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May 13, 2010

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Jamison

" . . . we’re also penalized if we allow those “masculine” behaviors to cross over into our social and private lives. Our lives have become a bizarre, complex waltz wherein we wear different hats, depending on our environment, and attempt to modify our behavior accordingly lest we face the wrath of a judge, colleague, neighbor or preschool teacher."

Early in my wife's career as a litigator, she took a training course in which the instructor worked with her in eliminating mannerisms and speech patterns traditionally associated with women. The instructor worked with her in lowering in voice. He also corrected her habit of ending many statements as if she were asking a question. The instructor warned her, however, that the same techniques he was teaching her could make things more difficult for her socially. We expect women to talk like men in the courtroom, he said, but we penalize them when they try to do the same thing in social circles.

My daughter, upon hearing my wife speak in an old video, was amazed at how differently my wife sounded back then.

My wife went on to a very successful career as a litigator. (Look for an article about her in an upcoming issue of Ms. magazine.) She also credits the training she took back then as being very helpful to her in this regard. But I know that, in following the instructor's recommendations, she has faced many of the same social challenges you raise in this entry. It's an interesting topic, and I thank you for discussing it here. It's one of many challenges I'm glad I don't need to face as a male.

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