Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Girl Talk: On Reticence

I was part of the University's English Undergraduate Conference at the end of spring semester, and I had a really thought-provoking conversation with one of our faculty that keeps being relevant every day since. . . .

After attending several sessions throughout the day, Judith and a colleague mentioned the prevalence of modest apologies coming from the women. Without fail, the women presenting prefaced their papers with apologies for language and content. Even if quoting directly as support for their papers, women felt the need to apologize for swearing, use of "crude language," or discussing sex and violence. 

Meanwhile, the men (and I must admit, we attract far less men in the English department) confidently went forth with coarse language and content. There was no obligation, whether real or perceived, to justify what they said. 

Judith said after, "I was stunned by the compulsion to apologize for presenting intellectually provoking idea. And then I realized that they were all women. It's 2014 here; what's the issue?"

And really, what is the issue? I completely understand practicing modesty, and I think being a "class-act" is rarified these days (do I sound old or what?). However, I continually find myself frustrated that women feel as though they must comply to a different set of social/behavioral standards; and on the flip side, I'm appalled that men think they are exempt from polite behavior. 

It would be so nice to see a social setting in which both men and women were playing by the same rules. It would also be quite shocking, no? What do you think you would see that was different? I'd love your thoughts!

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