Tag Archives: women

Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford

The Clarence Thomas – Anita Hill affair in 1991 polarized America along male-female lines in the same way that the OJ Simpson trial polarized the nation along the black-white fault line, and the debate still rages over what happened.

And without a fuller understanding of what happened then, the chances of avoiding another smashing of a woman victim of sexual assault are minimal.

Suzette Haden Elgin, a socio-linguist, professor and author of the series: The Gentle art of Verbal Self-Defense postulated a reason Anita Hill was never believed, and Clarence Thomas was found credible by the white male senators. In her 1993 book Genderspeak: Men, women, and the gentle art of verbal self-defense, Haden Elgin identified gender-based “Operating Metaphors”; metaphors by which people run their life.

A person’s Operating Metaphor fills in the blank in the sentence “Life is a ……..” and enables them to have fundamental rules about how to run their life.

Haden Elgin found that many men’s Operating Metaphor is “Life is a team sport,” and that most activities are therefore a game, where the objective is to win, even if you need to bend the rules (i.e. stealing a base in baseball). In a team sport everyone has a role to play and you are expected to play your role.

She found that many women run their lives as if Life is a “Traditional Schoolroom,” where if you do the right things, follow the rules, and work hard you will be promoted (pass exams, go to next grade). Failure is a disgrace. Cheating or being dishonest is shameful.

Haden Elgin’s explanation of the Thomas-Hill debacle is that Thomas played the game very well. He played the race card, the victim card and since he played these roles very well, his role in the game being played out was fully understood by the white male senators holding court. For Anita Hill to have had any credibility with these men, she would have had to look the part and play the role of a victim of sexual harassment. In other words, she needed to look downtrodden, beaten-up, her life in tatters.

But this was not her game. She wasn’t playing a game. She bravely did the right thing and stood up against someone who broke the workplace rules. She forthrightly and assertively made her case, without embellishing or cowering under the barrage of invasive attacks by the Republican senators. She most certainly did not come across as a victim.

So they couldn’t believe her —- she was not in the same story as the decision-makers.

If Dr. Ford is to have a whisper of a chance of being believed, unfortunately she will need to demonstrate to the game-players in their terms that she was indeed a victim of Judge Kavanaugh’s sexual aggression. And this in an era where facts are construed as partisan wrangling – once again the game metaphor at play.

3 Generations of Women – Shelle’s Top Tips

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Warning! This is a theory I have unsupported by any research. In other words, it’s an opinion. I believe that, and I think you find this in the workforce and this is particularly important for women, although if you’re a man, it might be useful to you too, there’s really three generations of women. 

There is the pre-feminist generation of women and they’re kind of dangerous for other women. Why? You see the pre-feminists tended to view other women as adversaries. In the grand competition for getting the attention of men and being able to influence men, women tended to see other women as adversaries and competitors. This is where the concept of the frenemy came up, you know, somebody who appears to be your friend, but really behaves like your enemy. These are the people who are delighted when something bad happens to you or they want to knock you down if you’re up. I remember myself when I was much younger working for an organization, a youth development organization and I showed up at this meeting where I had to make a presentation. I thought I had looked really good, I was really well prepared and my boss came up to me and she looked down at me and she said, you know, Shelle, your button looks like it’s about to break off. I realized that what she was trying to do was sabotage my confidence because I’m like, hey, I’m looking great. That would be the act of a frenemy, somebody from a pre-feminist generation. 

Then there are the feminists and in the feminist generation of women, women see other women as sisters and we need to support them. Now one of the dangers of the feminist generation is sometimes we support each other because we see the enemy is out there. It’s not like the truth is out there, the enemy is out there and that maybe going a bit too far. But the feminist generation did a lot of fighting and they had a lot of battles to win and even today, I mean I think we’re going backwards in terms of the number of women represented in leadership positions and this is something I think we really need to support, getting more women in leadership positions. But the feminists were good at fighting those battles and supporting each other through those battles and they come from a different age group than the pre-feminists, although sometimes pre-feminists can be young or old. It’s not necessarily always according to age. 

Then the last generation of women, these are the younger women today that are just growing up. They’re in their late teens, 20s, and even in their early 30s and I call them the post-feminist generation of women. You see, they weren’t around when their mothers and their aunts were fighting all those battles just to be heard and be taken seriously. They get the benefits of some of those battles that we had to fight frankly in my generation. What’s important to the post-feminist generation of women is to be independent and decide for yourself and express yourself. Now, although this generation of young women like to communicate with their friends, they don’t necessarily think about the impact of what they do. These are the women who show up at work with cleavage showing. You don’t want to see that particularly if you’re a woman of my age. But the reason people really shouldn’t be showing their cleavage at this age is –and this is what I teach women when I’m teaching presentation skills is if there are breasts in the room, nothing else can occur. I mean even me, I’m not a lesbian and I can’t take my eyes off a good cleavage. But can you hear what someone’s saying if their breasts are in the room? I don’t think so. 

So the post-feminist generation of women are busy expressing themselves, they’re not great at supporting each other. They tend to be very independent minded and they don’t tend, and I’m making a generalization here, to pay attention to the impact of what they do and what they say. You know what, I think these three generations of women each have lessons that they’ve learned about what to do and what not to do that if there were more dialogues they could each help each other. I hope this was an insight for you.

 Check out  www.ShellesTopTips.com if you would like some tips on communicating and solving some of the problems.

If you are interested in booking me (Shelle Rose Charvet) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at shelle@wordsthatchangeminds.com.  Please visit my speaking page too.