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Ep. 15: Why Women are Anxious Overachievers & Men are Confidently Incompetent

Updated: Apr 10

Listen to this episode on Spotify here, or Apple Podcasts here. 


The key points in this "speaking":


The basic male/ female relation:

  • Of course, all categories (male, female, white, black, cis, trans, etc.) are imaginaries. No individual can be captured fully by a category, and many individuals lie outside these patterns.

  • Although we all know what patriarchy means, we tend to define male dominance solely in terms of political or economic power. In fact, there is a deeper dimension that undergirds the political, economic, and social.

  • The man is the neutral, the normal, the standard. The woman is the aberration, the abnormal, that which stands out. Man is the genderless gender, just as whiteness is the raceless race

  • Because the man is invisible, the woman is defined by her visibility, through contrast to the man: excessive inflections of the voice, exaggerated emotional states, etc. The privilege of the man is that he does not have to perform his gender so dramatically.

Does this gender relation rest on a more foundational structure?

  • I believe this male-female relation is a mirror of a more fundamental internal relation between the two sides of the self.

  • The self is both subject and object. You could call one side “the gaze,” the one who watches, that which accompanies all experiences without being exhausted by that experience. The other side consists of the entities, personality traits, or events that are being watched. Perhaps the neutral gaze is the narrator, inhabiting a kind of timeless god's eye view, and the self that can be seen is the protagonist. The earliest surveillance is this self-surveillance.

  • This internal relation is doubled and mirrored in external relations. The man is placed as the neutral, the eternal, the abstract, while the woman becomes the contingent and ever-fluxing.

  • Women are anxious because we are aware of our contingency, our nakedness beneath the constant gaze of society. We are anxious because our existence is continuously called into question.

  • This includes people of other marginalized identities as well, and can include men, often those who don't fit well into social norms. Other men can practice this as well, but they have to be willing to be called into question, their categories of gender, sexuality, and race made visible (precisely in order to see the fragility of each of these categories).

  • This awareness of contingency is the key to effective critique, which is why people of marginalized identities are often able to embody multiple viewpoints with greater ease.

  • Because abstraction requires temporal extension, the present moment is where categories go to die. In the now, the self as subject and the self as object folds back into itself, becoming self-identical.

  • But until this death of the dual self, we must learn to live lightly in our categories. Names matter only insofar as they matter to you.


Listener Insights: 


What are other examples of the neutral/ constructed distinction? How is your identity called into question?


If you want your insights to be shared (with your name or anonymously), comment on this blog post, email me, or answer the Spotify questions attached to the episode.

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Well, I suppose you wouldn’t normally consider comedian Russell Peters an essential reference for this post, but this short 10 minute segment on Arab men’s inability to say “I don’t know” is, I think, not only a comedic masterpiece, but a first class piece of psychological insight applying to not just Arab men (and maybe not just men either!)

Now I”ll admit, a LOT of the stuff in this video is pretty tasteless. But if you got o 15’10” - my goodness, one of the greatest and wisest comedic bits ever done (and to tell the truth, the last few minutes on his father’s car is pretty hysterical as well)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UPVn0UPbyw




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