"Are you saying you need to have a penis to have authority?" she asked. "Well, it helps," he deadpanned.
That exchange was part of a conversation Naomi Wolf had with Harvard professor and author Harvey Mansfield on C-Span's Book TV. The link is to the podcast for the program, After Words, -- this particular interview should be available as a podcast on 3/27.
A lot of oxygen is being sucked up on Mansfield's (not his real name)book, "Manliness" It was reviewed in the Sunday NY TIMES in which the blog Pink Is The New Black calls "The bitchiest book review ever". His favorite excerpt from the review:
"After a section on the history of "the great explosion of manliness that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries"(an image that gives even me, a straight man, erotic chills), it's time for Mansfield to stop preheating the oven and cook up the geese he's already got trussed and cleaned: the feminists. Remember the feminists? These would be the late Betty Friedan and the even later Simone de Beauvoir..."
Mansfield was interviewed in The New York Times Magazine by Deborah Solomon and opinions about his book are available in lots of blogs.
According to Tecnorati, as of this morning more than 500 blogs are either praising or scorning Mansfield's book.
Now, back to that comment about authority and penises. It came near the end of the hour when the conversation sidetracked to women and men at work.
Mansfield was saying a Manly Man looks down distainfully at women. He added, " I think they will chafe under a woman boss. Women don't inspire the same sense of authority"
Mansfield tried to explain his point that while women can act authoritatively, manly men don't see them as having authority for the simple reason they are not men. If I'm getting his point it doesn't matter how competent, capable and hard working we are. Manly Men will never accept women in an authoritative role unless they are manly women (he mentioned Margaret Thatcher.)
Confused? it has to do with his definition of manly, which he says,
My quick definition is confidence in a situation of risk. A manly man has to know what he is doing.
Returning to the conversation with Wolf, Throughout the hour, Wolf attempted to refute every single point that Mansfield made. Yet, on this one, she struggled and seemed to support his point by saying,
Women sense that men have contempt for us and think we are not as important. Women will comment that they try to make a contribution in a meeting and are ignored but when a man says the exact same thing, he's recognized (not the exact quote --I was typing as I was watching the program)
The exchange stopped me in my tracks. Probably because it spoke a truth to me that I wish wasn't true. I see it. I experience. For many years I simply wished men would grow up and get over it.
They may respect me for my talent, but what they are really thinking is "you aren't really the boss of me."
If Mansfield is correct ( and there is a nagging part of me that believes on this he is) then despite everything we do, women can knock our heads against the wall for as long as we want...but it won't change the fundamental barrier to success in a traditional corporate environment--men would prefer we bring them coffee then lead them.
There is a lesson in Mansfield's book. Many of us have found that trying to play in their sandbox is an excruciating experience. Because no matter how hard we work, how smart we are, how competent we are,they really don't want us there.(And there is a part of us that has realized this for a long time)
That's why there are more women starting their own businesses then men and that's why a little more than a year ago a group of women bloggers were frustrated that the men weren't recognizing and including the contribution of women bloggers. It was maddening. What was their problem?
Their problem created our opportunity--Blogher.
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