Monday, May 28, 2012

Ripping off the Mask - not everything is a gender issue


The more I think about the Imposter Syndrome, and how many women have bought in, the angrier I get.  Here is the thing: I think to imply that the imposter syndrome is a gender thing is doing men a disservice.  I can’t tell you how many of my male friends have indicated that they too, fake it until they make it, and even then feel as if they have fooled their bosses; that sooner or later someone will call them out; and that they will be asked to go home any day now.  Like women do.  I don't think women get to claim this one.  I think that may be they are more likely to cop to feeling this way, but it isn't something that women can claim as theirs.

To imply that women only feel this way is to create a gender issue where there is none.  In fact, it gives tacit permission for women to buy into the same old, same old implication that women are not as good at science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that men are.  Except, we are the ones who think that now. The benevolent sexism that women subject themselves to when buying into the Imposter Syndrome as female based helps us not.  In fact, it only serves to reinstate and validate the status quo of the male as the engineer who is changing the world.

Yesterday, at a memorial service for a man who never once treated his daughters as less than, his best friend’s wife told me that she thinks that women have done themselves a disservice by wanting equality.  After all, she told me, men have an ego that is a little more fragile, and to ask for equality leaves them blinking in the dust and not knowing their role.  I was startled, and while a part of me understands that she sees herself as a strong woman, I can’t help but think she got there at the expense of her husband.  To me, that attitude infantilizes men.  It creates them as children who must unwittingly follow the female lead in order to feel good about themselves.

This is not the kind of equality I am fighting for. 

And I am not sure that having a gender role is a good thing, so maybe leaving them blinking in the dust is okay.  They will either step up, or get left behind.

I think all of us have gotten ourselves into situations in which we need to sink or swim.  We either begin paddling and stroking for shore, or we go down in a spectacular puddle of bubbles.  I don’t think this experience is specific to a gender.  Some things just are not gender issues.  And I for one, am navigating a new world of technology and social interaction, as are many of my friends.  Maybe it is the reason why I am still single, but I think we are all negotiating our way in the world, in relationship, in technology, in a new job, in a new career.  I am not sure my gender plays a significant part, at least in this.  Or maybe I am just really bad a at navigating.

photo credit: mikebaird  (this photo is one of my favorite mini stories)