To be fair, I think both men and women can be unbelievably arrogant. I think being unbelievably arrogant is not just a male trait. But I do think women are forced to hide it better, earlier.
Because if a woman said that “yeah, Citizen Kane is a pretty good movie” ten men in the room would immediately jump on “how she was an idiot.” They’d joke about it. They wouldn’t like, just vivisect her, but it would be said.
Women don’t do that to men, as a rule. It’s kind of mean. Or we’re told it’s kind of mean. And I do think there’s an element of men being trained to let their opinions be heard. That’s seen as an admirable thing, not a mean thing. It goes back to the old saying that “when a man is an asshole, he gets a promotion, when a woman politely requests a promotion, she’s a bitch.” A man will not suffer socially for telling people they’re idiots in the way a woman could. It will just be seen, as often as not, as men being men and joking around.
It is certainly more polite – and it will certainly make people think you are nicer – if you sit back, as the woman in the Salon piece did, and not say very much. But! BUT! We can’t really keep sitting back and letting people explain things. Because the things people are explaining right now are that your uterus has magical powers. This is not the time to sit back politely and let arrogant dolts say whatever they want to say and then laugh about it in private with your friends.
Honestly, I think your only recourse is to become funny. There are certainly men who live in a bubble of arrogance so deep that women’s voices and opinions can register only as a gentle buzzing outside. Humor is a very pointy sword when it comes to puncturing that bubble. Good jokes are heard by people of both genders.
I mean, Margaret Atwood did once say that that “men are afraid women will laugh at them, women are afraid men will kill them.” But if you take out the terribly inequitable nature of responses, there, making people laugh is the strongest response you can have.
And weirdly, it still registers as charming more often than “just being a bitch.” Everyone likes to think of themselves as someone who can take a joke. If you make a joke that illustrates how ridiculous the situation is, or even a joke about them (provided it’s really funny) then they will look ridiculous. And it will not happen again.
Maybe the answer is to stop telling women to be polite, or, conversely, to shout loudly because “being shouty is all we have” but to tell women that we all need to become stand-up comedians. All of us. We need to be able to deliver jokes to diffuse these situations. We need to be able to come up with responses so witty and pointed that people cannot help hearing them. Men have been doing this for ages, but then, people have been doing this for ages. Dorothy Parker did it. Phyllis Diller did it. It’s being done all the time.
And that is why it is worth cultivating a sense of humor, even if men don’t care whether or not you’re funny.
And don’t worry. Your uterus has ways of making this happen. Until it does, stealing a few lines from Dorothy Parker isn’t a bad start.