Monday, February 27, 2006

female self-image

I'm not sure why I've been going on about the sexes so much lately, but after this I think I'll quit.

Back in the days of DOS, I did everything computerish. Printer doesn't work, program's wigging out, network doesn't connect, mail's not going through, computer exploded due to grape soda – I was there to fix it by phone or in person. It was actually a pretty fun job, lots of variety, drive around being the white hat, savior of secretaries.

One aspect I saw all too often was women dropping about 10-15 IQ points when I was around. Ordinary stuff they did every day, they would suddenly start hesitating or forgetting. Maybe it was the presence of the "expert," but that's what they did. On the other hand, men would get defensive or competitive, tell me how they do stuff, ask my advice on the home computer. They wanted to be seen as power users.

For many years I had a soft spot and would give whatever level of help was needed, explaining and teaching, recommending they write it down or even writing it down for them. After a while, though, I got disgusted with the IQ drop. I didn't have time for it, for one thing. We bought more computers, the networks were getting more complicated, and my bosses hadn't figured out how to clone me. Or hire a second person.

In the last six months I've been in touch with about eight doctors, mostly medical, over half women. It's very strange to see someone with a Ph.D. not giving herself self-respect, hesitating to use the power of her position in the teaching hospital. They have a hard time acknowledging that they direct a team of interns and fellows and therapists. Some even have a hard time expecting respect from patients. One of these, with a long and musical Indian last name, asked (adult) patients to use "Doctor" with her first name (short, white, and probably not her real first name.) It might make her more accessible, but at the expense of respect. Doctors should go by their title and last name, even if truncated a bit.

I usually automatically like any woman who's smarter than me. Not that I'm any kind of genius, but I was considered gifted as a kid, tested out with 130 IQ points (undoubtedly fallen after years of schooling), write, read, know a little bit about a lot of things, and have a systems mind. I'm ambidextrous, and visually oriented in the way that doesn't mean I watch a lot of TV. I'm comfortable knowing I'm a pretty intelligent person. I don't feel I have to act dumber to be accepted by the opposite sex. I don't feel compelled to smile a lot. I don't deny being smarter than your average bear.

Woman: You're really smart, you know?
Man: Thanks! [note to self: ask her for a date!]

Man: You're really smart, you know?
Woman: Oh, I'm not really. Just [insert excuse].

I feel sorry for women who have been trained (by society or family or whatever) to be modest about their accomplishments. I've tried to build up their egos and confidence by telling them objectively this is what they are: intelligent, educated people who regularly accomplish amazing things, and possess power. I get denials, I get ignored, and once in a rare while someone catches a spark and says "Thanks!" I just wish it wasn't so hard for them to do this, because I'm getting pretty tired of the work it takes.

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