Filed under: art, business, Creative Process, Gender politics | Tags: bluffing, Fake it til you Make It, forging, Good Girl, Good Girl Tax, lying, sexism
One of my favorite authors got journalistic opportunities and started to become the successful writer he is when he lied about all the editors he had (not) written for. One of my directing teacher’s favorite stories was about how he got his big directing break by putting entirely fictional credits on his resume. I read a piece in the Hollywood Reporter about a movie exec who, as a young journalist, swiped his editor’s identity in order to get into big movie events and start making the connections he needed.
I have heard this narrative a lot. It is the Man Who Bluffed His Way in the Door, the Dude Who Faked His Way to the Top. Usually the story features a subject very proud of this clever fakery that paid off for him early in his life. Usually he chuckles about it in nostalgic tones.
The story I’ve Never Heard is the one where a woman managed the same sly tricks. I’m curious about this.
And I have some theories about it.
1) There aren’t that many super successful women at the top to get these stories from.
2) The schemes that involve stealing someone else’s identity are almost impossible due to #1. Whose identity do you steal? Do you mask both your identity and your gender?
3) Girls tend to succeed by following the rules. They do very well in school this way. But success outside of school would seem to be about Breaking the rules – so as Good Girls (which I’ve written about previously) girls have a harder time forging a path.
4) The girls who do transgress, who do break the rules are often punished more aggressively than boys. Boys will be boys but girls are taught lessons. Girls punish each other for transgressing and boys punish girls for transgressing. See also Slut Shaming, Body Shaming and a world of other behaviors that we’re meant to be policing women for all the time.
I’m sure there are more theories about this roadblock to women’s success. I notice in myself that I don’t find this particular narrative (about the Boy Who Broke the Rules to Get to the Top) charming anymore. I don’t think lying and cheating are cute. And I’m tired of all the origin stories that would seem to suggest that they are. Getting away with that stuff is a privilege.
But I also recognize that I am a biased Good Girl and that a part of me will always bristle at rule breaking, especially when the odds are already stacked so high. I can’t decide whether I need to access my own inner lying movie exec and start bluffing my way to the top or to Lean into the best Rule Following person I can be. Or maybe just let it all go and perhaps stop worrying about other people’s origin stories and get to work forging my own. In one or the other senses of the word “forge.”
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