While in school, I was usually never afraid of offering my opinion on a subject that I felt passionate about. After thinking, I would quietly raise my hand and poetically offer my thoughts.
Hah! I wish. Usually, I chose to not speak unless my heart was racing so hard that I had to stammer out my piece. Once I was finished, I wouldn’t speak for a week. I always envied those who could state an opinion eloquently and without “ummms” and “sos.” After much reflection, I realized that most of those speakers happened to be men.
Then I asked myself, why were the men more eloquent. More importantly, why were the men not afraid to speak up?
Recently Mr. B’s English professor told the men to shut up and the ladies to speak up. She informed them [the ladies] that their opinions were needed as much as the boys. She then related a story.
She described that in one class full of boys, with only 3 girls, she rarely heard from the ladies. In an effort to get more participation from them, she summoned them to her desk after the bell rang and told them to write her a 1 page essay explaining why they didn’t speak in class. Their participation grade would be determined by this essay.
After receiving the essays back, she found a disturbing trend. The women felt uncomfortable speaking up because they felt their opinions had to be flawless and particularly brilliant.
Ladies: I know what these girls are talking about. I have felt this too. Now I am asking you–why do we feel this way?
We live in a time when women have more rights than they have ever had before. We see women in high positions of power. We see women making waves. We see women flaunting their brains rather than their bodies. We see women being strong.
There is still a lingering sense of inferiority. For example, when I walk into a room full of men my palms begin to sweat, my heart starts pounding, and my head starts spinning. These are physical responses to my tense, nervous feelings of insecurity. I am afraid of these men. They seem more powerful, more respected, than little old me. They are confident.
“At first I thought that men are so good at “chiming in” and “making their points” at any meeting because they somehow were privy to this secret [of being intellectually confident enough to appear stupid sometimes]. Nah. Based on my years of ethnographic study of the male species in the corporate jungle, I believe that they are so good at “speaking up” because, unlike women who are often self-reflexive, most men never even consider the possibility that what comes out of their mouth may just be flat out the stupidest thing someone has ever heard of. See, they never apologize before they speak. The strength of not giving a damn. THAT is the Super Power I would like to have.”
Me too, Submom, me too.