Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man | Life and style | The Guardian

Having strong opinions and clear ideas is incompatible with being flatteringly deferential.

…What is confidence in a man is too often viewed as competitiveness in a woman; what is leadership in a man is bossiness in a woman; even the word bossy, like slut or nag, is seldom applied to men.

…As a girl, I would have liked to have my intelligence and intellectual labours regarded as an unmitigated good and a source of pride, rather than something I had to handle delicately, lest I upset or offend. Success can contain implicit failure for straight women, who are supposed to succeed as women by making men feel godlike in their might.

…I have met a lot of brilliant men whose spouses serve their careers and live in their shadows, and marrying a successful man is still considered the pinnacle of women’s achievement in many circles. Some of those women flourished, but not a few seemed diminished by their role as helpmeet and handmaiden, and if they got divorced, they divorced the identity they’d helped build and maintain. There have been so many women who stayed at home and raised the kids while men went off on adventures and pursued accomplishments. There still are. These straight men with brilliant careers and families – no one asks them how they manage to have it all, because we know: she’s how.

…It’s as though everything fathers do, economics aside, is bonus; nothing mothers do is enough. This is one of the reasons why a woman might want to be a man (and why choosing to have children can mean something entirely different for a woman than a man, unless she has that still-rare thing: a partner whose commitment to the work is truly equal). Were I a man, or had I a woman as partner, I might have made very different choices about marriage and children.

…One often hears statements implying that it’s generous of a man to put up with a woman’s brilliance or success.

…I’ve written before about men explaining things – about that dynamic in which some men assume they know when they don’t, and that the woman they’re talking to doesn’t when she does.

…The word mansplaining now exists in more than 30 languages, according to an article this year, and I realise that built into the idea is a dynamic in which women are eternally the audience. ….An acquaintance recently told me, “A man once asked me if I knew of the Bracero program [for Mexican farmworkers in the US], and when I said, ‘Why yes, I wrote my undergrad thesis about it,’ he replied, ‘Well, I’ll tell you about it.’ I said, ‘No, I’ll tell you, fucker!’ And then the dinner party got weird.”

… I’ve had complete strangers come up to me to unload their theories or stories at considerable length, without reciprocity in the conversation, if conversation is the term for this one-way street. We know the reality of this from studies about how boys are called on more in school, and grow up to talk more in meetings, and interrupt women more than men.

…The phrases sometimes used for men who partner with successful women – taking it in his stride, not put out by, OK with, dealing with, cool with – are reminders that female success can be regarded as some kind of intrusion or inappropriate behaviour.
What would it feel like to have a success that does not in any way contain failure, that is not awkward or grounds for apology, something that you don’t need to downplay, to have power that enhances rather than detracts from your attractiveness? …How do you think big when you’re supposed to not get in the way, not overstep your welcome, not overshadow or intimidate?
Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man | Life and style | The Guardian



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