Friday, December 05, 2014

Woman in journalism

I was reading this article by this guy about this magazine, and in it, he - now a very famous journalist for a different magazine - mentions having been turned down not once but twice for that magazine's internship before snagging it and the rest is history. While the significance of the article in question lies elsewhere (and there's many a Twitter sinkhole for those interested in reading about the topic), it did remind me of a personal-but-with-broader-significance-I-promise anecdote: While still in college, I was rejected from that same internship. And it never occurred to me to reapply! Let alone that one could do so twice! I wonder why that might have been...

Like everyone else, I had, by that age, experienced rejection, and wasn't generally one to dwell. But that rejection became the rejection, the one that announced, in some definitive, divinity-ordained way that I'd never stand a chance of making it in that world. That I was, in fact, the intellectual lightweight I'd always suspected. But that job interview also represented this great what-might-have-been. I was that friend who won't stop talking about that one date she had with a really hot guy whom she hasn't heard from since. It had never entered my mind that - to continue the dating metaphor - it would be acceptable, after a sensible amount of time, to call him again and see if he wanted to hang out.

But the dating angle isn't just a metaphor - as Freddie pointed out in the comments here the last time around, these things are related. Women learn that if a man's not interested, there's no squeaky-wheel principle by which reminding him of your existence will change his mind. Men are encouraged - over-encouraged! - to persist. This seems to transfer - or did for me at least - into an approach to professional life. It's not so much that I was harder hit by rejection than a man might have been, but I just took every no, all ambivalence, as final.

And I wasn't necessarily wrong to do so - it's quite possible (see the whole Lean In backlash) that women who persist aren't as likely to be rewarded for doing so.

I use the past tense here for a couple reasons. It's partly the aspirational past tense - obviously I still have these inclinations - and partly that it's been a while since I've given that whole episode much thought. But it's also that I think I have, to some extent, snapped out of that approach more generally. Largely by just... growing up, I suppose, and thinking strategically, in an almost third-person sense, about various career aspirations.

4 comments:

David Schraub said...

Well, that magazine apparently just had a slew of vacancies open. So now's your chance to (journalistically) GetItGirl!

Phoebe said...

So it seems! Although it could well be that anyone I knew/knew of who was there isn't there any longer...

Ponder Stibbons said...

This is also related to a similar issue in education, where it's been found that when girls do badly in a class, they tend to blame themselves, whereas boys are more likely to blame it on some aspect of the class. This makes boys more likely to persist in the face of failure.

Phoebe said...

Ponder Stibbons,

Yes, that sounds about right. And also brings to mind another article in... that same magazine, in which a man was explaining that the literary world only wants silly-but-marketable projects, thus explaining why his tome hasn't found an audience. It's not that there aren't any women who think like this, but it's far less common.