Shirky: Women Need to Strap On Some Balls

World's Most Magnificent Supergenius Clay Shirky can extrapolate Women's Problems from a single data point: an overly pushy male grad student who bullied Shirky into giving him a better recommendation than he deserved. From this experience, Shirky propounds a General Theory of Maleness that is (we're happy to report) fully adaptable to the female subset of maleness:

The difference between me and [Six Degrees of Separation-inspiring con artist] David Hampton isn’t that he’s a con artist and I’m not; the difference is that I only told lies I could live up to, and I knew when to stop. That’s not a different type of behavior, it’s just a different amount.

And it looks to me like women in general, and the women whose educations I am responsible for in particular, are often lousy at those kinds of behaviors, even when the situation calls for it. They aren’t just bad at behaving like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks. They are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives, or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, even when it would be in their best interests to do so. Whatever bad things you can say about those behaviors, you can’t say they are underrepresented among people who have changed the world.

Now this is asking women to behave more like men, but so what? We ask people to cross gender lines all the time. We’re in the middle of a generations-long project to encourage men to be better listeners and more sensitive partners, to take more account of others’ feelings and to let out our own feelings more. Similarly, I see colleges spending time and effort teaching women strategies for self-defense, including direct physical aggression. I sometimes wonder what would happen, though, if my college spent as much effort teaching women self-advancement as self-defense.

Fun, fun, fun -- and remember, it's daddy who takes the T-Bird away. I'm too much of a sniveling gamma/epsilon male to draw a conclusion as beefy as Shirky's, but I am surprised to see what levels of subordination some professional women remain willing to accept, at least in traditional office environments. But I would emphasize the some back there, and in fact the biggest self-promoter I ever met was a female of the opposite sex. Maybe things are different at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, but I'm not sure how representative of the private sector ITPANYU is.

Before addressing the issue of what women don't want, I note that narcissism has never in my experience added to the magnificence of any project, nor has self-aggrandizement created any wealth, nor has self-advancement achieved anything other than capturing a bigger share of an existing pie for the self-promoter. It may be true that these qualities are well represented among world changers, whoever they are. And I presume the majority of world changers have been men up to this point. But we don't have a counterhistory wherein some effort to protect equal rights for women has been in place since ancient Greek civilization (or I should say: the matriarchal civilization that the Greeks stole everything from!). So I'm not sure we should complain that the workforce might be seeing comparatively fewer of these male virtues in the future, or expect that the world will be changing any more slowly as a result.

As to whether women need to be more pushy, less pushy, or just right, I believe this falls into Cavanaugh's General Theory of 33.3. About a third of women are Daddy's Girls; another third are dominant, secure, self-confident, nasty, violent, selfish, independent, proud, thrill-seeking, free-wheeling, arrogant females; and the rest don't care enough to have an opinion. These percentages vary with events and movements, but regress to stability. There are mirror categories for men, and for the most part members of each group mate and procreate with members of their corresponding categories.

The recession has revealed more brittleness in the job market for men than for women. In school, girls are outperforming boys at rates that alarm the squares. Women's relative financial attainment continues to grow at a rate remarkable for an economy as advanced and sclerotic as America's. So I'm not sure we have a problem, other than the ancient problem that men continue to give women something they don't need: advice.

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  • Untermensch||

    …or I should say: the matriarchal civilization that the Greeks stole everything from!

    Since when has Dan Brown been a ghostwriter for Tim Cavanaugh? All we need is something in here about how women are suppressed by self-flagellating albino Catholic monks…

    0̿o̿

  • Untermensch||

    And before someone takes me to task for not realizing Tim as mocking that notion, I did get that...

  • Get Some Priorities||

    First Balko on a back-bencher at Bitch PhD

    Now Cavanaugh castigating Clay Shirky?

    There are millions of Haitians struggling for life and you guys are going off on fourth-tier bloggers today?

  • ||

    I didn't realize that life was supposed to stop for everyone whenever some people were dying. All I can say is, if I were an endangered Haitian -- say, that now-famous old guy with the rats eating his diaper -- I would want the rest of the world to go on with their business, rather than put everything on hold and pretend to care about what happens to me.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    I know commentary on marginal American political websites will make the difference between life and death for millions of Haitians, and that I am a genocidal monster who has only pitched in with a couple of posts. But actually I'm about to post something Haiti-related. Let me know when that turns things around for the rescue effort.

  • ||

    Tim wins the thread. Well done.

    -jcr

  • Suki||

    Where would you rather live, Haiti or Gaza?

  • hmm||

    Gaza, easier access to weapons.

  • Suki||

    If you bring your own weapons to Haiti you have a comparative advantage. Don't forget the ammo!

  • hmm||

    Not at the moment. The 82nd isn't exactly a girl scout troop.

  • ||

    Neither is the IDF.

    -jcr

  • hmm||

    I never said who's side I wanted to be on in Gaza.

    The IDF has some hot chicks with guns!!

    And the tend to be less explosive.

  • ||

    I was in the IDF. All the commanders in early basic training are extremely hot women. Tough, merciless, hot women.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Sounds neat...how long is IDF Basic?

  • ||

    @ The Art-P.O.G.:

    Well first you have Gadna, which is a pre-basic training. That's one week. Most Israelis do this in high school. Gadna has the hottest women.

    Then you have the basic training, Tironut, when you turn 18. The initial program takes one month, then you get training according to your job. These usually last 1-6 months. The most elite units and officers will have an additional year of basic training. The farther you go in basic training, the less hot your commanders are...

  • Leif||

    Ah, the standard bait-and-switch.

    Seems like pretty poor incentivizing, though.

  • ||

    Damn. That might be the incentive I need to actually get into shape for once.

    -jcr

  • ||

    I have the utmost respect for the 82nd. But what Haiti really needs right now is a first-rate Girl Scout troop. Having said that, they could have used some of those all along. Never underestimate the power of a Scout troop. Be prepared, and do a good turn daily.

  • hmm||

    I figured they were reading this site and others for moral support in reconstructing their country.

    faux rage is almost as fucking retard as faux hyper-empathy

  • Priorities Troll||

    *pushes back from table loosens belt a notch*

    Wow, I'm really stuffed now,unlike those millions of starving Haitians you insensitive clods !!!

  • ||

    He took a few minutes break from rescuing Haitians trapped underneath buildings to post this.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    LOL @"Priorities Troll".

  • Priorities Troll||

    Glad somebody gets it ;-)

  • ||

    I was referring to the real troll, not you.

  • LTC John||

    Hey, I've heard of "trolls", "concern trolls", "Moby", "Griefer" and the like - but I think we may have seen the birth of a new descriptor?! Nicely done.

  • Ratko||

    Blood clot.

  • Suki||

    World's Most Magnificent Supergenius Clay Shirky can extrapolate Women's Problems from a single data poin

    You are touting this amateur as the SugarFree of non-H&R world?

    I am not convinced.

  • ||

    Oh, no you didn't! Don't you dare compare that idiot Shirky to the MASTER. SF has a true gift, even if you don't appreciate how often it is aimed at your sex.

  • Federal Dog||

    "They are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives, or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, even when it would be in their best interests to do so."

    The author apparently doesn't associate with women -- especially academic women.

  • ||

    or corporate women either. Some of the most narcisstic, self-promoting blowhards I know are women.

  • ||

    Wait.. So, because Shirky is a total pussy who can be bullied by a grad student into lying for him, he advocates that women should be louts?

    Shirky's an idiot.

    -jcr

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    You know, bully may not be the best word for the incident. It's more like the student gamed Shirky into inflating the recommendation. (And I mean, who cares? I've never written a recommendation that was not a full-throated exaggeration of the person's good qualities. Why would you write anything else -- esp. when anybody who reads a recommendation will subtract 50% for exaggeration anyway?)

  • Spartacus||

    This. I have to write several of these things every year, mostly to graduate schools, and I have pretty much gotten it to a template with some minor variations from person to person. Sort of like a cop's arrest report for a DWI.

  • ||

    I've never written a recommendation that was not a full-throated exaggeration of the person's good qualities.

    I've never exaggerated when writing a recommendation. I've had the honor of recommending some of the finest engineers I've ever met.

    -jcr

  • hmm||

    Obama has an new phrase.

    "opponents of Change and Progress"

    Lol is all I can say.

  • Holly Wood||

    "I note that narcissism has never in my experience added to the magnificence of any project, nor has self-aggrandizement created any wealth, nor has self-advancement achieved anything other than capturing a bigger share of an existing pie for the self-promoter." What do you think young Hollywood is about?

  • ||

    Clay Shirky should research the career of Carly Fiorina. She was part of the telecom scams of the 90's, drove HP into the ground while garnering millions, and now wants to be a politician.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Or Lady Macbeth.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I worked for her in the 1990s...She is scary
    AND STAY DOWN!

  • Guy with actual balls||

    Don't know nothin' 'bout strappin' on no balls, but The Prez just got his handed to him at the Coakley ralley. Oh my! What a disaster for the Dems.

  • ||

    Obama, at the Coakley rally in Boston:
    “Martha’s gonna make sure you get your money back. She’s got your back. Her opponent’s got the Wall Street bankers’ backs.”

    While Coakley spent much of her speech on health care, Obama brought it up just once, in passing. He closed, though, with an implicit mention to unenthused Democrats about the health care bill, which would be threatened by a Coakley loss since that would leave the party one vote shy of the 60 needed to end a filibuster:

    “If you vote for Martha Coakley and tell your friends and neighbors to, you won’t just win this election, you’ll live up to the best, progressive traditions of this commonwealth.”

    “Today I’ve come to talk about one thing. I’ve come to talk about Tuesday. On Tuesday you have the unique and special responsibility to fill the senate seat that you sent Ted Kennedy to fill for nearly 47 years. And I am here to tell you that the person for that job is Attorney General Martha Coakley.”

    The speech was interrupted briefly by a father and son protesting, yelling: “Abortion! The killing of innocent blood!” The pair were escorted out, and Obama continued.
    “But here’s the thing. In times like this there are always some who want to exploit than anger to score political points… Unfortunately we’re seeing some of that politics in Massachusetts today. I’ve heard about some of the ads that Martha’s opponent is running.”…

    An appeal to independents, who make up a bit more than half the electorate: “I know there are things on which she and I disagree. I respect her for that.” Brown, says Obama, "voted for Republicans 96 percent of the time. It’s hard to suggest that he’s significantly independent from the Republican agenda.”

    On the bank fee, which has emerged as an issue in the race and which Obama says was needed to take back the bailout money necessitated by “the bad regulatory policies of the previous administration,” he says that Brown, “asked what he was going to do, he went and parked his truck on Wall Street.”

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Could anybody make out what the heckler(s) was/were saying? They dragged out a kid in a blue jersey. Was that kid the heckler?

  • ed||

    It doesn't matter. The heckler threw Mr. President off his game, and it was downhill thereafter. Real democracy is perilous.

  • hmm||

    Only to those that are in it for the wrong reasons.

  • ||

    And it looks to me like women in general, and the women whose educations I am responsible for in particular, are often lousy at those kinds of behaviors, even when the situation calls for it. They aren’t just bad at behaving like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks. They are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives, or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, even when it would be in their best interests to do so.

    Where are these women she speaks of? I want to meet one.

  • Guy with actual balls||

    OhBama seemed to be without his trusty pardner, Tele Prompter. Wingin' it don't cut it. One of the human props behind him (blue striped shirt, camera left) was squirming throughout, as if about to piss his pants. Comedy gold.

  • ||

    Warren is talking about Shirky, not Obama.

  • suckitupcrybaby||

    The teleprompter King spewed out his usual retoric, how wondereful Cloakley is and that Brown was in with the Fat cat bankers, Insurance companies, and wants to take the candy from your children. He sickens me. I need a drink. please doante to Browns campaign. We ned to win this one to defeat Obamacare. Check out my site www.suckitupcrybaby.com

  • Brett L||

    On topic:
    Clay Shirky is great on evolution of online communication. Not at all sure that translates to expertise on gender communication.

    Off topic:
    Trust the Obama people to dither until an appearance would be worthless THEN show up. Just like the Olympics and Corzine. If these guys are the best in the world at politics, I'm in the wrong damn business.

  • ||

    "...and in fact the biggest self-promoter I ever met was a female of the opposite sex."

    A female of the opposite sex? Is that a male or are you just being redundant?

  • anarch||

    He's indirectly telling you that he's a man. There's a name for that rhetorical device.

  • ||

    If he was referring to a woman that he had met, he could say either "female" or "member of the opposite sex," but what he said is redundant and doesn't really make sense.

  • ||

    Way to take the fun out of "funny"!

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    I know. Heller might as well change his name to Explainy McJoke.

  • ||

    I don't think "Explainy McJoke" is a real name.

  • ||

    I left 'fun' in 'funny.' Otherwise I would have said 'ny'

  • Warty||

    THE MALE GAZE caused this.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Oh shit...Warty's right.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Incidentally, is it me, or is the title an allusion to pegging. And if it's not an allusion to pegging, what does that say about me?

  • juris imprudent||

    You know what it says about you, you just don't want to admit it.

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...if it's not an allusion to pegging, what does that say about me?

    Art, do you really want to ask that question on a thread where SugarFree might show up at any time?

    Also, I have to wonder about the women Shirky knows. I have no problem finding pushy, arrogant, self-aggrandizing women. Maybe he's just such a chronic bastard anything less than Hillary Clinton nastiness rates as "passive".

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Good points, Penguin. It seems in this case, either Shirky's MALE GAZE failed or succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.

  • ||

    Really, Art, if SF doesn't come along and answer your question in a way that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemies you should consider yourself one lucky man.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Honestly I only cliked this thread to see what SF would write...color me disapointed.

    I want my SF TV!

  • Zeb||

    It is possible that many women are as he describes and the pushy, arrogant ones just stick out a lot more and are more likely to be encountered in public.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Zeb, are you referring to me, or to Shirky? I was thinking of women I've worked with, dated, friends, etc. I did not mean to say that there are a super-abundance of these women, only that I see no shortage of them, and I'm amazed that anyone could.

    Also, one thing that annoys me is when arrogant, obnoxious behavior is conflated with assertive, active behavior. Having had supervisors of both sexes over the years (good and bad, both), I can say that there is a huge difference. You can "take charge" without being a representative of your respective genitalia. So often when some female piece of crap in a position of power pushes people around, belittles people, take credit for others' work, etc., you hear "if she were a man, that'd be overlooked". Bullshit. If a man did it, the only difference is in the names that person would be called.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Oh, and at least one of those female supervisors was really beautiful. I used my MALE GAZE one her numerous times. Sadly, to no effect.

  • ||

    Martha’s gonna make sure you get your money back. She’s got your back.

    Good grief.

    What a blathering moron.

    "This president is defective; I want a refund."

  • MattXIV||

    It's also important to consider that people don't all react to bluster the same way - appling Tim's General Theory of 33.3's, in my experience about equal numbers of people will be take in by it, flat out ignore it, and be rubbed the wrong way by it. With the wrong person, it's pretty much an invitation for them to take you down a notch.

  • Bob Sutton||

    I have been teaching and grading Stanford students for over 25 years now, and my reaction is two-fold. The first is that allowing your students to bully you is a sign of his incompetence as a teacher. I am always very quick to tell me students -- and do so repeatedly -- that my class will not reward their squeaky wheel behavior, to take actions to demonstrate that is so. Second, perhaps it depends on the population, but my experience at Stanford and other top universities is that women and men are roughly equally pushy, but women generally are more logical and have better social skills. Perhaps the women in his class are pushing him around, but he is too socially inept to notice.

  • Ratko||

    Those early roller derby dames would've laughed at the "women need to strap on some balls" line. Then they would have showed Shirky who really needs some strap on nads by breaking his jaw and throwing his limp 'little man' body over the rail.

  • Scott66||

    "But we don't have a counterhistory wherein some effort to protect equal rights for women has been in place since ancient Greek civilization"
    I see this sentiment expressed a lot and frankly it shows a lack of understanding of both biology and history.
    Rape is not an effective strategy for reproduction. As such women have more influence on human traits than men. In short women choose which men to mate with thereby passing his traits onto their sons. So women have at least an equal if not dominate influence on human evolution and society.
    When Cavanaugh talks about rights he is coming from the perspective of a liberally educated 20th century male. The rights he values, such as the right to vote, are not the rights that historically women valued. For women they choose to mate with men who could protect them and help provide for them in a dangerous world of scarce resources. Rights important to them would be along the lines of: The right not to have to travel far from the tribe in a dangerous world or the right to let the men do all the dieing when another tribe of female bred warriors attacked. Across history the majority of women gladly exchanged the right to sit in some room casting limited in influence votes for the right not to be the spear thrower or catcher. Women are and have always been the privileged sex.

  • nfl premier jerseys||

    What you had mentioned is quite reasonable! Beautifully written article sir.

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