Vignettes of men and women in America, alienated from their true selves

Summary: Here’s something different than our usual fare. Here are my personal observations and speculations — about gender in America. Hopefully they will give you one or two new ideas and perspectives on America.


It was a casual dress mixer in Silicon Valley, brief presentations by sponsors, pizza and beer — in a room with no chairs. A stunning blonde woman, mid-20’s, standing amidst a group of guys. Two techies are talking. She tries to get a word in edgewise. They trample over her words, ignoring her.

When they pause for air, I congratulate her as the hero of the evening — as she stood for two hours in 4″ heels. She replies “Ooh, I never wear heels, but just felt like it today.” We all nod pleasantly at that unlikely story.

Later I’m giving my pitch about the limited range of marketing in the cutting edge of high-tech fields: Imagine you are in an elevator with a senior executive of your best prospect. What do you say? I have found most people in tech — even their salespeople — don’t have an “elevator pitch” (you win if the exec wants to hear more when the door opens). Instead they give what is technobabble to non-tech savvy people.  Her answer is gold. She laughs, saying “I’ll flip my hair and smile. That’s how I beat my quota last year by a million dollars.” She flips her hair and smiles. It’s enchanting.

She then realizes her sin, and throws smoke in defense.  “Oh, I don’t really do that. It wouldn’t work.” We all nod and smile, as if we believe either of those sentences.

Other stories from our America

For 15 years I was an adult leader of Boy Scouts, and had countless conversations with dads about their children. Never did I hear a dad speak more highly of his daughter than when saying she was a “tomboy” (or something similar, such as doing activities usually associated with boys).

Similarly, modern films and TV tend to give the most positive portrayals of young women displaying traditional male behaviors.

How prevalent is this behavior? How do young women react to this? How much does this damage their self-esteem? Perhaps an increasing incidence of this behavior has offset the gains from re-prioritizing schools to boosting girls’ self-esteem. Hence the ugly high levels of depression and eating disorders in girls (see this summary, and this list of studies).

Young men, too

It’s not just women. Men that show an interest in young women are sometimes told by women (bystanders or friends) that this is “pervy”, especially so when there are age differences (husbands 7 to 10 years old were once commonplace). Men physically attracted by girls in the late teens (very post-pubescent) are called “perverts”.

These are all common tropes in films and TV shows, the stage on which we see the great and wise of Hollywood instruct us on proper behavior. I wonder if modern behavior codes for relations between the genders makes the Victorians look like wild hippies.


I see these stories played out all around us. Our natural selves are politically incorrect. So we watch what we say, what we look at, what we think. All this moves us away from our true selves. We become alienated from ourselves by our society, and forced to present false facades. We develop something like the class-based “false consciousness” described by Marxists. These fragment our concentration and sap our energy.

It’s a commonplace in history, but I suspect the degree of alienation today is unusually high. Widespread alienation is odd given our society’s emphasis on being natural, and authenticity.

The political implications are obvious. People constrained, alienated from their true natures, are weak. Their leaders easily manipulate them.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about women and gender issues, about alienation, and especially these…

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle: Alienation.
  2. “Castle” shows that many of us don’t defend New America because we don’t like it.
  3. The bitter fruits of our alienation from America.
  4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the secret life of many Americans.

5 thoughts on “Vignettes of men and women in America, alienated from their true selves”

  1. I was introducing some tech execs to Max Weber, Henry Mintzberg, and Ralph Waldo Emerson this week in order to help with their organization design and strategy. Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” seems appropriate for this post,

    “These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

    Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, — “But these impulses may be from below, not from above.” I replied, “They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil’s child, I will live then from the Devil.””

  2. There is an interesting reference to the Victorians in this essay. This is one of my newer interests, what some refer to as the “New Victorianism” and I hope to start writing down some initial thoughts soon.

    For now, let me just say that it seems like regulation, protection, and securitization have been so fully internalized that they have come to shape interpersonal relations…to the point where at least one survey found that “millennials” are hardly having sex.

    1. Professor Forte,

      “to the point where at least one survey found that “millennials” are hardly having sex.”

      It’s called the “sexodus”. Read about it here. It’s one of those trends that are so large, disturbing, and politically incorrect — that the news media has a blackout on it. As in one of those disaster movies, where the government fears people will freak if they learn about the threat.

  3. thetinfoilhatsociety

    I would like to point out that the age difference had a lot more to do with upper middle class and wealthy families than it did with the common man; and it was also due to financial/inheritance considerations much more than sexual attraction. It was NOT uncommon in Edwardian times for the house parties to have rooms labeled for their guests – and lovers – so there would be no mixups by night time visitations from/to the wrong person. Once the couple produced their heirs, no one really gave a $h!t if they were faithful – nor if they even liked each other.

    1. Tin Foil,

      (1) I don’t understand the relevance of what you are saying to this post. Can you explain?

      (2) “I would like to point out that the age difference had a lot more to do with upper middle class and wealthy families than it did with the common man”

      What age difference? Do you mean age of marriage varied by class? If so, I’d like to see supporting evidence. There is evidence that age of marriage varied according to economic circumstances, as delayed marriage is common in history as one means to reduce fertility (number of births per women).

      (3) “upper middle class and wealthy families than it did with the common man; and it was also due to financial/inheritance considerations much more than sexual attraction.”

      From what little I’ve read, this low concern for marital fidelity of wives was common in the aristocracy of 19thC England (perhaps before & after too). There was only a tiny “upper middle class”. I don’t know how you’d define it. I’m unaware of their social customs.

      Also, the usual reason given for aristos’ disinterest in fidelity after the heirs popped out was that the inheritance was secure. Afterwards promiscuity was OK. But outside the aristocracy & rich merchants few had property, yet there were (I believe) strict standards of traditional morality. So there are other variables at work, as usual in social dynamics.

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