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.