According to CBS News, Hillary Clinton has given women some advice.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a new project called “No Ceilings” with her daughter, Chelsea, and Melinda Gates. During a talk at New York University, Clinton told the students that women in the public eye need to form a thick skin.
I don’t think that’s the best advice, at least not unless it’s worded very carefully. A personal, individual thick skin is no doubt very useful, but a social thick skin is a terrible idea. A social thick skin just treats the status quo, in which women in the public eye are subject to torrents of abuse just because they are women in the public eye. That’s no good. We don’t want to deal with that by telling people to suck it up, just as we don’t want to deal with racism or homophobia or xenophobia that way. We want to deal with it by improving the culture so that it stops happening.
I agree. I’m a cis-white-hetero-male, and I’m probably more ‘thin skinned’ about this issue than many women (certainly more so than my wife), because I can afford to be. I recognize that I am highly privileged in this respect, and I continue to take advantage of it to what I hope is the best for everyone.
I get called ‘white knight’ a lot as a disparagement, but considering the source, I generally take it as a compliment.
I think what she’s saying is youpick your fights, don’t let them do that. The most effective female engineer where I worked ignored the undermining tactics of one of her male rivals and stuck to the topic which was the engineering.
She got promoted, he got fired.
That sounds very perceptive, if I may say so. Also, I know you’re not writing that for cookies – but it’s always good to see (and of course, FtB aside, one sees it all too rarely).
Thanks, opposablethumbs. You are correct. I work around some very young engineers in a rather small company, which means we currently have exactly …let me count….carry the one, multiply by…. zero…female engineers working here. I hear a lot of very sexist statements by several of them, and I try to be nice most of the time, but there have been more than once that I’ve been stern and quite direct in telling them to STFU or they are going to pay a visit to HR.
I do (think) I see the point though, that kevinalexander makes. I realize that many women are not in a realistic position to stand up for themselves, no matter how much we wish the world were such that they could.
Gemma Mason says
I think a lot depends on whether these sorts of statements are read as commands or as facts. There’s a big difference between “The current environment is such that women need a thick skin to survive” and “Women! You need to grow a thicker skin!”
The responsibility for the terrible, thick-skin-requiring environment for women lies with society, and it is society that should change. On the other hand, some of us want to get things done in the mean time and this requires stop-gap solutions. The courage required of us is something to be proud of having and using, not least because it’s so difficult. But oh, boy, society is so very ready to respond to advice to women on how to cope, the fact that women have coped, and the fact that some women are rightly proud of having coped, by declaring victory on society’s part and attempting to leave the responsibility on women to keep dealing with the situation alone.
Yes, it is good advice to tell women not to let our critics get the best of us. However, telling women to grow a thick skin sounds more like “Suck it up” than it does “choose your battles.”
I don’t want to suck it up. I’m done with sucking it up. Sucking it up doesn’t change anything.