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Women Are Like Tourists in a World Built for Men

July 5, 2013, 6:00 AM

So women sometimes feel challenged sharing their voice fully in the world in a way that many men don’t for a couple different reasons.  One of them is that the costs for women are different.

I'm speaking specifically about social costs and costs in likeability.  Unfortunately, we still live in a culture where for a woman competence and likeability are have an inverse relationship.  When women are perceived as competent they tend to be perceived as less likable and men tend to be perceived as both competent and likable. So of course women know this because we’ve grown up in a culture where we’ve seen how when we assert ourselves, when we boldly share an idea we can actually be perceived as less likeable.  

People respond to us less warmly and because women are socialized to be so relationship-oriented it’s very scary to not be likeable.  That is like a real identity crisis to not be likeable in the world, so that’s one of the reasons.

The other I would say is that we still live in a patriarchal culture.  A lot is changing, but largely the way our institutions are structured, the way the workplace is structured, comes from a model that was built for men. And so women are actually in some ways like travelers.  They’re like tourists in a world that is not quite built to be aligned with, depending on your point of view, either how they are by nature or how they’ve been socialized by nurture.  

The affect is that women are like travelers in this environment and so there is a kind of tentativeness and fear and insecurity and sometimes a feeling like I don’t even know how to navigate because this whole place, this whole field, this whole university isn’t built in a way that feels consonant with my sensibility about human beings or the world. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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