I know, you might already know this, but Victoria Pynchon at Forbes is still trying to figure out which came first, gender oppression or internalized reactions to gender oppression.
Which came first – discrimination against women in pay and power or women’s own failure to negotiate the pay and power we deserve? If you ask this question of most business women today, they’ll say discrimination came first.
But if they’ve been paying attention to press coverage about the social science on women and negotiation, they’re likely to blame themselves for failing to achieve as much as their male counterparts.
I’m afraid to negotiate, they’ll say. And when I donegotiate, I’m more likely to get blowback than a raise. What I’m supposed to do is negotiate nicely, to be relentlessly pleasant, to use we and not melanguage so that I’m not crossing gender boundaries.
And Pynchon is fed up with what George Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” What Pynchon is indirectly suggesting is the core argument in conservative attacks on affirmative action and any other form of state sanctioned support of historically disenfranchised communities–that if they just tried harder they would succeed.
The problem with this position is that it ignores the very core of what causes oppression–that it is not about whether you work hard or not but that the person you were born and where you fit into the world determines what you have access to–broadly. Sure, there is something to be said for hard work, asserting yourself and pushing yourself, but statistically, women, have to push much harder than men and it is that deficit that is at the core of sexism on a structural level.
If women are not negotiating in the world of business as aggressively as they could on behalf of themselves it is most likely because they are called a bitch when they do and/or they have internalized the belief that they are not able to. That is not a personal failing but a response to a culture of sexism. So, we can just bury the hatchet with this one: sexism is a product gender discrimination and power together, they survive off each other and without dismantling one, we can’t dismantle the other.