As long as I am passive, easy going and accepting of others’ words and deeds, people think of me as “appropriate”. Unfortunately, aggressive bullies interpret easy going behavior as an invitation to *push* more, and other types of people interpret it as an invitation to *take* more. In either case, when I am not passive and easy going, my behavior is labeled as “wrong” and any “wrong” behavior justifies bad behavior by the second party. Just ask anyone, if someone is mean, you can be mean back.
Back to the woman point…what I find with work and even with my family, is that passive, accepting and easy going is the behavior that gains their acceptance.
It is not always possible to be these qualities and there are lots of reasons why, and chief among them is the fact that – that very behavior invites bullying and advantage taking.
At my age, and I am a grandmother, I have attained a wealth of wisdom. I am especially expert at raising children and recognizing human behavior for what it is. Sharing these ideas and thoughts is never welcome in my family. Any feedback is considered unwelcome, meddling, controlling. I can actually understand this. As a young woman, I did not want my mother to tell me how to raise my kids. As a matter of fact, I particularly criticized her for the way that she raised me. How ignorant I was and thank goodness that role-modeling is a powerful teacher, otherwise I may have lost all of my mother’s wisdom.
So, at least I understand my familial rejection of my wisdom. What I do not understand is that there appears to be a universal rejection of women’s wisdom. I am and have been for more than twenty years – a manager. I have aggressively pursued a powerful career and have often managed more than fifty staff member and millions of dollars. Even though I have achieved very profitable success in business, my role as a woman is always a challenge to my career success. Usually my challenge is how “honest” I am. Last year, I was more accepting and therefore nicer. Unfortunately, my accepting behavior had consequences, particularly that others practice their bullying skills on me. People are much more likely to identify ‘acceptance’ as a female attribute and are much more likely to accept female type attributes from a woman. Ergo, they are unwilling to accept behavior that is more male like, such as evaluating, judging and offering or giving feedback. Men get away with all sorts of behavior in the business community that women do not.
Additionally, people who have comfortably powerful positions never question their own actions, decisions or behavior. Even when the world screams negative feedback, those in power will not question the actions that they take. Because they cannot question themselves, they must make any questioner wrong. This is how I become the bad person. I do not know how I gained this role in life, and frankly, I do not care for the role of *questioner* but – there it is. I question poor decisions, I question greedy behavior, I am disturbed by condescending behavior that affects people. I am not mean, nor angry when I question behavior, but, at times you would think that I am breathing fire. No one wants to be questioned, egos are so unstable that any questioning comes as a threat. It is not only women’s wisdom that is rejected outright, but a culture of defensiveness has become a norm.
Reading this article may make you think that I think that I am correct. I assure you I do not think that I am correct. I simply wish for the kind of conversation that allows for an exchange of ideas between capable and intelligent people.
Having this kind of conversation requires that human beings believe that women are strong, smart, capable and even justly powerful. I do not know many humans who do not color women with images of weakness (think accepting) and ignorance – even women do this. As humans, we have a way to go, but I believe that we can and I believe that we must get there. We must believe, in a fundamental way, that women are just as strong and just as deserving as every other human being.