So… I started listening to this audiobook called “Lean In”, written by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. It’s turning out to be really fascinating. It’s all about women in leadership and the cultural barriers that we’ve set for women, causing us to hold ourselves back in our careers. It explores questions like why men generally get paid more than women, why there is such a high percentage of men in upper management positions, and what we can do to prevent these inequalities.
Besides being very inspirational for my professional life, I’ve also found it to be extremely insightful for my personal life. Today I listened to a chapter about our expectations for female characteristics. Basically she explains that success and likeability are negatively correlated for women, but for men, success is positively correlated to likeability. Pretty much, no one likes a successful girl, but everyone likes a successful guy.
They did a test where they took the resume and references of a business woman named Heidi and showed it to two groups of people, but in one group they changed the name from Heidi, to Howard. After interviewing all of the people in both groups, they found that most found both Heidi and “Howard” to be equally competent. However, while many people stated that “Howard” seemed like someone that they would like to work with and/or for, people thought that Heidi seemed like the type of person one would NOT want to hire or work for. Even though both groups were looking at the same exact resume!
I was kind of a tomboy growing up. One could make the argument that I still am… (no mom, I’m not a lesbian) I’ve just always got along with boys better than girls. Boys were just a lot less complicated and they had cooler toys. Like Barbie was fabulous and all, but LEGOs… game over. (Although, these were the freaking best…
Dangerous as hell, but definitely one of the cooler girl toys I’ve ever owned. I’ve caught my brothers playing with them multiple times) Anyway, so growing up with boys, I developed the idea that it was a good thing to be the best. For boys, being the best is what they strive for. Everyone wants to be the strongest, the smartest, the funniest, the highest score on Donkey Kong. They just want to be the best at something. That’s not frowned upon, nor should it be. I think that everyone should strive for greatness. But for women it’s a little different. We don’t strive to be the greatest in a category, we strive to be the greatest FEMALE in that category. In the book, Sandberg points out how she’s rarely ever referred to as simply the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, but instead is always distinctively referred to as the FEMALE Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. A female COO? What a concept…
She also tells a story about how she was dubbed “The Smartest Girl in Her Class” in her high school. At this news, she was devastated. Although it was a high honor to be the “smartest”, she also understood that it gravely decreased her odds of landing a prom date. How sad is that? But it’s kind of true… Guys don’t like smart girls. I know there will be guys out there that will protest and argue, “That’s not true!”, buuuut it kinda is. I totally believe that there are men out there that truly ARE attracted to a woman’s intellect, but I think to some small extent, every guy has, at one point or another, fallen victim to this way of thinking. I know a number of girls who act dumb to get guys. They do it knowingly too. Think Kady from “Mean Girls”; she’s good at math, but acts dumb to get the guy. I think instinctively, girls have learned that you get more flies with honey, and the honey, in this case, is playing dumb. Don’t get me wrong. Guys aren’t turned off by a woman’s intellect, they’re just attracted to the feeling of pride they get in knowing something that she doesn’t know. Honestly though, I can’t even blame men for that. I like being a know it all. I live for it. Just ask my brother. I’m obnoxious. We grew up in a household where “knowledge is power”. The more you know, the more you have against your enemy. It makes sense. Men crave that power. They get high off of it. And when some smart-mouthed chick knows more than them. They feel weak. They feel emasculated. So guys aren’t necessarily aiming for dumb girls. They just need a girl that’s a liiiiiiittle bit dumber than they are. I know this sounds extremely judgemental, but to some degree it’s true. And not necessarily just in smarts. It applies in so many other aspects as well. Let’s take an obvious one for example: height. Most of the guys I know will admit that they’d prefer not to date a girl that’s taller than them. Why not? Well, no guy wants to have to look up to their girl, right? (Again, I realize that there are many exceptions out there. I’m not saying all men are like this, but I’m just trying to make a point)
The blame doesn’t just fall on dudes exclusively. I think that both men and women alike have been taught to think this way. Women strive to be good at the things that women should be good at; like child care, housekeeping, cooking, etc. Historically that’s what women were brought up to do. Women rarely sought out higher education. Women didn’t get jobs. They got married and made babies, while men got jobs and brought home the bacon. So it’s no wonder why men have this innate attraction to “dumber” women. Somewhere in the back of all of our minds, we equate knowledge to masculinity and therefore are unattracted to the idea of a smart woman. A smart woman will probably be a bad wife and a poor mother.
For the most part, I didn’t grow up with this mindset. I have a very strong, powerful woman of a mother and grew up to think that that was the norm. In my house, the stereotypical gender roles were all mixed up. My mom made more money than my dad. My dad cooked and cleaned. My mom was more intense and aggressive, while my dad was sweet and affectionate. So I grew up aiming to be a smart, strong, and powerful woman, just like I saw my mom to be. However, I didn’t realize that in doing so, I was also simultaneously growing up to be pretty damn undateable.
I’ve had friends, both male and female, advise me to be more coy in order to attract guys. “Be a little more girly,” they say. At least in the beginning, just so that you can draw them in and THEN you can allow them to get to know the real you. Be “cuter”. Be “sweeter”. Be “more feminine”. When did we start equating “feminine” to “demure”? After all, the word “feminine” is just an adjective to describe a characteristic of a woman. Why can’t “feminine” be associated with “strength” or “success”?
I just recently got dumped by a guy because he said, “I just can’t see myself fitting into your exciting lifestyle”. He was referring to the fact that I have many interests and travel a lot and have a lot of friends. It was so surprising to me, because throughout my entire life, it never occurred to me that being “too exciting” can actually be a bad thing for some guys. To me and most of my girl friends, when we meet a man who’s well-travelled, well read, and well connected, it’s pretty dang attractive. Am I right ladies? I’d love to meet a guy who knows more than me and has experienced more than me. That actually sounds pretty awesome! But unfortunately it doesn’t really work the other way around most of the time. Guys find it intimidating. One of my guy friends was telling me about this girl that he had just met. According to him, she was very successful and travelled a lot, which I assumed was a good thing. However, when they started dating, I noticed that he was trying to plan more and more trips. I thought it was most likely to impress this girl, but he eventually admitted that he found it intimidating that she travelled so much and was planning these trips in efforts of “catching up” to her level. After my experience of being labeled “too exciting” I defensively advised, “Don’t be intimidated by that! I find that offensive! Just be happy she’s a cool, interesting chick”.
Alas, by no means is this the reason why I’m single. There are SO many reasons why I’m single, but as fun as it sounds, let’s not delve into that right now… This is just yet another obstacle in this dating game that I’m obviously already losing. But to the 3 people that actually read my blog on occasion, I’d like to challenge you to put this pebble in your shoe: Male and female stereotypes do exist. They are very real and very present, whether consciously or subconsciously. I know that even as a woman I fall victim to this stereotypical thinking as well. And although it has been very deeply ingrained into our culture for hundreds of years, the only way to change it is to simply make a change. Forcefully change the way you think. Make a conscious effort to practice gender equality. Women, don’t lessen yourself in order to be admired. Men, don’t allow your pride to let a really cool girl pass you by. Something so simple as that can be the small change that we desperately need right now. The small change that I desperately need right now. Shoot maybe it’ll help me get a boyfriend. True moral of the story here is: To all the men out there… you should like totally date me, ‘cause I’m really cool. Oh what’s that? You don’t wanna date me ‘cause you think I’m super lame? Well fine… YOU’RE SEXIST
P.S. I’ve been writing this post for a while and just this morning I realized that it was International Women’s Day. Kismet.
Happy International Women’s Day!