I had an experience the other day in which a dude called upon me to prop up his ego. I’d love to tell you the particulars, but I feel like I’d like this post to survive into perpetuity, and I don’t want this person, who is, after all, a friend, to feel any more targeted than he has to. (I hate writing about people I know.) In very broad strokes, he asked me for career advice.
Embedded in his inquiries were several assumptions:
- That his qualifications were amazing, definitely far more amazing than mine;
- That I had, as a matter of course, to agree that he was really very smart, indeed, of He-Man-like intelligence;
- That he surely deserved all sorts of honours and fancy positions, unlike other people;
- That it was beyond the bounds of rational discourse to deny any of the above.
In the process of making these inquiries, he managed to repeatedly insult me in various ways that I’m sure he wasn’t aware of. I mean, the funny thing about this friend is that I have to admit that he has been super-supportive of a lot of things I’ve done over the past few years, to a degree that he was not obligated by friendship to be. And indeed, I don’t think it’s exactly that he thinks that I am not (a) well-qualified; (b) smart; or (c) deserving of honours and fancy positions. It’s more that he thinks my aspirations lie in other directions, and he’s not wrong about that. (We’ve known each other a long time.)
And after all, he was asking my advice. Sort of.
Nonetheless, I assume that many of you have had this kind of conversation with someone, in which they prop themselves up, constantly, often at your expense, expecting you to smilingly follow along and sing his praises. I assume that many of you would also report that the people with whom you had these exchanges were dudes. Indeed, on the other end of the phone line, Rebecca Solnit kept popping into my head, particularly this fragment:
… the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered.
Now, I have spent a long time in the feminist blogosphere. I have read my fellow Harpies, and Sady, and Kate Harding and Megan Carpentier and a hundred other ass-kicking, no-holds-barred women who don’t put up with any shit from dudes. I am not a shrinking wallflower on the internet, and in real life not terribly much of one either, though I do sometimes hear from people who read me on the internet first, and then met me, that I don’t seem to be what they expected. So you would expect that I handed my dude friend his ass on the phone, right? You would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for the witty smackdown, yes?