I want to talk to you today about something that is not easy to talk about. But I think it needs to come out into the open. See, I noticed something about myself last week. It came on the heels of a female friend of mine intimating that she was dumb. She happens to be one of the most capable and smart women I know, but there she was in a thread saying “Oh man, I feel like I’m so dumb.” I snapped at her and told her she should NEVER talk about herself that way. It was ridiculous. But guess what? It made me realize that I do the same thing. All the time. And I’ve noticed a lot of other women do, too. Even if we don’t call ourselves stupid, we mask our intelligence online. A lot.
This is not really just a social media problem for me. I used to get in big arguments with a friend of mine in college – a guy. He is one of those people who likes to use at least one new big word every day. He has an amazing memory and flaunts it. He asks people questions in regular conversation that they very likely won’t know the answers to, and he answers them. I told him that I didn’t really feel the need to strut my stuff, as it were. I have always said I like the Abraham Lincoln approach – I like to talk without effect. I like to be a chameleon and adjust my references and my tonality depending upon with whom I’m talking. I have never felt the need, in every day conversation, to have little markers that point to intelligence.
None of this changed when I started tweeting and blogging. I tried to create a persona when I first started on Twitter and it failed miserably for me. I am most comfortable simply being who I am. HOWEVER, and maybe you can relate to this, a big part of who I am is self-deprecating. Social Media has seemed to magnify this characteristic of mine, or at least I have noticed it more readily. Smart? Me? Aw no no no. Not compared to that person. And that person. No, I’m just a shlub, barely holding on.
Except I’m not. And neither are you.
Noticing this pattern has been kind of like learning a new word. Once I noticed and acknowledged it, I started to see it everywhere. Not just with me but with other people too, and most especially, predominantly, in other women. I’ve been trying to figure out how I fell into such a bad habit. I’ve been trying to figure out why I tend to fall into this pattern more readily when I’m talking to men versus women.
Guess what? I’m sexist.
The only answer I can come up with is that there is something deeply programmed within me that tells me to bow to the intellect of men. I get intimidated. It’s true. If engaged in a high-level conversation that is dominated by men, I feel more pressure to over-perform. I never want to be the resident bimbo, nor do I want to say anything that invites that comparison. So instead of risking that, I revert to self-deprecation. There. See? You can’t call me stupid because I beat you to the punch. In the face of the all boys club, I’d rather hustle and not risk humiliation versus simply letting my brain go.
Pretty sad, huh?
But I have a feeling I’m not alone in this regard.
This is not a permission slip to become a braggart
I’m not saying, by the way, that women should move to the other end of the spectrum. I don’t intend to change the way I blog or tweet or…Facebook. I am who I am, as Popeye might say. I don’t intend to humblebrag or regular brag. I find those things highly unattractive in any gender. But there is a difference between embracing your power and tearing yourself down. Many women I see in the online space, including me, opt for the latter. We would rather, it seems, open the door to insult rather than step up and say, “Um, hi. We’re here too.”
Is it any wonder that sometimes women don’t get taken seriously enough? I think not. If we can’t take ourselves seriously, surely no one else should.
What do you think? I hope women AND men will weigh in on this. Do men find that women often tear themselves down? What’s your read on that?
Let’s talk about this.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/basilisksam/6516766343/ via Creative Commons