China and its Discontents

A Rant About Women? How About a Rant About Life.

leave a comment

I am so glad Sheryl Sandberg recently shared via Facebook an old blog post of Clay Shirky’s from two years ago, “A Rant About Women.” The post is old in internet terms, but the content is classic. Some of the comments are even better than the original post. The gist is: women aren’t as good as men at being “arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks… self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives, or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, even when it would be in their best interests to do so.”

Shirky puts this starkly as a male-female divide, but I would hope any self-reflective person struggles with the delicate balance between being genuine and authentic vs. confident and successful. Ultimately though this is a false choice. We don’t have to sacrifice either, and quite often these qualities reinforce the others. If you find yourself becoming inauthentic as you rise professionally, “you’re doing it wrong.” But when you are authentically confident, people recognize both your authenticity and your confidence, and reward you for both (this might be an exaggeration solely supported by my personal experience). Maybe it’s hard to achieve that state. But that’s the point. It should be hard. There’s no point to it otherwise.

The two top comments were really superb. First this:

I recognize the unfairness when the societal differentiation is considered. But I have also noted the worth of taking for your own the strength of “not caring about” …so much. A good example is in your average male bonding: it’s not that men don’t have their limits, and certainly can trigger the threshold whereby an outright fighting response is provoked with another man, but that bonding almost universally includes a higher threshold for taking cracks, jabs, humorous insults, swipes, etc, and, when you learn how to give them well and in a good-spirited way (I cannot emphasize the second modifier enough), the joy shared by all. The essence of success in this comes from that differentiation learned over time from men’s interactions to develop in-sensitivity, “to not care so much”. Individuals can wisely adapt for themselves virtues learned from the stereotypical schools of women’s sensitivity and men’s insensitivity, suited to taste. In the above case, it’s about our feelings, but the callous of not-caring-so-much also becomes a tool of confidence for other things.

All this being said, hopefully the true difference between an asshole and an admirable person is prudence of application. Sadly, that too is an art not so easily learned, except by falling down, getting up, and reflecting.

In addition to the lesson of “not caring so much” (i.e., being above the criticisms/jokes), I would add it’s helpful to be below the compliments people give you.

The other great comment read along the lines of “known-knowns, known-unknowns, unknown-knowns, and unknown-unknowns” a la Rumsfeld. Or as a friend restated, “ignorant knowing and knowing ignorance.” The point being, we do well on both personal and professional levels when we operate in the realm of known-unknowns/knowing ignorance.

Written by Will

January 22nd, 2012 at 8:36 pm