I was rather fascinated by Clay Shirky’s blog post, A Rant About Women. I wholeheartedly agree with Meredith Farkas’ comment about the provoking title of Shirky’s post. But then again, I certainly understand that controversial titles (and subject matter for that point) garner more notice than politically correct ones. Plus, if one follows Shirky’s advice, the path to success is generally found by those to behave like an “arrogant self-aggrandizing jerk.” I don’t know Clay Shirky and am not sure if I want to actually imply that his choice of title is indicative of the arrogant self-aggrandizing jerkish behavior that he suggests us women indulge in or not (ok, maybe I do 🙂 ).
Overall, I can’t argue that I have noticed that men tend to push the envelope and promote themselves more than women. But, I do feel compelled to note that this is a generalization and is not true across the board. I also have to say that I am guilty of being the type of woman who will do almost anything to avoid self-promotion. I don’t ask for anything if I can help it. This is how I’m wired. I was raised to always think of others first and then worry about myself. There are times – many times – when I realize that I need to step up an speak for myself. But, this is difficult for me. I understand that I should be better at it – and I should try harder.
To me, the bigger issue is a societal one – what this says about the values of our society. I was troubled, very troubled, by Shirky’s admission that he actually gave the male student a better recommendation because the student had overstated his abilities. That isn’t so much self-promotion to me as it is lying. And, Shirky rewarded the student for overstating his abilities? I don’t get that at all. This is very problematic for me.
I certainly understand the fact that successes are often driven by perception, and that perception isn’t always based on reality. However, it seems to me that the reason that “arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks” succeed is because we allow it. Shirky is suggesting that we continue to perpetuate this societal structure that rewards people who are willing to break laws and risk incarceration to succeed (the incarceration thing is from Shirky’s post). I am not willing to do that.
Like Meredith, I am proud that I am not willing to compromise my beliefs in order to collect accolades. I do not want to be an arrogant self-aggrandizing jerk. I do not think it is appropriate to ask someone to write me a letter of recommendation and then overstate my abilities. Does that make me the type of woman that Clay Shirky is complaining about? Maybe – ok, yes, it does. And, I’m okay with that. Chances are, I’m not going to push myself to the top of anything that I do. As I get older, I find myself growing into myself a bit more. I’m getting more comfortable with who I am. But, I’m getting there on my terms. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with choosing not to play the game of life the way that Clay Shirky sees it. I think people need to start questioning why they are willing to say yes to people who ask for something even if they may not deserve it.