Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Women and Self Promotion

I know, I know, I’m a little late to the game, but bear with me. Sometimes, the gerbil wheel turns slowly.

So, in the last few weeks there has been a rash of postings in the feminist blogosphere, about the fact that women have a tendency to undervalue their skills and accomplishments, largely due to the acculturation we receive regarding the proper demeanor and attitude for women. The genesis of this was Sady Doyle of http://www.tigerbeatdown.com responding to a troll and stating, “I’m Sady Fucking Doyle!”

Kate Harding http://kateharding.net/ then took that and ran with it to talk about how as women we’re taught to undervalue our accomplishments and talents, and when we don’t, how shocking that is. And that maybe we should all take a minute to say, “I’m Poli-fucking-micks, and I’m awesome!”

Dreamwidth user Synecdochic has a BRILLIANT post about it that lists most of the posts involved: http://synecdochic.dreamwidth.org/401060.html?nc=40
Synecdochic’s round-up includes rebuttals from someone who thinks all this horn-blowing is pretty gauche.

Anyway, I won’t go into that. You can go to Synecdochic’s post, and then follow the other links from there, if you are so inclined. NO TROLLING or FLAMING.

But after reading these pieces, and a couple of articles in the most recent issue of BITCH relating to how women’s/girls’ accomplishments are viewed in our culture, I started to really think about it.

Recently I wrote some articles under my for-real name that were published. I’m being credited as a staff writer on a magazine (fledgling though it may be). I’m a writer. People are paying me to put words on paper and print them out to send to lots of people to look at and read.

This is fucking awesome.

But it took reading all those articles to realize, just how fucking awesome it is. Because my initial response was sort of a “Well, if *I* can do it, how hard can it be?” or “It’s just a niche-market magazine.”

Screw that.

People are paying me to write which is a big part of something I have wanted since I was old enough to start writing. The other part is to be able to just sit and write until I was done for once, and do that whenever I wanted to. But getting paid to write things is a big chunk of the dream. And while it isn’t a lot of money, it’s money. My writing has a monetary worth to someone.

This is fucking awesome, and I need to realize that it is perfectly ok to ring my own bell about this. I get to say, “Hey, I’m a writer. A PAID writer!”*

But as a woman, my first instinct is to demurr. To tell people that it’s no big, that anyone could do it. Women suck at taking compliments. And I mean real compliments.
“Nice dress!”
“Oh, this old thing?”

“Your hair looks awesome!”
“Oh, I didn’t do anything, really.”

“Your thesis is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read.”
“You know, a lot of the research was already done by other people, I just sort of…”

Look, I’m going to challenge you like Kate Harding and Sady Doyle did.

Be awesome.

The next time someone compliments you on something, no matter how trivial or amazing, JUST SAY THANK YOU. Hell, say, “Thank you, I think it looks great with my eyes.” or “Yeah, thanks, I worked really hard on that thesis.” Or “Yeah, I busted my ass to get this good.”

I am going to say it now. I have worked hard at writing nearly all my life. I try very hard to be funny, trenchant and interesting. I deserve to be paid for writing. I am an awesome writer. (Whether you like my tone or not.)

When I rocked a big project at work. And I mean rocked the hell right out of that pig, I was so annoyed at the person who SHOULD have been doing the project that demurring to him on it was out of the question (anger does tend to over-ride much of my social programming). My supervisor was kind of taken aback that I would out and out claim responsibility for my own god-damned work. What the hell? I KILLED myself over that damned 240 page document for MONTHS. Why the hell wouldn’t I?
“Surely you mean that X did most of the documentation.”
“If I meant that I would have said that. *I* wrote that document.”

But I know that if the person whose slack I was taking up hadn’t pissed me off so badly, I would have let him take the credit for that amazing feat of documentation and eloquence.

As women, we are often overlooked for promotions and undervalued in the work force because of the tendency to demurr. We really need to knock that shit off. Linked to this, however, is the fact that what we also need is for people of all genders to quit thinking it’s gauche or wrong or self-aggrandizing (in a bad way) for women to talk honestly about their accomplishments instead of devaluing our talents.

*Trust me, I’m not de- or under-valuing writers who don’t get paid for whatever reason. Trust me, I’d still be writing even if I never got paid. And maybe it’s kind of sad to feel so strongly about validation like this. But screw it. I do.

This entry originally posted at http://polimicks.dreamwidth.org/

8 comments on “Women and Self Promotion

  1. xythen
    May 12, 2010

    I’m a little conflicted on this one, as it’s a trait that I find boorish in men or women.
    I absolutely agree that women’s work is undervalued and often overlooked because we don’t take credit that is due.
    The key is probably in the “self-aggrandizing (in a bad way)”
    Saying “Thank you” to a compliment is definitely a step in the right direction that isn’t at all boorish. False modesty is just as annoying. After that, though, things can get out of hand.


    • polimicks
      May 12, 2010

      The problem is that the bar for “self aggrandizing in a bad way” is set at such different levels for men and women.
      The guy whose document I wrote talking about how awesome finished product was would not have raised nearly so many eyebrows, as me saying, “No, I rocked that shit.” Even though everyone KNEW it was me that rocked that shit.


      • xythen
        May 12, 2010

        Yup, this is probably very true, very wrong, and very unfair.
        I’d just prefer to cage the out of control egos of some men, rather than unleash that of women- but I also know this could only happen in my special idea of a perfect world.
        So, rock on, Sistah!


    • javagoth
      May 12, 2010

      I agree there is a line between taking credit for one’s hard work and being a braggart.
      I have to have people prod me to let people know I won an award for my jewelry making. I can’t help feeling like a fraud and wanting to downplay it regardless of the number of years and classes I’ve taken to get to this point. I trust my friends will kick me if I start starting conversations with “Hi, I’m an award winning jewelry maker…” but I also trust them to prod me when I’m not saying such in cases where it’s valid and warranted…
      Does that make sense?


  2. sarmonster
    May 12, 2010

    OY! Not taking responsibility for what you did -good or bad- is LYING, and maybe some women were brought up to be modest, but I don’t think many of us were brought up to lie or compromise our integrity unless it seemed ABSOLUTELY necessary.
    So yes, I fucking did it, and I’m pretty damn happy with the way it turned out.


  3. mechanteanemone
    May 12, 2010

    There’s a difference between self-aggrandizing and taking (or accepting) rightful credit for your accomplishments. It’s true that historically and on average, women have tended to undervalue their own accomplishments, though I think I’m seeing signs of change.
    I’m also used to it in the geek and technical world; on the whole engineers and scientists tend to be very factual and even pessimistic rather than self-promoting.
    I’m proud of my own accomplishments and I like to recognize other people’s as well. One of the most powerful things we can do to spread good feelings is to give deserved kudos and thanks to people around us (NOT empty praise, however.)


  4. palereverie
    May 13, 2010

    agree, hard.
    I’ve been trying to break the false-modesty habit but it’s difficult, even though it feels incredibly fake and hypocritical. It’s just needless lying.
    Arrogance and false confidence is irritating of course, but we should just aim to have our pride match our level of accomplishment. I would prefer overreach and act overconfident rather than like a dishrag with low self-esteem and lack of pride.


    • polimicks
      May 13, 2010

      Yeah, it’s a balancing act. Particularly as women, because our line between “bragging” and “being realistic about our accomplishments” is so very fucking thin to most of society.


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This entry was posted on May 12, 2010 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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