Here is the 4th strategy of 50 strategies from my upcoming book. I am looking for beta readers so email me if you want to read the whole thing! I welcome any feedback!
“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”
Strategy 4. Burden women with completely absurd expectations
“Society teaches women, as young girls, not to be bossy, too aggressive, or a “know it all.” Did you ever have a bossy friend in your play group or in your class at school? She probably didn’t have a lot of friends because no one liked the way she bossed everyone around. Girls are taught to share, take turns, and play nicely together. In the business world, we try to preserve the inclusive cooperative nature of our play groups. Because we don’t want to be perceived as being too bossy, we phrase things in a less threatening, non direct manner. Unfortunately, it is not only less threatening but demeaning and signals a lack of self-esteem.” (Susan Solovic)
I have always been surprised at how many of my female lawyer friends are willing to work twice as hard as their male colleagues to get ahead. They volunteer for the non-paying committee jobs and work overtime well into the night. And because the “normal” work hours of a typical law firm are already completely absurd these women turn into complete workaholics and neurotics. Then worst of all, this becomes the standard for the new female lawyers!
Sadly most women accept this absurdity as the cost of a career of a professional woman. They fall for the lie that unless you want to be really successful you must sacrifice everything for the firm. Because men face similar expectations, women think its all fair in love and war. After all they have the choice to leave at any time. And leave they do.
Women are expected to have the highest marks, the most degrees, the most relevant experience and are expected to be completely dedicated and loyal to the corporation or firm. Then to add icing to the cake, women are expected to be kind, sympathetic, considerate, generous caring and friendly – to absolutely everyone. And if women want to reach the top they must also be tough, strong and even cut-throat. Women are not only told that they must be perfect but that they must work twice as hard as men to even be noticed.
What women do not see is the particular cost to them as females and the pressures that are specific to them being a woman. They do not realize that the bar is not only different but much higher for them. They cannot see, or are not willing to see the astonishing pressures and expectations they face that are often inconsistent with who we have been taught to be and opposite to what we know intrinsically as females.
From the time we were little girls, we were fed very specific cultural messages about what we can do and what we should do as females. From grandma to television females are told to be quiet and calm, to be nice to everyone and never show outward anger, particularly at another person. Even to this day we are told to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.”
One of the most offensive cultural expectations show up as double standards. This means that we label certain behaviors as good when males do them, but bad when females do them. The exact same behaviors are slotted into a gender category so women and men learn very quickly that boys and girls well be perceived very differently even when doing the exact same thing. Here are a few examples from the book, “He’s a Stud and she’s a Slut and 49 other double standards every woman should know” by Jessica Valenti:
- He’s rough, She’s dainty
- He’s neat, She’s neurotic
- He’s a hero, She’s damsel
- He’s going to be a success, she’s going to be a stay-at-home-mom
- He’s angry, She’s PMSing
- He’s a porn watcher, she’s the show
- He’s childless, She’s selfish
- He’s a player, She’s a ho
- He’s a bachelor, She’s a spinster
These messages are reinforced constantly in our culture via families, teachers, television, magazines and the Internet. As we observe hundreds of media hits every day we subconsciously normalize this behavior slowly over time. Thousands of pages of scantily dressed skinny women in sexual and vulnerable poses not only undermines the idea of a strong corporate female executive, but reinforces in men’s minds, that women are not to be taken seriously. Business magazine include only a smattering of women feeding the stereotype that women aren’t really in positions of power or influence.
And sadly, we are not only blind to them when we see them, we are oblivious to the impact and the specific ways it holds women back. We actually accept them as “just the way things are.”
The bottom line. Most of us do not notice the absurd pressures and expectations that professional women face. And if we do see them, we assume they are normal. There are the ridiculous modern day workplace expectations like the 24/7 work hours that both men and women face plus a host of gender-specific pressures. Professional women expected to be brilliant and hard working, to be kind and likeable (by everyone), to work twice as hard, to volunteer lots and to be completely loyal and dedicated to the firm or corporation. But this is not all. They must also be attractive and well, perfect.
Even if women tried to meet these impossible standards the odds of her succeeding are very low. Plus the pursuit of perfection takes a toll on her health and her relationships, if she has any. So when women do succeed we all applaud, yet wonder how many enjoyed the journey.
What to do. We must all pay more attention to the kinds of pressures we place on women and begin to challenge them. Although the rest of this book is dedicated to this topic, the easiest way to learn about gender-based expectations is to watch, the video, “Killing us Softly” by Jean Kilbourne. It shows how media pressures girls and women to be sexy, small and passive. It is my favorite video on gender. You simply have to watch the images and photographs to understand how the media reinforces our societies expectations of women. It promotes stereotypes and sexualizes and degrades women and girls, usually without us even noticing. I discuss several other women-based expectations below.