Lest anyone think I am banging on a bit unnecessarily about this stuff, may I quote this piece in the Guardian about sexist bullying in schools. The General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (a woman) says that girls are pressured to “keep quiet and listen to the boys talking.” She also says “There are lots and lots of pressures on girls – to be thin, to be attractive, to be compliant and to be quiet – and it’s as great now as it’s ever been.” These are words which could equally well have been written in the nineteen fifties. The, to me, really sad thing she says is that girls do not want to appear “brainy” for fear of being called names. “Bossy”, anyone? Heidi and Howard, anyone? I am writing this as much, if not more, for younger women as for myself, for the many many bright amazing girls and women who are bullied into thinking that their role in life is to be “thin, attractive, compliant, and quiet” rather than to be their clever, beautiful, magnificent selves. Grrrrrrrr!
Hold that thought while we return to the article about equal pay that I was writing about yesterday. In particular I refer to the argument that seeks to explain why women often do less well than men by reference to this lovely habit of society of placing expectations on young women to be thin, attractive, compliant and quiet, none of which feature particularly highly in the requirements for managers and leaders and CEO’s and managing directors and all the other jobs which tend to be well rewarded in our society. And thus women, who have been conditioned right from their earliest years to behave like this and taught that if they behave otherwise, they will not be liked, which belief turns out to be actually grounded in fact, make the not incomprehensible decision to keep their heads below the parapet and not go for the well-rewarded jobs which require them to behave in other ways. So, yes, women ARE making decisions that damage their earning power, but it’s not their fault, society is to blame!
But not so fast! This is not so!, claims the columnist who wrote the article in question. For, she writes, are American women not the most independent in the world, the most assertive, the most capable of self-realisation? Are they not self-reliant and decisive and articulate? Why, she claims, it’s incredible to think that such a together bunch as American women would just sit there and allow themselves to be bullied into passivity! Of course society isn’t forcing them to take less well-paid roles and to not go for career advancement and to take on the majority of domestic and caring responsibilities in their families! They can decide for themselves! They are assertive! And thus they are freely choosing to be like this. Oh, dear, sweet, It’s All Your Fault Anyway, if nothing else one does have to admire your persistence.