Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

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Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by The Wisp on Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:32 pm

This seems to be a pretty common refrain that women are socialized to be super deferential and polite and to not have boundaries, while men are not, or at least not nearly to the same degree. This came up on prime today. This assumptions seems to color how people interpret men's and women's actions, especially with the opposite sex.

But, I don't buy that this is actually a gendered thing. My experience is that while people being socialized from a young age to be deferential and to not have boundaries is a big problem, boys/men are just as socialized to be this way as girls/women. Certainly I was socialized to be that way in a very extreme way (I still have difficulty expressing differing opinions about even trivial things like movies, in real life), and most of the men in my family are that way, too. But it's not just in my family, it seems like most of the guys in high school and college are also very deferential, and trying to be quiet-voiced nice guys who don't rock the boat. I see this interactions I observe with others, and in my male acquaintances and friends. I saw it in the therapy groups I was in.

Growing up, the whole "consider the other person's feelings" and "be nice" and being told not to have "unreasonable" boundaries happened all the time to the boys as well as the girls. If the girls were socialized to be particularly deferential to the boys, us boys were socialized to be particularly deferential to the girls out of a vague mixture of feminism and vestigial chivalry. Even in elementary school, boys' horseplaying or teasing with girls was policed much more heavily than same-sex playing.

I think a big part of the motivation behind PUAs and TRP is an unhealthy reaction to this type of socialization, which I think is more evidence that this sort of socialization exists and is increasingly common.

A lot of people act like boys are raised to be firm about boundaries and to walk over women's, but this is the exact opposite of my experience.

Maybe this disconnect with me and others on this issue is generational, and people who are even 5-10 years older than men grew up in a very different social environment. Maybe it's a regional thing that is an artifact of the liberal upper-middle class white western/midwestern culture I grew up in, and other places are different. I don't know. I guess I just have never seen this issue as gendered, and so am a bit ticked off when it is because it erases all the problems this sort of socialization has with men (which, obviously, are very similar to those it has with women), like being vulnerable to users and abusers, not being assertive in work or dating, not expressing wants or needs to friends or romantic partners, etc.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by reboot on Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:07 pm

Because people are talking about population level characteristics. As a group, men are socialized to be less people pleasing than women, but that does not mean that individuals within the population match the group.

This is a hard concept for people who do not have a solid background in statistics to grasp. Best example to clarify I can think of is smoking and lug cancer. As a GROUP smokers are more likely to get lung cancer. However not all smokers get lung cancer. The group statement does not apply to every individual. It is a population level characteristic.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Xexyz on Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:20 pm

reboot wrote:Because people are talking about population level characteristics. As a group, men are socialized to be less people pleasing than women, but that does not mean that individuals within the population match the group.

While this is true, I think the problem on Prime is that there's a tendency to apply the population level characteristics to individuals who write in to DNL.

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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by rj3 on Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:26 pm

The socialization argument is little more than gaslighting women who make decisions you disagree with.

If we want women to speak up for what they want, need and believe, we can't dismiss their words and actions as the result of nebulous external forces when we don't like them.

In the Prime post post on the blog which shall not be named, commenters are pre-emptively gaslighting LW1's girlfriend for weighing her commitment to virginity against keeping this boyfriend and labeling one potential response as coming from socialization and not, y'know, a functioning adult brain.

This is what I really don't like about prescriptive feminism as compared to choice feminism. In the former, you're just trading one set of people who steal your agency with another.


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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by eselle28 on Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:27 pm

Xexyz wrote:
reboot wrote:Because people are talking about population level characteristics. As a group, men are socialized to be less people pleasing than women, but that does not mean that individuals within the population match the group.

While this is true, I think the problem on Prime is that there's a tendency to apply the population level characteristics to individuals who write in to DNL.

rj3 wrote:
In the Prime post, commenters are pre-emptively gaslighting LW1's girlfriend for weighing her commitment to virginity against keeping this boyfriend and labeling one potential response as coming from socialization and not, y'know, a functioning adult brain.

<mod>I'm going to quote Enail here:

Enail wrote:In spite of all the overlap, this forum is not the same as DNL Prime. Not all the same people post on the forum as on Prime, the rules and enforcement are different, and different people engage differently with each site. We have repeatedly asked people not to use the forum as a place to call out people from the blog or to discuss blog interactions, and we ask that people not bring discussion about DNL Prime or the community there, to this forum (bringing discussions from Prime that aren't about Prime is still fine).

Discussion revolving around assumptions about men's and women's boundaries is an a-okay subject for NerdLounge. Discussions of the way people on the Prime site talk about these assumptions belongs over on the Prime site. As a general guideline, when writing the word "prime" it's probably a good idea to either stop and rephrase your thoughts or to respond directly to someone on that site. This is obviously a tightening of policy, but it's one that we feel is necessary. Going forward in this conversation, I'm going to ask that people keep the discussion to general arguments or to examples from real life or elsewhere on the internet</mod>
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by eselle28 on Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:33 pm

rj3 wrote:
In the Prime post post on the blog which shall not be named, commenters are pre-emptively gaslighting LW1's girlfriend for weighing her commitment to virginity against keeping this boyfriend and labeling one potential response as coming from socialization and not, y'know, a functioning adult brain.

<mod>Just to be clear, calling it "the blog which shall not be named," does not open the subject for discussion. If you want to talk to people there about that subject, there's an active article where you can do so. We're not talking about it here. If people continue to attempt to do so, there will be temporary suspensions handed out.</mod>
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by rj3 on Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:39 pm

Sorry, I was just trying to be cute. Message received.

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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Xexyz on Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:16 pm

To answer Wisp's question:  I see this a lot on messageboards; advice blogs in particular seem prone to this.  To me it's that people are aware of these general population tendencies but then project them onto individuals because of the nature of the interaction - The advice seeker often only posts or messages once and does not become involved in the discussion.  When people discuss the situation they're unable to ask the advice seeker or related parties for clarification or additional information so they end up filling the blanks with their own beliefs about the advice seeker, colored by their own experiences.

[To remove this from the context of internet discussions] with this issue in particular, I think it's also a case of the dynamics of one particular type of interaction - men pushing on women's boundaries in the context of an interpersonal relationship - being applied to all interactions men have with other people.

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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Gentleman Johnny on Fri Jul 31, 2015 4:07 pm

PUA derived from guys who were socialized to be more deferential and looser with their boundaries, I completely agree. There's pretty straightforward evidence that this is exactly what happened. Its worth noting, though, that these guys are aware that they are the minority and were trying to find a way to "catch up" to other guys by applying a more analytical model to the attitudes of the people they deemed successful. What they did not do was take the other things they'd been socialized to like being respectful of and towards woman and work on turning that into a successful strategy. In other words, they responded by trying socialize themselves to be more like the model we hold up as the population level example.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by lonelyoffices on Fri Jul 31, 2015 4:56 pm

I think the cultural ideal is for women to be more deferential and for men to be more assertive. We'd all benefit in the long run from that changing.

That said, there are subsets of people who are steered toward or find support for behaving against those types, as in the case of men who are encouraged to be deferential. Even though we all know men with this trait, when we talk about this issue we graphically highlight the impact that those cultural ideals have on women and fail to see or dismiss the men who are deferential and who suffer similar bad outcomes as a result.

If one man is in a sinking boat with four women, they're all gonna sink. I think we should throw them all a life line, and then ask why there were more women than men in the sinking boat.

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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by The Wisp on Fri Jul 31, 2015 5:02 pm

reboot wrote:Because people are talking about population level characteristics. As a group, men are socialized to be less people pleasing than women, but that does not mean that individuals within the population match the group.

This is a hard concept for people who do not have a solid background in statistics to grasp. Best example to clarify I can think of is smoking and lug cancer. As a GROUP smokers are more likely to get lung cancer. However not all smokers get lung cancer. The group statement does not apply to every individual. It is a population level characteristic.

Don't insult my intelligence, I understand statistics just fine. Where's the evidence that men are more assertive?

Even if that's true, I think there are substantial subcultures where most men are raised to be deferential, like liberal middle-class white communities.

My experience is that if you surveyed all the men who are, say, under 25 where I live, a large majority would be very deferential. Contra GJ, I think the majority of men are not assertive and are deferential, but the one's who aren't are a vocal and lionized minority.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Werel on Fri Jul 31, 2015 5:36 pm

The Wisp wrote:Even if that's true, I think there are substantial subcultures where most men are raised to be deferential, like liberal middle-class white communities.

Having grown up in a liberal middle-to-upper-class white community on the East Coast, boys were definitely not socialized to be more deferential than girls (though on the whole, both boys and girls were socialized to be less deferential than kids I interacted with from, say, the South, or different SES brackets on the eastern seaboard-- it's not strictly about gender). Even liberal middle-class white communities aren't a monolith.

The Wisp wrote:Contra GJ, I think the majority of men are not assertive and are deferential, but the one's who aren't are a vocal and lionized minority.
Huh. Not gonna argue that this isn't your life experience, but this is absolutely not my life experience. Especially not in the South, and not even really in Taxachussetts or Damn Arbor or any other white liberal enclaves I've lived in. I ought to do some cultural tourism in CO and see if I can observe this populace of deferential men in the wild. Razz

lonelyoffices wrote:If one man is in a sinking boat with four women, they're all gonna sink. I think we should throw them all a life line, and then ask why there were more women than men in the sinking boat.
Well put.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by The Wisp on Fri Jul 31, 2015 5:47 pm

Werel wrote:
Huh. Not gonna argue that this isn't your life experience, but this is absolutely not my life experience. Especially not in the South, and not even really in Taxachussetts or Damn Arbor or any other white liberal enclaves I've lived in. I ought to do some cultural tourism in CO and see if I can observe this populace of deferential men in the wild. Razz

I can think of a few ways my perceptions might be off. One is that, when I interact with other men, it's usually guys who are either more nerdy/geeky and/or of the more introspective sort, so maybe the sample is skewed. Another is that maybe I'm confusing certain traits for deference, like speaking softly, being polite to strangers and acquaintances (but not necessarily to people they're closer to), being conflict averse with strangers and acquaintances, etc.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by reboot on Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:53 pm

Try going to a frat party, night club, or a college bar. You will see a whole different set of behavior by men (and women). And I do think you are confusing some traits with deference. I know more than one soft spoken, boundary pushing man.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Conreezy on Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:44 pm

Just reacting to the titular question: I'd say it's because men aren't as pushed into being submissive or as attentive to boundaries as women, in a general sense.

Still, Wisp, I think I see some things that bring on your question. In the context of heterosexual romantic relationships, it's a long-running joke that men are generally  the cause of all fuck-ups and should just do their best to appease the "better half."  There are, unfortunately, a lot of people who buy into pop-feminism just enough to feel empowered to call out bad male behavior (as they should) while hiding behind the benevolent sides of sexism and avoiding nuanced thought on the issue.  Seems like Meghan Trainor is trying to make a career of it.

I don't like bringing it up, because it comes off as a way to deflect criticism right out of the MRA playbook, but that particular trope is one I deal with every day, being the more domestic partner/not the breadwinner.  Drives me nuts.

Also, I think that when men are pushed towards putting sexual attraction over everything else, we get shortchanged on just how to define what else we want or need in a relationship, leading to some indecisive boundary settings.  This has been my case, at least, and when you mention the weird mix of feminism and chivalry, I think I know just what you mean.  I'm often unsure of when to defend myself in domestic disputes, wanting to avoid being a "gaslighting" male.

All that said, outside of an established romantic relationship, we guys get away with so much more dickish behavior than women do.

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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by readertorider on Fri Jul 31, 2015 9:15 pm

The Wisp wrote:Another is that maybe I'm confusing certain traits for deference, like speaking softly, being polite to strangers and acquaintances (but not necessarily to people they're closer to), being conflict averse with strangers and acquaintances, etc.

I wouldn't call the nerdy/geeky/introspective/conflict-adverse guys I've know deferential (in most cases), but I don't think we're using the same definition. I think there's a much more active component to deference than just not being assertive--there's an element of cheerfulness and making the other person happy that they're (possibly) taking advantage.

For instance:

-if my guy friends are talking to someone they find boring/annoying, they typically won't excuse themselves, but they also will basically zone out. If I'm talking to someone I find boring/annoying I a) try to find something interesting in what they're saying, and b) ask quite a few questions and laugh on cue. Even if I'm disagreeing, I have the skill set to disagree in a way that usually no one feels threatened. That skill set didn't develop by chance.

-after a meal my instinct is to clear the plates and ask if anyone wants additional drinks. I've known women who would offer drinks at a guy friend's house because no one else was offering them.

-if someone needs a chair and I'm at a table with guys, I'm typically a) the first person to notice that a chair needs to be found, and b) the one who goes about securing the chair. It's in my 'nature' to 'facilitate' things.

-at college I was typically expected to have (and offer) the extra pens/calculator/stapler/tape/pencils etc. One female friend was known as the 'gum lady' because she always had gum for people.

To me the difference between the shy nerdy guys who turn to PUA and the women who are socialized to be deferential is that the shy nerdy guys don't have social skills beyond basic politeness and the women have social skills, but they are a set of social skills that are only applicable in certain situations. There's definitely a mindset of 'I should be making <random stranger> happy', for me at least. I'm glad I have these skills (I like having a social script to follow, I like that I can usually make people happier, it's useful for forced socializing situations), but, as I'm sure you've read elsewhere on the internet, they can be a bit of a handicap, especially since people expect that sort of behavior as a given.

I think there are definitely guys who are socialized to be more deferential, but my college experience leads me to believe that they're mostly not the nerdy upper middle class guys, but the Indian/Middle Eastern gentleman (please salt, small sample size and all that).

Conreezy wrote:All that said, outside of an established romantic relationship, we guys get away with so much more dickish behavior than women do.

If you ever want to feel better in the 'established romantic relationship' regard, you should come to work with me. Everyone's male and married bar the youngest guy (and I), and 'The Wife' gets blamed for pretty much everything. Never quite sure how true/serious these stories are, but if the wives are getting away with things the husbands are getting quite a bit of mileage out of telling people about it Smile
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Conreezy on Fri Jul 31, 2015 10:39 pm

at college I was typically expected to have (and offer) the extra pens/calculator/stapler/tape/pencils etc. One female friend was known as the 'gum lady' because she always had gum for people

Interesting example. Once in high school, I was asked if I was gay because I had extra pencils and a pencil sharpener. Something about being prepared apparently means "not masculine."

If you ever want to feel better in the 'established romantic relationship' regard, you should come to work with me. Everyone's male and married bar the youngest guy (and I), and 'The Wife' gets blamed for pretty much everything. Never quite sure how true/serious these stories are, but if the wives are getting away with things the husbands are getting quite a bit of mileage out of telling people about it

Yeah, everyone complains. But one of the common complaints I've come across with many men is how their mistakes become indications that they need further "training" but the mistakes of their wives are laughed off like "Oh, you."

But this is an issue that might be better for another thread.

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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by reboot on Fri Jul 31, 2015 11:19 pm

What I run into is men using their wives/gf as excuses not to do something they do not want to do. Vegas weekend with erratic cokehead friends? Oh,  wife/gf will not let, rather than the truth, "I do not want to". Especially face saving when talking to other men


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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by jcorozza on Fri Jul 31, 2015 11:55 pm

I think this depends on if we're talking about deference in terms of general respect or respect in the "you're my superior" kind of way. I don't think there's a ton of difference in the first across gender. But just the way women's speech patterns compare to men's shows a certain general trend towards feeling more inferior - answering with a question (which sounds unsure), "hedging" phrases, like "kind of" or "sort of", adding qualifiers like "this might be a tangent, but"or "I'm not sure if this answers the question, but...", tag questions at the end of a statement "that movie was great, wasn't it?" Researches have even observed that the reason for speech across genders is different (women's tends more towards connection or trying to make everyone in the conversation on more equal footing, whereas men's tends towards expressing knowledge or information). (http://www.austincc.edu/colangelo/1318/woodgender.htm) It's not necessarily told to women directly that they should try to make everyone feel equal/comfortable/etc., or that they shouldn't try to dominate conversation, but women pick these patterns up from watching other women, which to me means that, yeah, some of this behavior is heavily socialized towards women - not that individual men aren't attuned to this sometimes, but they're more likely to take their cues from other men.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Izmuth on Sat Aug 01, 2015 4:35 am

reboot wrote:What I run into is men using their wives/gf as excuses not to do something they do not want to do. Vegas weekend with erratic cokehead friends? Oh, wife/gf will not let, rather than the true, "I do not want to". Especially face saving when talking to other men

In "corazon del guerrero", a scene came up with some RPG players in high school playing DnD at the top of a building.
They suddenly noticed a woman getting naked-times with a dude across the street, and they broke up their game to go look at them.

A female friend of mine said "wow, great way to reinforce the stereotypes of nerdguys", and the guys present admitted they would've done the same, because not participating would've meant they were unmanly and therefore targets.

At the 18th birthday of a friend of mine (EDIT: Lest there be confusion, I was 17/18 at the time too), someone said "let's watch porn!" and no one disagreed because no one could. Only after being thoroughly uncomfortable for half an hour, a girlfriend of one of the guys present said "this is stupid", and well, since a woman complained, we couldn't continue watching could we? Of course we would've liked to <sarcasm>. I think everyone jumped up at the same time to turn it off, all the while proclaiming what a shame it was.

Peer pressure is annoying. Anyone any ideas how to weasel out of manly activities except taking the easy, but somewhat problematic, route of "blaming the wife/GF"?

Conreezy wrote:
at college I was typically expected to have (and offer) the extra pens/calculator/stapler/tape/pencils etc. One female friend was known as the 'gum lady' because she always had gum for people

Interesting example. Once in high school, I was asked if I was gay because I had extra pencils and a pencil sharpener. Something about being prepared apparently means "not masculine."

I was clearly gay because I noticed an elderly woman on a tram and offered up my seat. And not in the "fucks dudes in the butt" kind of sense, because that's mostly okay in my country, but the "feminized man" kind of gay which is still unacceptable.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Barretts_Salt on Sat Aug 01, 2015 9:56 am

Funny this should come up.  In my composites (think laminated carbon fiber and fiberglass) manufacturing class yesterday the instructor left for a while to take care of some other things.  I was struck anew by how much physical space the younger guys (think 17-21) took up and how totally absorbed they were by their game of catch -- no looking around to see if people were cool with it -- just hogging the aisle.

But I'll grant that when I called for a brief pause for a commercial break they smiled and let me through.  

I think that the fact that I had to ask is relevant to the discussion.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Enail on Sat Aug 01, 2015 10:48 am

I'm kind of wondering what we mean by deferential, because I'm of the impression there have been quite a few studies showing things like (very roughly) "men talk more than women in mixed-gender groups," "men interrupt women more than women interrupt men, men interrupt men and women interrupt women" and "women are judged more negatively for assertive behavior and negotiation/more listened to if they use tentative speech than assertive speech," to the point where I'm a bit surprised that's up for debate if I'm not misunderstanding.

I've not got the energy to really check my impressions in any meaningful way now, so do take with salt, but a quick googling using neutral terms suggests that there are rather a lot of studies with that sort of conclusion (though, again, I've only glanced at the abstracts and haven't quality-checked.) Anecdotally, it certainly matches my experiences in school and work environments (mostly with middle-class people in liberal environments).

That's the kind of thing I would have thought is part of deferentiality and the socialization thereof, so I'm wondering if others are meaning something else by 'deferential altogether, or if the topic is asking if these kinds of studies are accurate or reflective of the particular group of young, white, middle-class men in a liberal environment? Apologies if I've missed the point of the whole thing, I'm a bit out of it at the moment.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by jcorozza on Sat Aug 01, 2015 11:14 am

This is how I've been interpreting it, too, enail - I'm not sure about the boundaries part in the initial question (in my experience, your individual environment, especially family, is a huge influence on how well you enforce your own boundaries or respect those of others), but yeah, as someone who has spent a lot of time in classrooms with young middle class white men...while some of them may be timid when it comes to approaching women, most of them aren't when it comes to answering questions and expressing their opinions with full confidence.
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by Enail on Sat Aug 01, 2015 11:25 am

Oh, yes, I forgot about the boundaries part. I'm really not sure how one would get at that other than anecdotes and roundabout assumptions (such as "someone who is penalized for assertive negotiation in professional settings might be less likely to assert boundaries firmly in interpersonal contexts"), which doesn't seem terribly useful for actually finding anything out. Any ideas?
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

Post by reboot on Sat Aug 01, 2015 12:36 pm

Enail wrote:Oh, yes, I forgot about the boundaries part. I'm really not sure how one would get at that other than anecdotes and roundabout assumptions (such as "someone who is penalized for assertive negotiation in professional settings might be less likely to assert boundaries firmly in interpersonal contexts"), which doesn't seem terribly useful for actually finding anything out. Any ideas?

Antecdata, because I cannot find any research on the specific correlation between professional and personal boundary enforcement or lack thereof, so salt well. In my experience, most people show a range of boundary enforcement with different levels for primary family, friends, acquaintances, partners, workplace, and professional networks. Boundaries tend to be weakest with parents and strongest with professional relationships that are external to the workplace (e.g. peers at a different firm, vendors). My guess is that the perceived risk of harm from damaging the relationship by enforcing boundaries and the length and depth of the relationship dictate willingness to assert.

For example, the professor I worked with in my first graduate research serf position absolutely could not asset boundaries with his wife, so much so that we used to cringe when we heard him on the phone with her. But he would not only assert his boundaries at work, he went out of his way to violate people's boundaries and push them into discomfort. He was especially brutal with the woman on an H1-B visa, because she would have to leave the US if she lost her job and she was afraid to push back. It was notable that he dialed it back when her husband got citizenship and she got a green card.

I have also seen very assertive people of both genders crumble under family (especially parental) pressure, including me. I definitely put up with things from my parents that I would never tolerate in anyone else. The same was true with my ex.


Last edited by reboot on Sat Aug 01, 2015 12:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Why do people act like men aren't socialized to be as deferential and lacking of boundaries as women?

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