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Poster by Homer Ansley, ca. 1942

Your weekend assignment, should you choose to exercise your brain, is to read Clay Shirky’s Rant About Women and then to read the comments (and if the comments are too plentiful, you must at least read this comment).

In short, Shirky asserts that women need to ask for more and promote themselves more aggressively, and essentially to take more risks in doing so. Men get more and go farther because of their ballsy self-aggrandizing, is what he’s saying. The comment by Eszter Hargittai balances that out by bringing up how assertive/aggressive women and men are perceived differently by others.

I’m purposely not writing my own reactions here, but I’ll share in comments if you have something to say, too.


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I'm off to read the Shirky piece, at the suggestion of both my husband (who's a colleague of his), and you, but I just wanted to share this, in related news, that I learned about yesterday:


Thanks for sharing this post, Kim. I really appreciate Eszter's comment. We read an article about this very subject for one of my classes last semester. Librarianship is very female-dominated and the article resonated with a lot of women, most of whom seemed to determine that the problem here is that men and little girls are mean, and the appropriate solution is for everyone to become mind readers. (I am being facetious but only kind of. I don't think I heard anyone offer any solutions, just a lot of complaints.)

As one of the women who is a self-aggrandizing jerk (though only moderately; I usually will say after being asked if I can do something that I can't, “I can learn,” rather than, “Absolutely!”) and someone with a typically “masculine” communication style according to the article (i. e., direct) I'm much more interested in the balance Eszter proposes: encouraging women to self-promote more, encouraging people (both men and women) not to be so hostile towards self-promoting women, and encouraging people to keep an eye out for women who do good work but aren't promoting themselves. (I'd also add that I think Clay hit on the key when he identified the fact that men sometimes don't care if people consider them jerks; I think a lot of those arrogant men are considered to be bad just as much as the women are, but they are much less concerned about the negative opinion of others.)


Yeah, it's pretty embarrassing, an indicative of the degree to which my industry needs to get its sh*t together on this subject.

I read the Shirky piece, and while I agree that confidence and even overconfidence are an asset to women in professions like law or academia or journalism. Two things, though – as important as it is to project confidence and promote one's ability, I draw the line at misrepresenting what I can do. It's more important to me to be honest than it is to get ahead. That does not mean being overly modest or self-deprecating, it just means that I wouldn't tell a baldfaced lie if someone asked me “can you do X.” To me this is a matter of self-respect. And second, I think Shirky's point that men don't care if people think they are assholes is a little misplaced – women care or don't care, but the real difference is that being perceived that way doesn't have an actual adverse impact on men – in fact “being hungry” can be seen as an asset, whereas I think it *can* be a concrete professional disadvantage to women (ask Mrs. Clinton . . . not that she's not Secretary of State).


Also want to add that as sad as the state of these issues is in the law, I think (based only on anecdotal observations that come through Chris) academia is way behind.


Hey Kim, danah boyd posted a response to this that I thought you might find worth reading:

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x