“Arrogance” is when men lie and women tell the truth.

In A Rant About Women, Clay Shirky’s example of male arrogance is a man who lies about his exceptional abilities, and his example of female arrogance is a woman who tells the truth about her exceptional abilities. Shirky complains that not enough women behave like “arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks”.

Although speaking up is necessary for integrating information, commenter Matt King reveals Shirky’s (and society’s) double standard for men and women in what is considered “arrogant”:

I wanted to follow up with a similar observation: of your three examples of “arrogance” (your male student, you, and your female student), it seems worth noting that the two male examples were also “lying.” You and your male student overstated your abilities while your female student summed up her (excellent) abilities quite fairly.

When a man tells the truth about his exceptional abilities, he is not perceived as arrogant, but as a man with exceptional abilities. When a woman tells the truth about her exceptional abilities, she is perceived as arrogant and self-aggrandizing (as well as a bitch).

Opinions at Hacker News generally converge on the explanation that most women do not self-aggrandize because our female brains are not hard-wired to do so, but the demonstrated social double standard is sufficient to explain the discrepancy. Evolutionary psychology arguments are unnecessary when society punishes women more than men for self-aggrandizement. When a man accurately states his abilities, people view him more positively (more competent). When a woman accurately states her abilities, people view her more negatively (more arrogant).

I advocate women being “bitches” in male-dominated environments or fields where women are assumed to be incompetent until proven otherwise. However, culture, not speculation about women’s brains, explains why women are less likely to self-promote in male-dominated fields.


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8 Responses to ““Arrogance” is when men lie and women tell the truth.”

  1. adnan. Says:

    This was an interesting response to Shriky’s post:http://www.plasticbag.org/archives/2010/01/should_we_encourage_s/

    thoughts?

  2. Restructure! Says:

    I think the real issue is this: How do we recognize real talent, accomplishment, skills and ambition fairly?

    This is a hard problem, because we would have to re-organize society into a true meritocracy first before we can evaluate “real talent”, or we would have to somehow recognize “real talent” in a non-meritocracy, which is impossible or undoable.

  3. Robert Wiblin Says:

    “culture, not speculation about women’s brains, explains why women are less likely to self-promote in male-dominated fields.”

    Both do explain – and until we do some more experiments it’s hard to know how much weight to assign to each one.

  4. urbia Says:

    I’ll add that oftentimes, even when a man lies about his exceptional abilities, he is believed (due to male privilege). And even when a woman states the truth about her exceptional abilities, it is sometimes not believed.

  5. Restructure! Says:

    Robert Wiblin,

    Both do explain – and until we do some more experiments it’s hard to know how much weight to assign to each one.

    There is evidence for double standards in culture, but evolutionary psychology speculation is just speculation.

    When you keep insisting that biology is as much as an explanation without any proof, it’s like someone insisting that homeopathy equally explains people’s health, but that we just need to do more experiments to show that homeopathy is true all along.

  6. Robert Wiblin Says:

    Homeopathy has been shown to not work in theory or practice while this gender difference in social instincts has not been shown to be wrong. In fact, we might have good theoretical reasons to expect there to be a difference – maybe you disagree, but I study animal evolution, and it is common to see gender differences in behaviour in other species, and humans as well.

    I agree that until we have some test showing that instincts are the reason rather than incentives, the fact that we have a demonstrated incentive is good reason to weight that explanation more highly than we otherwise would.

  7. urbia Says:

    I also find that even when a male blatantly lies about something, people will tip-toe around the lie in the interest of preserving his ‘ego.’

    However, a female individual telling the truth about her accomplishments has an ‘ego’ that must be shunned, or worse, actively pared down. Of course, you can’t really grind down an ‘ego’ based on true accomplishments without somehow detracting from her achievements. So it’s actually a form of active sabotage.

    I recently came across ‘Code of Our Own’ here http://www.slideshare.net/lizhenry/code-of-our-own

    … and it reminded me of this. (It points out that ‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing’ is also applicable to code in the IT industry.)

  8. Rock Star Programmer: The Charlie Sheen Guide To Passing a Job Interview « Restructure! Says:

    […] tend to over-estimate their abilities and self-promote more than women when it comes to math and coding ability. Instead of hiring programmers who act like Charlie Sheen, recruiters and interviewers should take […]


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