feminism and chickenshit

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feminism and chickenshit



Sometimes I fear that I haven't internalized any of the lessons feminism has given me. A quick and easy example: I'm terrified of posting in the political forums on these boards.

I feel as though I don't know enough; that my views will easily be argued with and I'll be left without a leg to stand on; that my politics aren't as valid as those already being argued. Policies and precedents arise and my head spins; not because I can't keep up, but because I'm worried I'll not know enough to prove that what I think is worthy of public viewing.

I know through some chatting online that I'm not the only woman who feels this way. Do the rest of you? Do any of the men on here? Is this a gender thing, a confidence thing? Can the two be separated?

Is this format of political discussion inherently biased because of the general difference between men's and women's approaches to dialectic, or should the problems obviously involved with the format be left up to each individual to solve, since in the end we all decide to be outspoken or not, confident or not?

These aren't loaded questions. I very much want to know what you think.

small note: I was originally going to post this in body and soul cause I didn't think it was worthy of the politics forum. Second wave didn't leave me entirely helpless, though; the personal is political. So here we are.

audra trower wi...

I started to post "wow, penelope, that made me cry", but then I deleted it, because I thought "How typically feminine", but then I retyped it because I thought "Screw it, I'm not ashamed of my strong feelings and reactions."

I think you are exactly right, penelope. I mean, look at us. I run these boards, you and I have both been feminist publishers/editors for years, you've been paid to speak to huge groups of people, I have been a provincial council delegate for the NDP, and yet both of us have this inner doubt machine that kicks in full force when it comes to talking about politics in a male dominated space.

I am on a holy quest to demystify politics for young women, and anyone else who feels unqualified to speak on issues that effect then. I don't know what I'll do until then, though.


I've always had that same reluctance to speak up because I'm afraid I won't be able to hold my own, but I always took that to be due to my intrinsic shyness and not a gender thing. Which isn't to say I disagree with you, Penelope, I just never thought of it that way and now I will. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

It's making me think of something I just posted in another thread, about my political convictions being largely emotionally driven. I think the effect of this is that: a) I feel like I won't fit in if the discussion is intellectual and b) I take is super personally if my views are attacked, since they are so dear to me. (Which also points to my reluctance in online forums, where a faceless debate makes it way easier to be mean. I'm much more of a loudmouth irl.)

I don't know if this is a "woman" thing. I am reluctant to make those generalizations. I've also never actually discussed it, I always figured it was just my quirkiness. I am super-interested in hearing this discussion.


I feel a little strange posting on this topic as a male, but I would like to share something I have observed in a number of chat groups.

A lot of men (oddly enough, more so younger men) are aggressive on-line to a degree that I think stifles debate. I have been reading through a lot of groups lately and when debates get heated many men use put-downs, try to cut the rug out from someone who may disagree, or resort to SHOUTING AND SCREAMING IN THE ONLY WAY THEY KNOW HOW. I can recall only one example ever of a woman getting as petty and aggressive.

I've asked some women friends why they don't get involved in these kind of groups, or why they don't feel comfortable speaking their minds in heated debate and often the response is, "I'm interested in discussion and not in getting shot down before I have a chance to properly articulate where I'm at." I think reluctance to engage in this kind of sharing is understandable. (I'm restricting this to on-line discussion only but I think it applies in broader context.)

My two cents for what it's worth.


It's funny because that post happens to evoke a memory of someone I know.... This individual is an debate assassin via e-mail, yet is completely withdrawn in social settings. To disagree is to attack.

audra trower wi...

... and the side-effect of that way of thinking, chrisw (and I know it isn't your way of thinking), is that you almost become your opinions, right? So it's like Anna said, when someone disagrees with what you think, you feel like they are attacking who you are.

Slick Willy

I find this an interesting topic to say the least. I can't tell you what is right or wrong or what is and isn't. But I can tell you what I have seen first hand in spending far more time than should be legally allowed chatting in this format. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

I have seen many types of discussion rangeing from polite and friendly chatter to deep and philisophical intercourse to all out no holds barred flame wars. I am not sure if gender is an issue more than personality. Also consider the anonimity of the online format and the lines become more and more vague. Some folks can converse on any given topic online yet would never even consider voicing their opinion to a gathering offline. Others go to peices at the slightest hint of confrontation. I seem to remember a line from a movie "the three kings" where an experienced soldier explains to an unseasoned recruit that "You do the thing your afraid of, and then you get the courage." And I think this is true to an extent in this matter. But it could be applied to pretty much any topic of discussion. Experience in this case is a good teacher. The more you participate in online discussions wheather political or otherwise you learn from the discourse. There are all types. Everything you read is opinion. No matter what anyone calls you, you do not become that. It takes two to argue. And above all, don't take it personaly. Honestly those people to encounter online don't know you from Jack and understanding this will help to put into perspective why they are calling you a limp llama.

Now for the finer aspects of debate.

The moment someone hurls a derogitory name at you rather than refuting a point you have made is the moment you know you have won the debate. On the other hand, when you can't think up a good reason why a point is wrong or invalid and feel the need to resort to name calling you should know that your emotions have gotten the better of you and it is time to leave the arena, do some more research and live to fight another day.

Having an open mind is a very good asset. Being wrong only means that you have the oportunity to learn something. Any time you learn something from your mistakes you grow a little more as a person.

Deversify your experience. By that I mean that it is good to have a number of different places you read and post to. Though I am pretty new around here, I have found that it is for the most part a friendly place to chat where the conversation is well monitored and you have some friends around to boost your confidence. I have seen you post to a number of different topics here and to a few of the threads I am involved in as well. You make sense and are passionate about what you talk about. Disagreeing only shows that people are different and see things differently.

Politics is no different that anyother topic. You know what you know and can speack to that with confidence. For the things you don't know, and who knows everything there is to know about anything, you question. The trick is not to know the answers but to have the ability to find them when you know what the questions are. Take heart in the thought that many have ome before you and many more will follow in the steps you take today.

The only thing to fear is fear itself.
Well maybe you should fear the wild tangents I can get into. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

audra trower wi...

It's funny, though, about the gender aspect of it. Because on my mostly female populated Marigold boards, we've had nary a flame war, or anything like it.

Slick Willy

Hello Audra,
I support a small board that came about as a fallout shelter from another board that was over run by a flame war. It is pretty much an even split along gender lines with the same peaceful flow to the chat. Covering topics from religion to politics (American) and anything in between. It is not that they are unable to get down right nasty as I have seen and been on the receiving end of it at times.
It is a public board board but rather hiden away. Maybe it's a gender issue, but I wonder if it is just one of those boards like your's at Marigold where no one feels the need or inclination to get nasty about anything. Maybe like a sense of peaceful and friendly community is felt as one begins to read the various threads. Common interest?

audra trower wi...

Hey Willy, to keep this thread from being a discussion of online BBS culture, I've started a thread on that topic here. I'd like to keep this thread focussed on women's voices, and why and when we're afraid to speak up. Thanks! (That's not to say that I want men not to participate in the conversation, because I do. I feel, however, that it is something I need to talk about, and I don't want to veer away from it.)


I feel the same way penelope does, and I am unsure as to whether it's a gender or confidence thing. I do know that I am not feeling confident enough in my own abilities to defend myself and my views in a political debate, but I don't know if that's just a lack of confidence, or whether it's tied to my being a woman. I think, for me, a large part of my lack of confidence has to do with the fact that I haven't done anything fantastic, and there's tons of people posting here that have experiences that just blow me away.

I guess all I can do is just try to overcome my lack of confidence by venturing forth, and posting anyway.


A lot of it has to do with experience. I love to write, but public speaking to audiences of more than about 40 gives me butterflies like you would not believe. In fact I avoid it at all costs. So much for my courage.

On line I've learned to do my best to separate my ego from my ideas. An attack on my ideas isn't an attack on me. Easier said than done, but managing that is key to keeping an open mind and learning.

Keeping the facts as you know them on your side helps.

There are a few sites I'll offer that show fallacious arguments. I review them from time to time. I feel more confident if I keep them in mind so that I don't fall into them. I get the feeling I might be carrying coals to Newcastle; I hope they don't waste your time.

I think the deep down issue is the trepidation about facing an ad-hominem attack.

Two truths help deal with this: One; Whoever launches the ad-hominen attack is admitting defeat and ignorance: and Two; relax and have faith that other readers understand that, and see it. The ones that count do.

I hope that doesn't sound condesending; that's not my intent. I get the feeling you're smarter than me, and I feel deprived as long as this kind of reticence exists.


I actually feel much safer arguing in an online format than "live," because I have the opportunity to read the whole thread of discussion, analyze it a bit, consider a response, write my response, and then revise it as many times as I want to. "recursive writing" at its best.

I also love the fact that:
1. I won't get left behind, because I can always respond to a past remark;
2. no one knows who I am, so they really can't judge "me" (although an online persona can become fragile too); and
3. everyone is speaking at the same volume [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]. We can't be drowned out, as long as we speak.

I'll admit, I was once involved in a flame war on a local BBS in my youth. And you know what? I loved it! It gave me a chance to be really aggressive, and fight tooth and nail with the other guy, without feeling like I had to back down and be "nice". The experience made me much more sure of my online voice.


I haven't had too much trouble posting on these boards so far, but I admit even I had to fight the intimidation factor at first. Although for me it was related to a lot of things - primarily, I think, arguing with people who seem to have a very strong knowledge of the political. But reading this thread made me think of a whole bunch of issues. There does seem to be a slight dominance of men in my perception of "political knowledgability", but I think in the end, that ties into the stereotypes mentioned above, where many women feel men are "smarter" then them, for whatever reason. But it all sort of leans into the dominance of the male perspective in politics as well - something I've become all too familiar with this year, attending a school with a 70/30 ratio of women to men, and having 4 out of 5 of their elected student government (just the executive branch, mind you) be male. I asked someone about this, and they thought that perhaps women were loathe to get involved because they just weren't interested. But why is that? I certainly don't feel that one woman can represent the voice of the majority. Do some have the interest, and others don't? Or is it a case of women separating themselves from an area where they don't feel they should be "involved".

That said, i think the only reason I've haven't feared to be vocal is due to the fact that when I disagree with a viewpoint, I feel the need to discuss it. But even that hasn't held true in some areas. I've generally been avoiding talking in this forum, I've noticed, as well as the news one - anything that implies political knowledge. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

And wow, that was longer then I intended - but I also needed to say that I find it interesting that a man posting in this forum said that he felt uncomfortable. I think to have this discussion, every voice is needed. But that in itself speaks a little to gender segregation.

And whew! Just many thanks in general for starting this topic, penelope, and for everyone else commenting. It's something I hadn't thought about, and needed too.

edited to say: looking back, I was initially afraid to post in the topic, because I felt I wasn't "feminist" enough (and I do consider myself one) to say something that would be seen as useful on the subject. So I think things work in different ways - undeserving of running with the "boys club", yet equally undeserving of the coveted title "feminist". Although I guess in the end I did it anyway. [img]tongue.gif" border="0[/img]

[ April 22, 2001: Message edited by: storygirl ]


Penelope, call me ageist but I think fear of hearing one's voice is something we grow out of. Mostly by standing up (sitting down) and being heard (being read).

Everyone is afraid of making an ass of themselves but once you've done it a couple of times and the world doesn't end, you realize that sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong but goddammit! at least you're not afraid to say something!

I was reading something today that pointed out many boys learn that losing isn't the end because they play more competitive sports - somebody always has to lose. It may take girls and women a little longer to learn if we don't play competitively but learn it we do.

babbler 8

Wow, this is a great topic. I personally don't feel at all uncomfortable in responding to it because I have actually wondered a lot about this. I have noticed that on lists-serves and boards like this, women, particularly younger ones, do tend to be less vocal on politics. I find this frustrating because I know you have a lot to add. It's good to see the reasons for this discussed.

Having recently gotten to know Audra, Penelope and Anna I know the three of you are extremely intelligent people. Infact personally I'd be more careful about crafting my words in debating any of you than most people I debate in politics because I know how smart you are.

I think a lot if this has to do with socialization. Boys and girls are socialized differently and I think that has a lot to do with their approach to these things. Calinda's competitive sports example is a good one, but certainly not the only one.

I don't think the answer is to blame men for this, and I'm happy to see this isn't happening here. I make no apology for engaging in vigorous debate.

But I do admit having been involved in flame wars in the past, which I'm not proud of, but I certainly see where vermigirl is coming from on this.

Lastly, I don't think this is exclusively a gender issue. Some men, I'm sure, are reluctant to debate for similar reasons, but I think it is more common with women.

audra trower wi...

I don't blame men for this at all. I do think, however, that it is important not to get caught in a kind of trap wherein the way men communicate is viewed as the norm, and the way women communicate viewed as female specific. What I mean by that, is that we all have to be open to change our debate styles to suit the needs of people in a group. If, for example, there was a deaf person present in a discussion, people would have to talk one at a time, to accomodate an interpreter. What I'm trying to say is... well, we all have different needs, right? And if young women are coming into a formerly male-dominated space, there might be a whole bunch of written/unwritten rules in place about the way people interact, that might be contrary to the needs of young women who have been socialized differently. I hate the mentality that expects people to change who they are to suit traditional rules, instead of re-examining traditional rules and adjusting them accordingly. (I'm talking about things like Robert's Rules of order, people, not anti-homicide laws. Don't all jump on me at once.)


These political forums intimidate the hell out of me. It took me a long time to post in the political forums at Marigold, and that was after I realized no one was going to laugh at me for not really knowing anything.

I didn't think about these forums being male-dominated - it never occurred to me to wonder if they were or not. It's the discussions and the topics themselves that intimidate me, and the fact that a) I hardly know anyone here and b) everyone knows so much and I know so little!!!

It's really scary. So right now I'm only reading, not posting. I just don't understand what's being discussed enough to say anything.

audra trower wi...

Gayle, I started a specific forum called "Everything you always wanted to know about..." which I hoped that people would use to ask questions/seek clarification about issues they didn't know about. I'd love it if everyone used it. Maybe I should have advertised it better. Check it out, though.


Hello to all - this is the first time I have ever posted anything being new to the net. I find this thread interesting, too, for a couple of reasons. It has been my experience that many women do hold back when in meetings with men. Sometimes the format is unfamiliar (as in Robert's Rules of Order)which may cause someone with something to say to stay silent. Also, there have been meetings that I have attended where there is a great deal of aggressive behaviour and body language which, given the histories of many women in our society, can have the effect of frightening someone into silence. A forum such as this provides a place of some safety in which to express a viewpoint.

The other thing that springs to mind and keyboard is that many women are conscious of the need to be inclusive. We will often preface sentences with phrases such as "I believe..., I feel..., etc." in order to indicate respect for someone who holds a different point of view. This brings an important dynamic into any forum, increasing safety of expression for all.

That's my two bits.



All sorts of points are being brought up, and I'm fascinated by them all.

Loretta, yours about the way women tend to preface sentences struck a chord with me. I've been trying deseperately to eliminate all of my "I think/feel/was just wondering"s, because (I feel!) they negate or undermine what I'm about to say. But do I only think that because, as Audra pointed out, I feel a need to change my speech patterns to suit the mainstream business world? Quite possible. I've always felt it a little rude to slam into conversations with loaded statements sans qualifiers-- I find it jarring and insensitive. At the same time, I've assumed my own language to be wishy-washy. Maybe it isn't. Maybe I'm just polite!

I'm still a wuss in all those other respects, though. I think primers are a fabulous idea, Audra. It gives something concrete to agree or disagree with, or just discuss.


audra, you know what, I was in that forum and I even posted to it - but I clicked the link blindly without really reading what it was called. I assumed nothing had changed since I read all the thread titles the first time.

Glad to know it's there! You'll be seeing me a lot in that thread, methinks.


Loretta and Penelope, I think I heartily agree with you! I often use what many an english teacher would call a passive voice in discussions like these (though I've learned better than to use it in essays). And I'm not at all convinced that it's inappropriate. Maybe admitting the validity of viewpoints that are not your own is not necessarily a sign of weakness.


Is it a gender issue at all? I've noticed that Canadians in general are more reticent, less likely to be strident compared to our friends to the south, the English or Australians.

I notice that two of my daughters are in those teenage years where everything is black and white; they are judgemental and strident with thier views. They've yet to have thier views go through the annealing process of life.

Maybe the reticence, or the lack of stridency isn't "effeminate" at all, maybe it's a mark of maturity?

I try to stay away from using "I believe" or "I think" because, as a sceptic, I disdain belief. I don't want to believe, I want to know.

Of course, if we confine ourselves to talking about what we know, it would be boring. But there are rational ways to express conjecture. Just phrase it as such.

Embarrassment rightly comes ones way, (as it has mine from time to time; emotion sometimes eclipses logic) when one tries to pass off conjecture as fact.

So, I'd agree with Chrissy when she says: "And I'm not at all convinced that it's inappropriate. Maybe admitting the validity of viewpoints that are not your own is not necessarily a sign of weakness."

storyfool storyfool's picture

Another boy adds his voice - (now there's a shocker). Allors, two anecdotes.

Loretta's comments reminded me of the following: Some time ago I used to attend monthly interagency (NGO) meetings in Ottawa. I played a game. Sometimes I would preface my comments with little provisos like, "in my opinion" or "I'm not sure, but..." or "what if...". Invariably I was ignored. And also, more often than not my point would be reiterated a couple of speakers later with more assertiveness and that person would "win" the credit so to speak. this was my way of testing some feminist analysis of gendered conversational patterns. I learned that despite my maleness, to use speech tactics that were characteristically gender coded as female, I was, as I witnessed with many women, ignored. In the same meeting I would also assert my opinion as fact and be listened to. Sometimes I felt like I was a yo-yo. But it was a powerful way to witness the not-so-subtleties of sexism in the social justice world that I was a part of. Admittedly, the mere tip of the iceberg of mysogyny in our social ocean.

A few years ago I was trying to get down to finishing a masters paper. For days I sat blankly in front of my laptop. One day I cried. Gathering myself, I examined the anguish that seized my chest. I felt I had nothing of value to say. This from a guy who regularly gets accused of being an arrogant know-it-all. I was absolutely stunned at the power of this emotion. I felt like I had one of those ridiculous Monty Python hands-from-the-clouds whacking me in the head. Where on earth did this feeling of despair come from? I knew it was deep. Well, to spare you the predictable turn into psychoanalysis, I realized that that feel of worthlessness with respect to writing had deep roots - family and community and class and gender and race and so on - the usual constellation of interlocking oppressions (I love mixed metaphors). It was reading feminist analyses like Anne-Louise Brookes' "Feminist Pedagogy: An Autobiographical Approach" (Fernwood, ‘92) that showed me some of the complexity of how our authorial voices are so warped by the ubiquitous violence of our society.

I'm not making the facile point that men are victims too. While this may be true in a broad philosophical way (ie we're all dehumanised by violence against women), overall men benefit materially while women die daily, as we know. Rather, I guess I am trying to reflect on the power of sexism not only to perpetuate violence against women but also to silence men while simultaneously offering men a host of privileges to buy into. I benefit from these privileges every day. Even while being in solidarity with women. I am hopeful that this bbs will be a space where we can engage in different processes of dialogue. And I recognise the courage of all those who post here despite fear.

audra trower wi...

Storyfool, that was brilliant. I'm not saying that because I agree with you, I'm saying it because what you said was so clear, and so fascinating. Thanks for that. Thanks for being here.

[ April 24, 2001: Message edited by: audra estrones ]


Today most men are afraid of expressing an independent point of view...

They'll parrot some group opinion and repeat whatever dogma their professors make them read from the textbooks, but I don't think it's the same. Men as equally as women will begin a rebuttal with "It's a well-known fact that...", or "Everyone holds it to be true that...", or "Studies have proven that".

Have we not reached a mid-point yet?


Storyboy's anecdote regarding playing the game of prefacing his comments brings up a whole other but distinctly interwoven issue. It is one of wondering what is the purpose of engaging in discourse. If the purpose is to win everyone over to one's position quickly, then perhaps it is not useful and probably a waste of time to preface one's statements. However, if the purpose is to learn more about the subject at hand or perhaps to contribute in a unique way to the overall group dynamic, I would disagree. It seems to me that the speech tactics "characterisically coded as female" tend to foster consensus and inclusiveness, whereas the more assertive style of participating in a group could lend itself to polarization within the group and alienation of some of the less powerful participants. Historically, this has been broken down across gender lines. If we wish to empower members of our groups that either stay silent or stay away because of fear, perhaps the use of "I" statements, etc. can be part of the safety created. We all benefit when everyone is able to use their voice.

Also with regard to Storyboy's anecdote, I wonder if a woman who asserts her opinion as fact would be listened to in the same way...?

storyfool storyfool's picture

Loretta, I agree with your suggestion that "speech tactics "characterisically coded as female" tend to foster consensus and inclusiveness, whereas the more assertive style of participating in a group could lend itself to polarization within the group and alienation of some of the less powerful participants." This is certainly my experience of working in groups. Much of my work has to do with facilitating consensus situations and I have learned to wield the power of provisos to create democratic space for dialogue (of course there's more to it than that - "I" statements can be effective as well). Also I find it's worth recognizing the nature of the situation of dialogue/discourse we find ourselves in. Many situations are, unfortunately, still ruled by patriarchal "win-lose" practices. If we do find ourselves in the midst of such, then we have a choice to play along, play tricks, be critical or simply defy. While women can choose to assert "opinion as fact" (and this would work in many cases) I suspect that as far as a mere speech tactic is concerned men would still benefit more. Resistance to sexism and mysogyny has got to go further than speech tactics.

One of my interests is how women and men (and also the young, old, transgendered and so on) can act in solidarity to engage in discourse that is democratic, that is about the creation of consensus, that doesn't shy away from disagreements, that demands of us to put our passionate hearts into the debate while remaining open to being persuaded to new points of view.

Like others have expressed here, I too carry fears about posting my thoughts here. I most times feel like the words I place here have been peeled from my flesh and I have to work hard not to take criticism personally. My hope in this place is that, on balance, this will be a place of compassionate exchange.

(PS: Loretta, are you mocking me with "Storyboy" (not that there's anything wrong with that) or have you genuinely misread my handle?) [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

audra trower wi...

I think it's because we've got a 'storygirl', storyfool [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]


Oh no! I'm sorry, Storyfool - no mockery intended. Please chalk it up to my being a busy and distracted mother of four with the newest being 3 1/2 months old. Also, your last posting was very thought provoking ... I'll ponder it some before I leap into a response this time.

It's ironic that I should commit an act of outright stupidity while discussing this subject matter...


I quote-"Is it a gender issue at all? I've noticed that Canadians in general are more reticent, less likely to be strident compared to our friends to the south, the English or Australians."

No, most Australians are just yobbos :Ю

Anyways carry on..



No, most Australians are just yobbos :Ю

As are, to be fair, most Americans.


Well... I'm glad I'm not the only one! I often sit listening to heated discussions, with my temperature slowly rising - and my mouth nearly open... But rarely do I voice my opinion for fear of sounding ridiculous. I don't think it is a gender issue. I think it is merely a shyness issue. I know I am an intelligent person - so why do I hesistate so? I suppose the important thing to remember is that a discussion is generally based on opinion. Nearly all of the conversations I venture into that are remotely "controversial" are based on pure opinion and slightly "off-kilter" fact. Well, I think I've just convinced myself to participate next time. What do I have to lose?


I agree with you that it can be a shyness issue but I also tend to think that many women are reticent to participate in a group where there are men present however, those same women participate freely in a women-only forum. However, some of that can be explained, at least for me, by the fact that the forums are very different (women's group in a circle, other groups forward facing, etc.)

What have been other women's observations?


I'm very new to the web, and to computers in general. My decision to enter some of these discussions is to learn something. If I put forth an opinion, I want to see other sides (but like confimations too). Women in general in my generation were taught to be "followers" and we were the ones who tried to change that. I think there is still some residue in us. Everyone has confidence issues, and there are many sides to every story. Good discussions look at all sides, so if we don't put something forward, we have reduced our opportunity to learn, but it also puts us at some risk. This is hard for me because most of you are better educated and intelligent than I am, but I will fight for something I feel strongly about.


I've never posted in a women's only forum. However, I think I tend to be more active here then I have been at Marigold, which is a feminist site. I'm really not sure why. At any rate, discussions on the internet are all faceless, and sometimes I feel like they're genderless as well. Mostly because I have to guess at many people's gender (or I could check the bios, but that would be too easy...)

But you're right, it does depend on the tone of the discussion. The more open-minded it is, the happier I am to share my ideas. And I do think men have a tendancy to be more aggressive in their opinions then women, though many men and women are exceptions to that.

Athena Dreaming

Storyfool, can I give you a hug?

I was re-reading ... what was it ... The Mismeasure of Woman? I think that was it. Yesterday. (Normally I'm not so incoherent, please believe me.) And she makes the excellent point that what we think of as "woman's communication" and "woman's intuition" is really "subordinate's communication" and "subordinate's intuition." Studies have been done which put men in subordinate positions and women in dominant positions, and they find consistently that those in the dominant position regardless of gender speak clearly and without qualifiers. "Subordinate's communication," according to these theories, is a way to avoid provoking a negative reaction. Neat stuff. Some of you may want to consider it, or read the book; it had a lot of really excellent stuff.

That said, I think the ability to speak clearly and confidently is something that comes along with practice. I don't want to valourize the "male as normal", as Audra has pointed out, but I do believe in this case that speaking clearly and directly and succinctly is a better method of communication. When I speak or write, I want someone to clearly receive my ideas, not a more polite or palatable masked version for public consumption.

I've been on-line for years. I've flamed, I've been flamed. I've spoken directly, I've spoken shyly. And what I have generally found is that the more honestly and clearly I present my ideas, the more respect they are given by readers, the better they know *me* as opposed to what I think I ought to be like, the more friends I make, and so on. It's counter-intuitive, but I really believe that speaking from the heart and to convince with all the passion that you have (whether you are right or wrong) is in the end more effective both at communicating and at building relationships and community.

audra trower wi...

I like this thread. I am re-animating it.


Y'know, audra, we need to go on a thread-excavating mission together sometime. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img] (I like digging up old threads, too. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] )


I have been reading through a lot of groups lately and when debates get heated many men use put-downs, try to cut the rug out from someone who may disagree, or resort to SHOUTING AND SCREAMING IN THE ONLY WAY THEY KNOW HOW. I can recall only one example ever of a woman getting as petty and aggressive.

You know, I missed this last time I read the thread, which I guess must have been a year ago? [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

Anyway, I think this sort of packet of debating tactics gets used because young males are less likely to learn conflict-resolution skills and so lack the capability to react except in an aggressive manner when "dissed".

Food for thought, I guess.


The how do you explain Ann Coulter? Uh oh, I'm the one who argued in another thread that we're paying to much attention to her. Shame on me.

I'm probably going to get in trouble here, but let me put forth a suggestion. I think women, with numerous notable exceptions on this site, tend to have difficulty separating the political from the personal. In other words, men can say to each other in a political argument, "you're full of shit" or, "fuck off," things of that nature, without taking it personally. Women tend to react differently. I know in a political argument I had with wife last year, I said, "that's stupid," which she took to mean that I had called her stupid.

All right. Let the brick throwing begin.

[ August 23, 2002: Message edited by: josh ]

[ August 23, 2002: Message edited by: josh ]


We're not your wife. We're not all the same.


It is much better when someone says you are full of shit than stupid.

Black Dog

Ah, but he said "that's stupid" not "you're stupid." I've run across the same thing with a lot of arguments/discussions I've had with women, wherein an attack on the position is equated with an attack on the person.

Granted, the "Fuck you!" "No, fuck YOU!" exchanges I've had with some guys haven't exactly been steeped in the great traditions of Aristotel.


Stupid is stupid, just like dumb. A no-no.



I said, "that's stupid," which she took to mean that I had called her stupid.

Is it really that strange that if you accuse someone of espousing a stupid viewpoint that they would take it personally? You can disagree with the viewpoint but decrying it with such a derogatory word with the connotations it inevitably has (if someone described the views you held as stupid, would you really not consider/feel any of it personally?) is bound (in male or female) to make them feel it is a personal attack.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think your wife's reaction is that strange!



Is this a gender thing, a confidence thing?

Neither: it's a perspective thing.
Why do you care so much?
It's only talk, ferchrissake!
Let's do that again, bigger, for emphasis.
[b]IT'S ONLY TALK![/b]

If somebody doesn't like your persona on a forum, what happens? If somebody disagrees with your opinion, what happens? If somebody thinks you're misinformed, ignorant, a moron, a Mormon, a maroon, stupid, full of shit, a nasty commie, a wimp, a boor, an enslaver of mankind... what happens?
Absolutely nothing.

I've heard (well, not heard - seen, read) people say things like "They crucified hem for expressing that opinion." In fact, they did no such thing: they made some rude remarks, is all. Not a scratch on the victim. It's like saying, "S/he has to fight traffic three hours a day." One doesn't fight traffic; one merely sits, in safety and comfort, and is bored - maybe not even that, given radio, tape-deck and cell-phone.
Hyperbole. We tend to take hyperbole far too seriously.

Step back a pace, put it in perspective.
It doesn't fuggin' matter!



Just speaking for myself, if someone called my argument stupid, I would not equate it to calling me stupid.

By the way, I've found that Canadian women are much better at political give and take than American women.


In what way, josh?
I've only known two American women well enough to talk politics with. One was from Chicago, quite well educated. She had no hesitation, no shyness at all in expressing fairly extreme opinions. She wasn't all that good at listening, but would, if one insisted. The other was from a southern state - Georgia, i think. She was slow and careful in putting an opinion forward, but totally adamnat, once she had - wouldn't listen at all. It's a negligible sample to draw any conclusions from, so i'd be interested in someone else's observations.



Just speaking for myself, if someone called my argument stupid, I would not equate it to calling me stupid.

OK, I think that is stupid, but there you go...

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