Am I a Bitch or a Leader?

This question underscores the reality that there is confusion and ambivalence about women’s roles and behavior. Women have often been given feedback that is confusing when they have been assertive at home or in the workplace. Sometimes they doubt themselves rather than understanding the double standard that is operating.

Men also suffer from biases about their roles and expectations. Boys don’t cry is still an all too common prejudice. Yet, if men can’t express their emotions, their softer sides, this handicaps them in relationships and sets them up to value themselves only when they are in charge.

Healthy functioning allows for flexibility in men’s and women’s behavior.  Both genders should be able to utilize role behaviors that suit them.  When women and men are put down for what would be considered normal feelings and behaviors from the opposite sex, this is extremely harmful.

Examples of differential perception:

  • He is tenacious.
  • She doesn’t know when to quit.
  •  She is a bitch.
  • He is a good leader.
  • He is careful about details.
  • She is picky.
  • She is sensitive and caring.
  • He is a pansy.
  •  She cannot control her emotions.
  •  He loses his temper because he’s stressed.
  •  He is effeminate if he hugs men.
  •  She is not afraid to express affection.
  •  He is an aggressive businessman.
  •  She is a pushy businesswoman.
  •  She is too assertive.
  •  He is firm.
  •  He is wish-washy.
  •  She is able to compromise and negotiate.

Research confirms that we often perceive the same behavior very differently in women and men.  This is entirely unconscious on our part because of our socialization. However, we can work on making more conscious choices and changing our perceptions.

Healthy men and women are able to express who they are without feeling they need to hide parts of themselves.  They  can choose careers, roles, and behaviors that best fulfill them.

Historically, some behavior and careers have been labeled “feminine” or “masculine”. Those that were considered “feminine” have been valued less highly. For instance, nurturing professions (teachers and child care workers) have been considered feminine professions and have been paid less considering the education and responsibility involved.

We are moving toward a society that values the contributions of everyone, regardless of whether they are male or female. More men are going into nurturing professions and more women are going into scientific and management work.  As this happens, hopefully the rewards financially will also become fairer.

This change is made possible by each one of us increasing our awareness and confronting our biases!



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