Monthly Archives: March 2015

A Weird Paradox(y) Kind of Peter Pan Complex and/or Rhetoric

An interesting survey (Universum), if you like that kind of stuff, and if that’s not just an oxymoron anyway, tells us that undergraduate students most want to work for Google (1st) and Disney (2nd) out of a whole host of employers.[1] Does this speak to the infantilization that is sweeping through our current culture, where achieving child-like dependency seems de-rigeur, or is it just a natural reaction to the over-loading we receive as consumers, where we never really choose, but are constantly fed things (child-like dependency image here being of parent with spoon and baby with open mouth) such as fashion, tech, lifestyles(?), and anything else you’d like to insert?

Google’s work spaces/places are modelled like playgrounds for big people, where you can indulge yourself in playful activities, whilst being creative at the same time, allegedly.

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Disney’s work spaces/places, well, you probably don’t need me to picture that for you. What is it with attempting to tap into the ‘inner-child’ of adults, when the reverse seems to be the case when it comes to children, children who are bombarded more and more with images, rhetoric and the like designed to increase maturation and speed up the process of becoming an ‘individual’ who consumes?

It creates an interesting paradox, if you care to think about it. Grow up fast, get a job with Google and/or Disney, then spend your adult life trying to regress.

[1] The data from the 2015 Universum Student Survey was collected between September 2014 and January 2015. The following results are based on the responses of more than 81,000 undergraduate students. The ranking represent the employers most selected as Ideal by student respondents.


Jake Gyllenhaal #EnemyMovie

Being busy, and stuff, it’s usual that I don’t comment on films as they’re released. I tend to wait for them to come out on DVD or until I can stream them. The Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is one such film. It’s been sitting on a shelf for over a month and I finally got round to watching it, and have not been able to stop thinking about it since, which I’m taking as a good thing.

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Ever conscious not to include spoilers, this post is a reflection on a couple of aspects of the film that have pre-occupied my mind. The first is the spider motif that runs throughout the film, and that owes a huge nod to Louise Bourgeois’ Maman. There is a great discussion about the film, and about the film’s fixation with spiders, on the following Reddit subreddit: r/movies (but be aware, this has plenty of spoilers, so maybe go there after you’ve watched the film). Spiders have long been associated with the female form, think of Ariadne and also Arachne as two ancient examples of this, and this film appears to tap into the unconscious fears associated with spiders that many humans buy into, but most interesting is the way the film also challenges this view by presenting spiders as fearful and/or subject to human cruelty – and so we are talking metaphors here that require some unpacking, not literal stuff.

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The second aspect is more a concern with the film’s aesthetics. From the off, the panorama views let you know that you can only be watching a film filmed in Canada, but the quality of the film, the filters, the camera angles (combined with the eerie soundtrack), and the angsty, not-in-too-much-of-a-hurry-to-move-the-plot-along-or-explain-everything-for-the-viewer feel of the film speaks very heavily of its European influence, and thank goodness for it. The film is challenging, slow in its pace, and offers more questions than answers, but it does make you think – and that’s a good thing, right?


Sleaziness / @NoMorePage3 / @TheSunNewspaper / @RitaOra

At a recent conference at Durham University (50 Years of Sexism: What Next?) Lucy Ann Holmes (@LucyAnnHolmes) gave a great talk on the things that led her to start the No More Page 3 campaign (@NoMorePage3), a campaign aimed, primarily, at The Sun (@TheSunNewspaper). A fairly broad question seemed to sum up Lucy Ann Holmes’ efforts: Why, at this stage in the 21st Century, are images of semi-naked women still prevalent in what is meant to be a medium of news – a national newspaper?

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This seems to be a reasonable question to ask, and the paper eventually caved in to public pressure and dropped the daily exhibition of semi-naked (topless) women. However, there are ways of getting around this, as we’ll see when we consider Tactic #2 – sleaziness.

Sleaziness in this case comes in the form of photographing a clothed Rita Ora (@RitaOra), whilst making a point of alerting the reader/viewer to the fact that you can just about see her nipples underneath her clothing. This is not a semi-naked (topless) picture of Rita Ora, but the obsession with what’s underneath her clothes speaks to the same thing.

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At best, a banal piece of ‘journalism’ – at worst, sleazy and just plain unnecessary.

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Complicity / @NoMorePage3 / @TheSunNewspaper / @KimKardashian

At a recent conference at Durham University (50 Years of Sexism: What Next?) Lucy Ann Holmes (@LucyAnnHolmes) gave a great talk on the things that led her to start the No More Page 3 campaign (@NoMorePage3), a campaign aimed, primarily, at The Sun (@TheSunNewspaper). A fairly broad question seemed to sum up Lucy Ann Holmes’ efforts: Why, at this stage in the 21st Century, are images of semi-naked women still prevalent in what is meant to be a medium of news – a national newspaper?

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This seems to be a reasonable question to ask, and the paper eventually caved in to public pressure and dropped the daily exhibition of semi-naked (topless) women. However, there are ways of getting around this, as we’ll see when we consider Tactic #1 – complicity.

Complicity in this case comes in the form of those women who are more than willing to provide The Sun with selfies in response to The Sun‘s latest ‘campaign,’ Cleavage Week (I kid you not), where said women, in the hope of winning £1000, will provide, for publication purposes, images of their best cleavage shot. Just for clarification, Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) does not appear to have sent her photo to The Sun‘s Cleavage Week campaign, but all the others pictured have.

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I wonder if the women providing The Sun with such selfies are aware of the derivations of the word ‘cleave,’ and how this may relate to @LucyAnnHolmes and her efforts to end the nonsensical, but continuing, exploitation of women via their bodies. In one sense, to cleave is to split or sever something. In another sense, to cleave is to adhere strongly to.


Hillary Clinton @HillaryClinton post #2

Hillary Clinton versus the GOP – some pre-pre-nomination (pre-pre because she hasn’t yet officially said that she will run for the Democrat nomination) thoughts on what this might look like. And although this is a tad premature, there are some interesting noises across the Internet that suggest that she will run (if that stands as any kind of metaphor-type-thing).

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There are the supporters: Ready for Hillary #READY

And there are the detractors: Karl Rove #JUSTPLAINNASTY (changed from #NASTY because of the dodgy things that hash tag throws up (but beware, because this one might be just as dodgy – but we have to have a hash tag here, so…))

A fascinating question to consider is that at this stage, is there anything that the GOP can do (apart from accusing Hillary of being brain-damaged) to halt a nominated Hillary Rodham Clinton (if such a thing occurs)? From this side of the Atlantic, any GOP contenders seem lightweight and/or ineffective – this stands in contrast with the upcoming election in the UK where ALL the candidates are lightweight AND ineffective, sadly.


Hillary Clinton @HillaryClinton

Hillary Clinton: The Power of Women. Aired by the BBC on March 25th 2015 with the following question: Twenty years on from Hillary Clinton’s ground-breaking speech, has anything really changed? Now, I don’t remember the speech, and watching the programme was the first time of hearing it. Apparently, it was censored in China, where the conference she spoke at was held, at the time it went out.

19th International AIDS Conference Convenes In Washington

One of Clinton’s tag lines that really stands out from the speech is, ‘Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.’ There are also lots of stats thrown around to indicate this or that, but the one that made the biggest impression was a statistic about the annual turnover of the sex traffic industry being greater than that of McDonalds, Apple, and Google combined.

If that is true, it is worth taking a moment to consider the above question.


Cinderella #cinderella

After trying (unsuccessfully) to read an article in The New York Times titled something like, ‘How Women are Taking Over the Movies,’ I’m reminded of the distinctions that occur on a daily basis w/r/t gender issues. Forgive the haziness of the title because I was trying to read the article over the shoulder of a fellow passenger on the flight from Austin, TX, to Atlanta, GA, and rather impolitely the guy wouldn’t hold the paper still long enough for me to get a good look at it.

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Anyway, the picture used by The NY Times to accompany the article, and to signify this new domination by women in Hollywood was the one for Disney’s 2015 remake of Cinderella. The movie has taken big bucks in its opening weekend, apparently, and I’m sitting thinking: at what point will the general public recognise the way that from a very young age boys and girls are driven into ‘liking’ certain ‘gender appropriate’ things? There’s not much choice here.

I mean, Cinderella, and the merchandise spin-offs are fuelling the line that all little girls want to be princesses – in much the same way as they’ve been doing for a good number of decades. And in the last couple of days I’ve been witness to this tired old system of classifying kids and adults: Dick’s Sporting Goods sells certain gear to and for women, and sells certain stuff to and for men (and never the twain shall meet); The Book People sell books in sections that are either ‘clearly for girls’ or ‘clearly for boys’ – there’s no ambiguity about it.

It just strikes me as dull, that’s all.


The End Of… another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Fourteen)

Austin Bergstrom Airport – Atlanta – Manchester. The end of this year’s musings. Thanks to all those who have commented, liked, and engaged with the series.


#rodeoaustin – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Thirteen Entry Two)

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And then there’s the part of me that just can’t leave it at face value and has to go and add something that needn’t be added. As a person who lives on a plant-based diet, and who sees the wilful disregard and/or exploitation and/or consumption of animals as being a ‘fault’ of many a human being, there’s a strange feeling associated with going to the rodeo and enjoying the spectacle of it, whilst wondering just how much does that steer like having it’s neck and legs roped before being pinned to the ground, or does the bull/horse/sheep like having people strapped to its back. I just kept thinking: what would PETA make of all this?


#rodeoaustin – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Thirteen)

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The rodeo. What a very alien thing to see when you’re from the UK. In equal measure it is also quite exciting, and done in a way that I imagine can only be done by Americans. I’m led to believe that the cowboys we all think we know from TV and movies are largely a fallacy (but happy to be corrected by those in the know). What I saw today was an exhibition of great skill, and the thing that stood out in my mind was a comment from the announcer that the Austin Rodeo is a not-for-profit organization, with great emphasis on education and creating opportunities for youngsters. The whole event seemed to be populated by people who were doing what they were doing just because they love it, and that’s quite a nice thing to see.


Veronica Roth’s #insurgent – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Twelve)

So, I went along to the iPic at The Domain, Austin, to watch Insurgent. It really is a very good film and there won’t be any spoilers here because it’s just come out and that wouldn’t be fair.

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The comment I have here is about the hope that is apparent in the film, and apparent in quite a few examples of popular culture right now (no time to mention them as it’s late and I’m kind of tired). The hope stems from an idea that we (as a human species) have amongst us a certain number of individuals who are able to transcend the kind of thought that has for centuries immersed us in fighting, killing, and squandering the gift of life. It’s a refreshing change to hear such rhetoric, and perhaps it marks a stage of our lives where such change can be actualized. If nothing else, it’s an interesting concept.


Meeting People – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eleven)

As someone who feels like they’re regressing (socially) as they age, or feels like they’re allowing regression to take place where they’d have previously fought it, it’s interesting to feel the positive effects that arise simply from sharing an experience with an ‘other.’ This has happened in quick succession over the last two to three days, and is a surprising aspect of my life.

It’s easy to become insular, when most of my time is spent reading, thinking, and then writing about what I’ve been reading and thinking about. So to be forced into certain social situations where I have to communicate with others is both scary and rewarding.

The examples I have to offer are those where I meet people with whom I have no real obvious connection and/or interests in common (different age, social standing, goals in life, etc.), but whom I instantly feel an affiliation to. Where does that come from, I wonder? I meet lots of people but rarely feel moved, and then in the space of a few short days I feel a stirring in my emotions that just doesn’t usually occur. For instance, today I go to lunch at a stranger’s house, and feel welcome – connected. I wasn’t expecting that. It snuck up on me.

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And then there are the occasions where it’s a connection across technological platforms. Virtual connections, e-connections, cyber-connections, or whatever you’d like to insert instead of these. Is the ability to connect with another human being greater than the restrictions imposed by various degrees of separation? It would appear so today as I write this.


#writing @EllevateNtwk #austin – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Ten)

Today’s post is slightly different. I’m taking a break from research of the David Foster Wallace archive to co-host a ‘Book Writing Workshop’ with my sister, Liz. The workshop is aimed at people who want to write non-fiction books, whether it be personal or business related.

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My sister is excellent at this sort of thing and is hugely experienced, and I’m hoping that all who attended felt that they got what they came for, or even got something they hadn’t quite expected. Aside from the day’s perceived success, the thing that stood out for me was the connectedness of the attendees, who all happened to be women. Part of this connectedness seems to stem from their affiliation with the Ellevate Network, Austin (@EllevateNtwk #austin). From what I saw, and heard, I’d urge all professional women to check out this network as the skills and knowledge these women possessed was astounding; in fact, more than astounding, because they actually want to share their experiences for the betterment of others.

So, a huge thank you (and hats off) to the attendees: Darlene, Margie, Sherry, Anita, Leslie, Amy, and Ramona.


#Semicolons – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Nine Entry Two)

I’ve known for quite some time now that my use of semicolons is flawed, at best. So, whilst at the Harry Ransom Center, I’m fortunate to be able to read Sally F. Wallace’s Practically Painless English. I am determined to go forth and use semicolons in the manner in which they are intended.

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Semicolons are nothing to be afraid of; in fact, they are most useful.

See?


Life After Television @aaronsw #citizenfour – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Nine)

I’ve been wanting to read, or at least take a look at George Gilder’s book, Life After Television, for a while now. The reason being its inclusion in ‘E Unibus Pluram,’ DFW’s now infamous essay on television and U.S. fiction. LAT is a strange book, part proclamation on future technologies and part advertisement for Fed-Ex (and part anti-Japan rhetoric, oddly), with lots of pictures of Fed-Ex drivers, amongst other stuff, delivering packages in romanticised locations; my favourite being a shot of a Fed-Ex van crossing a bridge in Bruges at 9:23am, taken with the sort of filter that leaves the picture looking like it’s been steeped in milky coffee to give it a warm glow.

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Anyhoo, my comment here comes from Gilder’s assertion on p.31 that [Sic]:

The force of microelectronics will blow apart all the monopolies, hierarchies, pyramids, and power grids of established industrial society. It will undermine all totalitarian regimes. Police states cannot endure under the advance of the computer because it increases the powers of the people far faster than the powers of surveillance. All hierarchies will tend to become “heterarchies” – systems in which each individual rules his own domain. In contrast to a hierarchy ruled from the top, a heterarchy is a society of equals under the law.

 

To wit, DFW leaves a comment in the margins: “And how will law be enforced, you smug prick?” (that made me giggle a bit).

It does make you wonder if the future democracies that seem to have been promised as a by-product of the advent of technological advancement have floundered somewhat. Do we feel that our powers are greater than that of the surveillance society? Do we see an end to totalitarian regimes? Two recent documentaries speak to these questions, but I’m afraid the answers they provide are not all that optimistic.

The first, The Internet’s Own Boy, tells of Aaron Swartz’s (@aaronsw) story. It is almost too sad a tale to be true, but unfortunately it is true, and a young, gifted individual now lies dead while those people who did little to avoid his death, and did much to accelerate it, go about their lives with hardly a care, it would seem.

The second, Citizen Four (#citizenfour), is almost too dark to be true. Whether what Edward Snowden says about the information he has in his possession is true or not, there is a sense, like the sense you get from watching The Internet’s Own Boy, that the ‘freedom of information’ that the Western world prides itself on is not all that free after all.

And here we have pause to consider DFW’s comment and to think, in light of seemingly endless revelations of wrong-doings by institutions that are meant to represent ‘the people’ (by the people; for the people), just how will the law be enforced as we move further along with technologies that are meant to provide us with unseen levels of personal freedom?


#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Five (and probably the last for today))

Point #5: “Almost daily, new evidence emerges of just how much our brains can change over the course of our lives, in response to shifting thought patterns and behaviour. If we keep at it, if we channel our talent for hard work, we can make our brains more confidence-prone [and by the same token, with an interest in fairness and impartiality, make our brains more competent-prone (guys?)]. What the neuroscientists call plasticity, we call hope.”

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Now doesn’t that sound promising? What it does suggest is that the only obstacle to overcoming such hurdles is our own thoughts on the matter. Change your thinking, change your brain-pattern behaviour, and things will start to happen. Think, think, think, everyday, just like Winnie-the-Pooh.


#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Four)

Point #4: “[M]any psychologists now believe that risk-taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building. “When we observed in grade school classrooms, we saw that boys got eight times more criticism than girls for their conduct,” [Carol] Dweck writes in Mindset. Complicating matters, she told us, girls and boys get different patterns of feedback. “Boys’ mistakes are attributed to a lack of effort,” she says, while “girls come to see mistakes as a reflection of their deeper qualities.””

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For those of us with children, doesn’t that ring true? And I’m talking about from the very early days of a child’s education, where a certain properness (perfection) is expected from the youngest of girls, whilst the boys are almost pre-ordained to be a pain in the ass (not so perfect) and are treated accordingly. It is certainly true of my own childhood recollections, and those as I watch my own children go through the ‘education system.’ It is a ‘system’ for a reason. It is infected with the type of ingrained thinking that marks ‘difference.’ Think of the uniforms and/or boys and girls’ clothing. Take a simple thing like making all students wear dresses/skirts – what would that do to the confidence of the boys? Can you hear the reactions from dads, as they comprehend their sons going off to school in a nice pleated knee-length skirt, or something similar? Take the segregation that occurs around toileting issues – do 4 and 5 year olds really need to be segregated in this manner? What harm would it do to allow them to ‘toilet’ together? Take sports – why can’t, from a very young age, girls and boys compete together in sports such as football and/or soccer, baseball, netball, etc.? These examples are just a few that highlight the fact that ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ are prised apart at a very young age (and this example only really relates to schooling and education – what about all the other stuff?).


#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Three)

Point #3: “David Dunning, Cornell psychologist, [observed the following in relation to a particularly tough course on the Cornell math PhD program]: male students […] respond to their lower grades by saying, “Wow, this is a tough class.” That’s what’s known as external attribution […and is] a healthy sign of resilience. Women tend to respond differently, […where] their reaction is more likely to be, “You see, I knew I wasn’t good enough.” That’s internal attribution, and it can be debilitating.”

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So, it looks like there is something to be learned here, that something has to change, and the good news is that the brain is capable of learning new things and changing in response to this new information (we’ll get to that in a bit). For now, it seems that women really need to give themselves a break – lay off the perfection goal for a while, because stuff that’s debilitating really isn’t good for you; the clue is in the name.


#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Two)

Point #2: “We [Shipman and Kay] were curious to find out whether male managers were aware of a confidence gap between male and female employees. And indeed […t]hey said that a lack of confidence was fundamentally holding back women at their companies, but they shied away from saying anything, because they were terrified of sounding sexist.”

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A phrase that readily springs to mind, with respect to both the men and the women here is: grow a pair. The natural conclusion is to think that I’m referring to the dangly men bits (balls), but I see no reason why we couldn’t introduce an alternate suffix type thing, perhaps: grow a pair of ova (?). Each plays its part in the matter of human reproduction, so why not throw it out there. If you have ova, use them to your advantage. Slap them on the proverbial table and woman up and go get that job, gosh darn-it. And male managers, give them a push, that’s part of your job (to manage people) – so when Perfect Polly is sitting there stressing out that she only actually meets 99 per cent of the listed qualifications needed to apply for the job, whilst Over-Confident Olly is polishing his Resume at only 59 per cent ready, give her a kick up the ass (not literally) and tell her to grow a pair (not literally) and stop being concerned with coming across as sexist, because that sounds like hog-wash: “Oh, I didn’t want her to go for the job, even though she’s pretty much perfect for it, because I may come across as being all Hugh Heffner and stuff” – grow a pair, male bosses (oh, and tell Over-Confident Olly to sit the heck down and start working on his competence, for crying out loud).


#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight)

I’m not a reader of The Atlantic, ordinarily, but there are magazines strewn around my room and so I’ve been flicking through them to see what’s up. One article that grabbed my attention is ‘The Confidence Gap’ by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, authors of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know. Now, I’m a little slow off the mark here because we’re talking about the May 2014 edition of The Atlantic, but hey-ho, it’s interesting – so here goes. And this post will be spread out into bite-size chunks because some of my posts happen to be huge and I get the impression that that’s off-putting.

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Point #1: “Women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 per cent of the listed qualifications. Men would apply when they met 60 per cent.”

It is fascinating to consider that ‘women’ (and there’s no time to break this word and its meaning down into components, even though I’m well aware that such a generic term cannot represent all ‘biological females’ (and now I’m sinking a little further because if I have to qualify this phrase we could be here all day) – I’ll just assume that you’ll roll with me on this one because I didn’t write the article, I’m just commenting on it) feel the need to ‘be’ utterly perfect (because if you have to wait until you’re 100 per cent of something then that’s what you’re doing) before taking the next logical step: promotion. This would imply that said women are unwilling to take a risk, chance, punt, bet, shot, etc., when it comes to furthering their careers. And what about the ‘men?’ 60 per cent capable of doing a job and yet they still apply for it? This would imply that men have no hang-ups about waiting to be perfect; they’ll just throw it out there and see what comes back. Where does this great expectation come from; an expectation that leaves women no wiggle room, no margin of error?


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