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Friday, 26 January 2018

Self-Doubt, Imposter Syndrome and Hegemonic Masculinity

A couple of weeks ago, the normally so impeccable Hadley Freeman, writing about self-doubt in her Guardian column, said:

 “I have yet to meet a man who has worried he’s not good enough for a job he’s been offered, whereas I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t.”

Well, I don’t know what circles she moves in but that is simply wrong, as many of the responses to the online article make clear. Imposter syndrome is not just a female thing.

She finds it impossible to imagine a woman who, like certain men she amusingly identifies, is “perennially mediocre, untouchably arrogant, and eternally gifted by opportunity and protection by the establishment”. You only have to look at some of the women in high political office to see the error in this.

As regards men who worry they are not up to jobs they have been offered, there are lots, myself included. When I got good grades at ‘A’ Levels the second time round in my mid-twenties, and then a good degree, I felt that almost anyone could do it, and still do. When that led to jobs in universities, it felt like unmerited good fortune. When I got research papers into academic journals, I wondered why no one had seen the gaping holes they contained.

This is of course both blowing and sucking my own trumpet at the same time, but I just want to say that even for those who invented the concept*, hegemonic masculinity was never assumed to be universal.

* Connell and Messerschmidt.
The cartoon is from startupbros.com - click to link to its source.
Here is another relevant article from The Guardian.

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