She stands light on her feet
Constantly shifting her weight from leg to leg
In anticipation – of having to give her spot away
Feeling like a tress-passer – an encroacher with no rights to the space
Eyes flitting around – looking for that someone whose path she might be obstructing
Ever ready to move aside..
Before someone asks her to..
A stance of precaution.
He stands rooted – at ease
Owning the space – as the rightful heir
For as long as he is there
Eyes looking straight ahead – indifferent, even mocking.
He rarely notices if he is standing in someone’s way
Until he is tapped on the shoulder and asked to make way – with a ‘excuse me’ and a ‘please’.
Then, he would reluctantly move aside
Sometimes with a frown, sometimes with a smile..
Sometimes with anger, sometimes with grace..
Always with a sense of being cheated of what was his.
A stance of entitlement.
Ask them for their opinions..
He starts off with a “This IS…”.
She starts off with a “I think.. I may be wrong.. but I feel..”.
Pull them into a debate..
He stands his ground unless and until he is forced to step aside.
She goes “may be.. ummm…” while her mind is busy wondering if she is wrong – after all, he sounds like he knows and that he is right!
He feels entitled to the ‘right’ stance.
She is over-cautious about not taking the ‘wrong’ stance.
He looks around – at all the women – always light on their feet and ideas..
He learns to smile down & talk down to all ‘woman’-kind.
She looks around – at all the men – always firm on their feet and opinions..
She learns to fidget, stumble, and quickly shut up in front of all ‘man’-kind.
He leaves condescending comments on her blog post – “Let me bestow you with much-needed perspective – woman..”
She gives apologetic replies full of guilty smilies – “That is also true. You are right.. But.. this is just my opinion..”
And then this brisk woman comes along..
Feet rooted, gaze focused, chin up, voice clear and strong..
Unafraid of taking a stand..
So used to taking a stand..
Blind to their ‘gendered’ stances..
Naive to both his ‘entitlement’ and her ‘encroachment’.
She does not flirt with opinions – she dates them – steadily.
She says “Nope. You are wrong.” just as easily as she says “Hmm.. You do have a point there”.
She is polite – not sorry.
She faces equals – neither looks up nor talks down.
A stance of open-minded confidence.
They can do nothing about this alien being
Except judge behind her back..
She mutters “unfeminine – arrogant”
He grumbles “feminist – man-hater”
All for simply taking a fair and clear stance.
Women – MANY talented, successful women – take this precautionary stance – standing on toes, starting with a disclaimer-prelude of “I don’t know.. I may be wrong.. but I think..”.
When it is pointed out to women – they switch immediately to a high-strung immature imitation of the ‘entitled’ ‘masculine’ stance.
And when women do that – a LOT – it only reinforces the ‘entitlement’ stance that comes naturally to most men.
I see that all around – whether in this snob-level-nerdy academic campus of mine, or in some grown-up ‘intellectual’ literary debate video I happen to watch; whether inside a corporate meeting room, or at casual social gatherings.
When does it change?
Stances can become gender-neutral only after we recognize and acknowledge that – now – they are ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in very definite ways?
And consciously shift ourselves to the gender-neutral stance?
Have you watched this awesome TED talk on body language? Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are
It says “Don’t fake it till you make it.. fake it till you become it!”
I think there needs to be a conscious change like that in verbal language too!
Have you noticed any language usage that is typically ‘gendered’ like this?
edited to add :
Thinking about it again, I realize that these definite extreme stance roles hold good among any two people where there is a perceived social hierarchy involved – race, caste, economic, educational qualification, ‘intellectual’ – anything. The only special thing being that irrespective of the outer hierarchy involved, it plays stronger & clearer when there is an additional inner hierarchy – of gender – involved. Gender-inequality seems to be the inner-most – the base – of all social inequality, and it plays out strongest of all.