Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A few years ago a picture in the Times’ fashion section caused a stir among my coven of friends. It was a picture of four women in their late twenties. As I remember the caption identified them as an attorney, an executive of a Wall Street firm, a publishing executive and the owner of a PR agency. But in this photo four obviously successful women appeared to be four vacuous airheads. Why? It may have had something to do with the spaghetti strapped, micro minis and the strappy sandals.

I had borrowed Amy’s car, I had an appointment and I was late. I knew I was going too fast, the officer said I was going ninety in a fifty-five. When I saw the blue lights in the mirror I knew I was in trouble. I pulled over and watched in the mirror as the officer got out of his car. He was older nearly my Dad’s age and then I knew what to do.

By the time he reached the door I’d worked up a full face of tears. “Please don’t give me a ticket my Dad will kill me,” I bawled. It worked well enough the ninety became seventy-four which meant that I’d no longer be charged with reckless driving. Later I told the story to friends; the question was how did I get the speed reduced? “Easy” I said, “I played the girl card.”

In a recent post Elle related how she “…felt I had the pretty girl license to ask one of those slightly naive questions that I'd never ask in a more professional setting…” because of what she was wearing.

Then last week I read an article on Maureen Dowd (who I admit that I admire) and her new book. This quote describing how she interacts with powerful men caught my eye '…'the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph, dewy eyes and a full knowledge of music, drawing, elegant note writing and geography."

Sounds just like a whore I thought and then I began to think about how I’m relating to men in a business situation and realized that I… Well anyway I resolved to modify my behavior and carry on as, one of the boys. I tried it today it was a disaster. Through the whole meeting I felt flustered and incompetent.

Upon returning home I emailed two women business owners I’ve become friendly with. One an American who has lived in Paris for a number of years and the second a life long Parisian. The Parisian replied first, “Remember you are in France, men would be disappointed if you acted in any other way.” To which our American friend replied; “Yes, but if you return to America you will need to adopt new behaviors.”

Kim

2 Comments:

Anonymous j said...

In America, the successful woman business style is essentially masculine, which is more aggressive and depends on projecting an aura of confident assertion. My Euro and Asian experience is that male dominance issues tend to be like covert prejudice, an expectation of social order imposed often without thought. It's hard to step outside the boundaries of a covertly defined experience.

5:45 PM  
Blogger el Bow said...

Occupational psychology has identified a pattern whereby women respond better to women in business who behave with traditional masculine characteristics, and men in business respond best to women in business who display traditionally feminine traits.

I guess the best appropach is to be sensitive to your population and adapt.

7:23 PM  

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