting and speaking in the same way.

    I think Valenti over-stretches her case a bit, truth be told, I understand why you took a dislike to it. But she is effectively postulating about social psychology, and it may be there is a lot of truth in what she says.

  24. This old fashioned distinction is unfortunate. More unfortunate is that women rising in seniority feel that they have to act “the hard bitch” in order to gain respect. This is a retrograde step. “Bitches” don’t have the support of their peers or their teams and the “Bitch train” runs out of steam along the way.
    My advice to women is “be yourself”. Show people what you are capable of, be candid, be honest, have integrity and intelligence. Respect comes naturally as a result.
    Playing games and inauthenticity is the path to failure.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      I honestly agree with everything you are saying Scarlet and think it applies equally to men.

    • I agree with everything you said. However, I think the issue is what behaviour deems a woman a bitch. In my personal experience if I am agressive, or making an unpopular decision that is enough to deserve that label. I understand that this is a personal experience but I have seen it play out in a lot of different ways in my company.

      • In my personal experience if I am agressive, or making an unpopular decision that is enough to deserve that label.”
        I’d say men too get the similar treatment, cept they’re usually called an asshole, C***, dick, etc.

      • @Ann – Not being picky – but I do think this needs clarification:

        In my personal experience if I am agressive, or making an unpopular decision that is enough to **deserve** that label.

        Now, if you feel you truly deserve the label, it’s a choice I may disagree with but hey it’s a free world – but I actually hope you meant “receive” as in “be given”.

      • I’ve also been shocked at what men object to. When a guy did the exact same thing in the exact same way, no one noticed. When I do it, they’re outraged. Some guys have a thin skin for female authority and accomplishment.

  25. Wow Tom, this one should get a big discussion going.

    Having worked my way up through the ranks in the corporate world, something that I observed, though several years ago, is that it appeared women changed as they moved up in ranks. What I mean by that is that at least in my world, they became harder and colder. It bothered me because they appeared to believe that they had to be someone different but in reality, it was who they were that got them to where they are. Am I making any sense here?

    Yeah, with a more demanding position a person has to take on some new characteristics so that they could perform better but that’s not to say that had to give up who they are as a person. I was and am the same guy at work as I am at home with my family. The core values remained constant throughout my life.

    Years ago I worked for a women who no one could stand. Even in social setting, she was difficult to be around. After I and several others left the company because of her, one former employee even started a club “I survived the (he name) club.” Three years later we were advised that 5 of her employees stayed late and beat the crap out of her. Rumor has it that the hospital security purposely delayed responding to her call … but that was a rumor. Not sure what happen to the employees (women) but soon after she was let go because it was felt that she had to have been a problem if employees would go to that extreme.

    Right now, my department is 90% female working for a female director. Most of the staff struggle with the way she runs the department. I hope more women will speak up because what I’ve experienced through the years is that women struggle with female boss’s more then men.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Interesting point about whether or not women have an issue with women bosses. This part of you comment just made me want to puke. So sad. “Three years later we were advised that 5 of her employees stayed late and beat the crap out of her.”

      • Kathryn DeHoyos says:

        I think women absolutely take issue with women bosses. I have watched it happen, a person who worked with us got promoted and slowly but surely the other women we worked with started finding reasons not to like her. They started to exclude her, they would talk about her to the other managers behind her back. Some eventually got to where they would disrespect her directly to her face at times. I left about 3 months after she got promoted, and in that short amount of time she went from being a part of the “group” to being a complete outcast … I have no idea what ever happened to her but watching that happen has stayed with me to this day.

        • When friends suddenly become bosses, most of this tends to happen irrespective of gender. Working in a largely co-ed industry, I have never seen this happen and instead I’d say women tend to work more closely with female bosses and the problem is more with reports coming to them for help more often than they would with a male.

    • This would never happen with a horrid male boss. This sounds like they couldn’t stand taking orders from a woman.

      • Actually – In house corporate violence is rare – and if it does happen more likely to be targeted at men.

        The very mention of a group acting in violence has my antenna twitching, cos group reaction requires co-ordination and co-ordination requires leadership – and when that happens with the reported outcomes in an employment setting It screams Bully and Corporate Psychopath.

        Of course both men and women are equally capable of being on either side of the divide – and also being manipulated in and around the dynamics.

  26. In my experience, it has depended a lot upon the particular work environment. I have definitely felt this way before and had multiple co-workers tell me it was really happening to me and not my imagination. In one particular job, it was a HUGE and very real issue for me precisely because I was a woman. I have also worked in environments where this was not a gender-based issue at all–happening equally to both genders. And I have never worked anywhere that women were viewed as bosses and it was men who were viewed as unlikable for being assertive. So, those are my personal experiences. Others’ mileage may differ.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Lori I was in a meeting just yesterday where the guy in charge was being assertive and I thought to myself was an a-hole he was being. In general I try to work cooperatively even when it’s competitive situation. You can posture all you want but in the end to get a deal done people have to be straight. So my experience is different from yours.

      • Have you ever had several female coworkers privately go to your boss and say you should be replaced by a woman because a woman would naturally be able to do your job better than you because you’re a man? When you were nice-but-assertive, playing it straight, doing a fabulous job, and getting terrific results and reviews by your boss and had no job performance issues? The reverse has happened to me. So I suppose we all have different experiences in the workplace. I believe there is gender discrimination against women in the workplace in various ways, but it is not universal and not all men do it of course! I do believe it happens, though. And that was just one story of many regarding men trying to sabotage me when I was succeeding in what they considered their territory. I have other stories about getting promoted to a job traditionally considered “male” and being seriously and directly undercut by women “below” me when I was being my usual nice and competent self. All kinds of stuff happens. I wonder if any other women reading this have had similar experiences that you, Tom, have not had or seen? Maybe not. Maybe I’ve had weird, unique experiences.

        • I’ve heard of it happening in female dominated areas usually involving children but that tends to be pedo hysteria at play. One of the biggest issues regarding discrimination that I have seen talked about a lot tends to be worry over a woman’s level of commitment as some businesses tend to not want to risk putting too much effort into women’s advanced for fear they will leave when they have kids. On the flipside they expect men to work longer hours n sacrifice more for the company as their flexibility to see their family is less.

          I think a lot boils down to gender roles, and single-gender dominated areas tend to criticize the other gender more.

        • Tom Matlack says:

          Lori I am not discounting your experiences. I am really sorry to hear that happened.

        • Polli DeWalt says:

          Lori, I too have had both men and women undercut me at various points in my career. I also agree with Tom that to get things done you have to be straight with people. As you eluded to, being straight can be done with varying degrees of tone. I have also had the experience of colleagues mistaking nice-but-assertive as lacking competence. Different cultures reward nice to varying degrees. Unfortunately, collectively, in the workplace these days the a-hole way of getting things done is rewarded with greater compensation and greater admiration. Thus more promotions and more opportunities seem to befall those who employ those tactics. There have been several studies on this recently, which has left me feeling sad and wondering what kind of society we are creating. I’d like to see traits such as collaborative, communicative, and empathetic detached from being assigned to the female gender. It would free up both men and women to utilize traits and skills to get a job done effectively – which in turn has a positive impact on individuals (and their families), teams and the bottom line. I’d like to believe that smart companies will get this and create cultures where traits don’t have to be tied to gender lines; the rewards and penalties would be more equitable for both genders.

        • I have had men who almost refused to work with me because I was female. They’d go to a guy working on a different and unrelated project and ask him questions about my group. I think this was because on some questions I would give an accurate answer that sometimes amounted to “we don’t know yet” while he’d make up some BS that was usually wrong and sometimes caused us trouble later on. I’ve learned that sometimes nice but straight gets you nowhere.

          However, I’ve also heard someone saying we should never hire a man for a position because he’d be too reckless and inattentive. Things are changing and the old stereotypes are even less true. Men are learning to compete cooperatively and women are learning to cooperate competitively, because that’s now what is required in the modern workforce.

          Regarding women undercutting me, I had one experience but it’s far more often been a guy, usually one that’s been doing it for years to the women he’s worked with.

        • I have a long list of sexist and bad behaviors out of both men and women. A long list of offenses that would elicit gasps of disbelief. The higher up I climb, the worst the offenses. Perhaps that contributes to why women seem to be “harder and colder” as they climb the ranks? You beat someone up enough, and they either give up or develop harsher defenses. It is very hard to stay grounded and authentic.

          I can understand and respect the opinions expressed here. I don’t ultimately believe that leadership traits are just for men and empathy just for women. I try not to behave in this way. But, I recognize that these sexist attitudes and gender bias exist within my very own brain. I know how ultimately destructive it can be to buy into it. And I can change my behavior *because* I am aware of, and can identify, these attitudes within my mind.

          Let’s not forget that this is EVERYWHERE. Advertising, entertainment, politics, religion–within every system that society holds as authoritative exists these gender stereotypes. Nobody can live in this society and honestly say that they do not have any gender bias. Gender discrimination exists, and is unfortunately, still, very prevalent (countless studies, etc). You can list off exceptions (Like Kirsten’s example and Lisa’s experiences). Exceptions. There are great, strong women (God bless ‘em) that stand in their truth as they rise through the ranks. I find it very difficult. My favorite mantra “What you think of me is none of my business.” I still find it difficult.

          I applaud you, Tom, for calling out this topic. Though I have a lot of respect for Sheryl Sandberg, I believe some of what she preaches plunges deeper into stereotypes. And, because it is in the name of gender equality, it can be more destructive when used to justify rude behavior. Rather than encouraging women to ignore their compassionate nature–the desire to be liked–let’s instead encourage them to stand in their truth and gather internal strength to survive the barrage of sexism that surrounds them. And same goes for men. Which I believe is your point, Tom. (I’d also like to add that maybe we should think about how we’re defining “power”).

          But, please let’s not ignore the fact that these gender-biased attitudes are still insanely prevalent. Ignoring them just keeps them around. Rather, let’s all try to recognize when it is happening within our own minds and vow to change. “Be the change” as the wise man said.

          • Jennifer – your words just struck me as how important it is to not deal with a single issue in a one dimensional way.

            Just the other day there was dialogue around advertising and stereotypes of males as idiots and women as powerful, but patronising and condescending about men. People think of stereotypes as fixed anchors and don’t see the drift. That silly advertising dynamic played out with drift on a corporate setting with .. er… normal real men could readily explain why some women adopt and develop negative relative power based behaviours.

            • @MediaHound Yes. There seems to be a rise in the “idiot male” character in advertisement and television shows. Possibly a pendulum swinging the other way too far? However, I arrive at a disturbing place if I go down the judgement road here. I can easily slip into the anger if I don’t watch it. I’ve felt the rage at injustice. Been there too many times and I’m not proud of it. I feel lucky to have had the clarity to see how unproductive and damaging it is to dwell in that frustration (fear). So, when I feel a lot of frustration (fear), I try to examine what that’s all about for me, personally, rather than point fingers at society or the evil [insert industry/group here]. I’m not always successful. But, I was successful (so far) today with this article. I noticed that I was getting angry and recognized the fear. And then was able to read from a place of curiosity–and so learn from it. (Also, it helps that this is a generally supportive community).

  27. Michael Rowe says:

    Great piece, Tom. Enough with these black and white polarizing caricatures.


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