Home » Gender Equality » I Have Confidence! (I Think)

I Have Confidence! (I Think)

“I don’t want to drive late at night in this storm,” she states. “I’ll wait until morning when it clears up.”

“I’ll drive. It’s no problem,” he says.

So what just happened here? Was she lacking in confidence? Or does he have a little too much?

People who study gendered behavior report that in situations often considered “masculine” (like driving at night through a storm, for instance) women tend to feel less confident, men more confident.

When I first heard of this tendency, I quickly decided that women need to work on this. After all, if we were more self-assured, we might take on more challenges without the hesitancy that undermines our efforts.

Then it occurred to me that maybe it isn’t that women have too little confidence; maybe men have too much. Outside of an emergency situation, maybe no one needs to drive through a storm at night. Maybe she is being appropriately cautious in waiting and he’s being foolhardy taking risks that aren’t necessary.

Why are we quick to assume (okay, I was quick to assume) that when research points to differences in the way men and women do things, that women are the ones in error?  Should the goal be to align the behavior of us women to the standard set by men? Wouldn’t it make more sense to gauge the appropriateness of a behavior on the likely outcome of the action rather than by whether it’s the “male” or “female” way of doing things?

Being aware of this tendency, I am trying to change things in my own corner of the world. When I discuss gender differences in my classes, I want to present them as just that – differences. I hope I communicate that sometimes men get it right, sometimes women get it right. Sometimes we both get it right (or wrong) in different ways.

Meanwhile, I’d like to know your experience. Have any of you, males or females, had the other gender held up to you as a standard to which you need to get in line? How have you dealt with this?

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20 Comments

  1. EMSoliDeoGloria
    Comment #97053 posted November 19, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Exactly!

    Maybe no one is right – or wrong. Maybe driving through the storm can be a strength when it means getting your family somewhere important or a weakness if it involves dangerous or foolhardy behavior.

    And if you are the man or woman who deviates from your gender norm (i.e. most other women would prefer not to drive through the storm but you are confident doing so or most other men would be comfortable driving through the storm but you’d rather not), you are not wrong for being in a different portion of the bell curve either!

  2. Comment #97055 posted November 19, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I suspect this thought process is a remnant of the patriarchal view that women are in most things less competent than men. Everyone is less competent than others in some things and more competent than others in some things. We need to get back to the Biblical thinking of old, and ask God how to proceed when in doubt. There should be less thinking about pitting one against another to decide who is better. God created humankind as male and female; equal but different. Together we utilize our human potential for the betterment of all, including whether or not to drive on a stormy night.

  3. Liz Liz
    Comment #97056 posted November 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    My experience has usually been that in most areas women are perceived to be weaker, more changeable, unreliable, too sensitive etc etc. The temptation is to prove yourself better than expected rather than just being yourself. I’m thinking that when gender lines are drawn in so many areas it takes a strong person to know who you are and be content with that.

    I’m particularly disappointed when I see Christian women and men trying to fit what they are expected to be rather than walking with God and thanking him for his making them as they are.
    Of course we can all improve in areas and need to know whether we are just lazy or untrusting when we don’t want to do something.

    As far as driving in dangerous conditions…….I don’t like driving much anywhere, anytime so am grateful for a husband who is capable and enjoys driving. I know that if there was an emergency and I had to drive that I would be fine as I trusted God to give me the ability at that time.

    This reminds me of a couple at our church some years back where the wife always drove and the guy preferred to cycle to work. Would you believe some of the church people reckoned it was wrong for the wife to drive them places as he wasn’t being ‘the man’ and taking charge ?

  4. Comment #97057 posted November 19, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Blech on the “taking charge” paradigm. I had enough of people taking charge of my life as a teenager. Ever since God showed me that my life was to be shared and not ordered by someone else, I can never figure the appeal of women wanting men to “take charge” of their lives.

    • Liz Liz
      Comment #97058 posted November 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Some women enjoy the lack of responsibility and someone to blame. I’m not saying all women who believe the man should be in charge think like this, but some do.

      • Amanda Beattie
        Comment #97059 posted November 20, 2012 at 5:15 am

        This is very true. There are certain perks to being a shrinking violet that can make it very tempting to opt out of courage and maturity.

        • Red
          Comment #97115 posted November 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm

          Agreed. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard pastors “comfort” women who don’t like unilateral submission by saying, “Oh, but don’t worry–that means you aren’t responsible for things, and you get to ‘duck’ when God gets ready to smack your husband upside the head.”

          It’s a feeling of security. It makes some women feel like they never have to face the scary things in life. But the truth is, we all have to face them (ask any woman who’s been an adult for at least 5 years), and we can either face them prepared and confident, or not.

  5. Amanda Beattie
    Comment #97060 posted November 20, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I guess I’ve never thought of it with this particular issue, but I’ve noticed for a long time that male and female stereotypes tend to be slanted in positive or negative ways, with women usually looking worse by comparison.

    For instance, a classic female stereotype would be that women talk a lot (too much), are (over)emotional about processing things, and are (over)sensitive. The male stereotypical counterpart to this is that men don’t talk much, are pragmatic about processing things, and have a thick skin.

    Yet–even if we were to assume these as true (and I don’t believe they are)–instead of taking these as a way to understand the other gender, here’s what seems to happen: the feminine stereotypes are things that women need to strive to avoid, while the masculine stereotypes are things that men just can’t help. Women are told that, because of these “hard-wired” differences, they need to try to make sure they don’t drown their husband in words, vent to him about something he can’t fix, or take it personally when he fails to connect with their emotional needs.

    The stereotypes tend to result in men being able to dismiss women (e.g., she’s just crying because she’s a girl, probably PMS), and women having the obligation to be okay with that and to leave men alone (e.g., he’s used up his “word tank” today; don’t expect him to have a conversation with you). Many women also end up dismissing their own needs/wants, and many men–even good, godly ones–miss the opportunities to grow in love and understanding towards the women in their life.

    If we are to accept any of those stereotypes as true, I think it’s very fair to see that a slight twist of wording would change everything about them. Are women too cautious, or are men too incautious? Are women too susceptible to their emotions, or are men too calloused to theirs? Are women too dependently social, or are men too pridefully independent?

    OR, even better–perhaps we can admit that individuals have different strengths and weaknesses that may or may not be affected by their gender (nature OR nurture). We all need to grow in regard for each other, learning from each other, and seeking to understand each other better. It’s almost like God made us a Body for a reason or something. ;)

    • Michelle
      Comment #97108 posted November 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      Oh, SNAP, Amanda! Wow. Thank you! Why had that not occurred to me?

      We should make sure we’re not being “too emotional” and a burden or overwhelming in that way while also making sure we dress modestly so as not to cause a man to stumble, since of course in the presence of a woman he finds attractive he “just can’t help himself” from lusting after her if she is wearing the wrong clothing.

    • EMSoliDeoGloria
      Comment #97129 posted November 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      Excellent observation, Amanda!

  6. Liz Trevor
    Comment #97068 posted November 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Amanda that is an excellent comment. As a male I particularly resonate with a number of points, especially the one where you say that if a woman is too wordy or emotional she is expected to tone down and avoid that behaviour. On the other hand, if a male is non-communicative that’s OK because it’s a male thing. The most difficult issue I find about that is that God gets the blame. It is assumed, by stereotyping and pop psychology that men and women are thus and thus and that is how it forever shall be. Not true. You are so right in pointing the finger at nurture rather than nature.

    Most of these gender behaviours are expected, cultivated and learned. It should not be so for followers of Jesus. All of the “one anothers” of Scripture (for eg. Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.) are not prefaced in pink and blue. Males are not meant to ‘get off the hook’ because that’s how men are hard wired. Men can, and should change if they truly want to be followers of Jesus and not followers of culture. That is why the CBE message and ministry is so important. We are attempting to address this gross inequality and help people to think and behave differently rather than accept the status quo thus avoiding dynamic spiritual growth and accountability across gender lines.

  7. Colleen V.
    Comment #97071 posted November 21, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    For far too long, men have been viewed as the standard by which all else is measured. Women have been seen as “The Other.” Where there is a discrepancy, all too often, the faulty one is “The Other.”
    You have introduced an excellent point, and I plan to ponder it some more.

  8. Dave Shephared
    Comment #97078 posted November 22, 2012 at 8:32 am

    LOL – a few years ago we were driving through the mountains – West VA turnpike – very curvy dangerous road in the best of weather conditions. It began to snow heavily and there was no place close by to stop for the night. I became so frazzled trying to drive that I pulled over and Deb took over. She got us safely to a hotel in Beckley, I think. Anyway – I was more than happy for her to take the wheel.

  9. Meggie
    Comment #97109 posted November 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I don’t want to depict either sex as “the one to blame,” but I’ve been thinking about this too. I’ve been chatting with my brother recently, and he shared with me how much he used to drink (and still does) and “how lucky he was” not to get killed in a car crash when he was driving blind drunk. I think he thought this reckless dangerous behavior was “kind of cute”, and I was surprised at the hint of narcissism in his thinking. He felt *he* was lucky to survive, but he didn’t spare a thought for his potential victims. He told me he had wrecked two cars due to drunk driving, but neither he nor anyone else was hurt. Both were one car accidents — where he drove off the road and into a rock or a tree. I can see very clearly how the different way we were parented inclined him toward this sort of reckless behavior. He was taught to believe he was invincible and entitled and that drinking was sort of glamourous. As a girl, I was taught to believe my life was supposed to be about enabling men, boosting their egos, and never undermining their “masculinity.” Today, I am constantly surprised by how ethical men seem. Where and when I grew up, men seemed dominated by their own needs and were often reckless, even dangerous. My situation was extreme, even within my culture, but I sometimes wonder if some men tend to be a bit anti-social and reckless (sorry — I hope I’m not offending any men!).

    • Susan Howell
      Comment #97124 posted November 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      Meggie, It is true that men are more at risk for problems that go along with over-confidence (e.g., reckless driving — look who pays higher insurance premiums) while women are more at risk for problems that stem from lower confidence (e.g., most anxiety disorders are more prevalent among women). This isn’t a criticism of either gender, just a fact which can likely be attributed to different ways that males and females are socialized.

      • Liz Liz
        Comment #97125 posted November 26, 2012 at 4:42 pm

        Susan, it is so encouraging to think of your changing a mindset, little by little, every day. May many people be changed for the better by listening and considering what you say about gender and culture.

  10. Don Johnson
    Comment #97111 posted November 24, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I was once driving in a snowfall with my family after T-day back to NY from states away. The snow kept falling, but I got behind a big tractor trailer truck and he kept plowing thru so I could follow. I needed to be to work the next day. My wife kept asking me to pull over, get a room and restart the next day, but I blew off her suggestion a few times. Finally, I decided to “give up” and pulled off, we got a room in a motel and ate a nice dinner. I called work and left a message that I was stuck in the unseasonal snowstorm in PA and would show up the following day. The next day as we got back on the expressway, what do we see but a big tractor trailer rig ON ITS SIDE STILL SMOKING from a fire. I was glad I had finally listened to the voice of reason my wife was saying.

    • Liz Liz
      Comment #97126 posted November 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      Amazing story Don. Things could have turned out quite differently if you had stubbornly kept on going.
      We all need other opinions and suggestions as we move through life and how good it is when we’re not threatened by others and have to have our own way all the time.
      This is one of the blessings of being a child of God – that we can be secure and feel loved and accepted so able to cope when people don’t agree with us or challenge us.

      • Don
        Comment #97127 posted November 27, 2012 at 6:51 am

        P.S. This was before I became an egal or even knew of such a concept. I was at that time operating under the “benign final decider” paradigm because that is what I had been taught by all those I respected and the Bible SEEMED to back them up, at the time I thought it was OBVIOUS that the Bible backed them up. So I kept using my supposed “trump card” to keep going (esp. because I was literally in the driver’s seat) but then accepted that the elements had gotten the best of me and I had to accept “defeat”. It was only the next day when I saw the overturned big rig that I realized I have actually chosen “safety” for my family, like all the others in my family had been requesting for a while already the night before. God was gracious to me and my stupidity.

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