Women, confidence and fear of male judgement

// 15 July 2009

Since I was a teenager I’ve had serious issues with being shown up in front of others. As a consistently top-of-the-class student I’ve always found it hard to deal with not being good at things (ah, woe is me, I know, I know!) and as a result I am very much loathe to try new activities as, obviously, I won’t be very good at them to start with. One thing that really compounds my fear of being shown up when trying something new is when I have to learn alongside or from men. As a girl, being told that I was as good as the boys at a sport or physical activity was the ultimate accolade – not surprising in a world where ‘you throw like a girl’ is an insult – and the tendency to compare myself to men has stuck with me as I’ve grown. Combine this with the general assumption that men are better at sport and physical activities, at driving, at map reading, you name it; with my feminist desire to prove this wrong and the conflicting desire to challenge the view that stereotypically ‘male’ activities are more worthy of praise and admiration than stereotypically ‘female’ activities; with the knowledge that individual women are often held up as representatives of our entire sex in a way that individual men are not, and it ends up seeming far more less stressful to simply refuse to try something new than to get involved and deal with the emotional strain of all this baggage.

The crunch, however, is that even if I do try and get involved – learning to play poker with a group of guys, say – the sense that I am being judged because I’m female, that the men will automatically assume I am not going to be very good, or that they are more at ease in the situation because it is more likely that others will assume they are competent and know what they’re doing, dents my confidence and worries me to such an extent that I perform worse than I know I should be able to. This phenomenon even extends to activities that I am already good at; when a man is in my car and I’m trying to park I sometimes worry that he’s judging my parking and driving skills because the dominant narrative is that women are bad at driving and parking, and guess what? I end up scraping my alloys or turning the engine off when I’m half a metre from the kerb.

I’m not claiming that all or even most men genuinely do think that women are terrible at certain activities or that they really will judge us in a negative fashion – I can’t see into their minds – but I’ve had enough patronising ‘good catch!’ and ‘you’re actually really good at driving’ comments to know that the sexist socialisation that I’ve been subject to and affected by hasn’t left all men untouched and that, combined with the worries outlined above, is enough to set me on edge.

With all this in mind, I was both interested and somewhat perversely reassured to read this study into female chess players which found that women chess players paired with men of a similar ability performed 50% worse in online games when they were aware that their opponent was male. When they (falsely) believed that they were playing against a woman they performed as well as their male opponents. The author suggests that this could be a result of ‘widely held gender stereotypes’, and points to her findings as part of the reason why women are under represented in the world of chess (they make up only 5% of tournament players and less than 1% of grandmasters).

This is only one specific, small-scale study, but it goes some way towards confirming my hunch that I’m not alone in this gender-related performance anxiety, that perhaps part of the reason why women are under represented in all sorts of areas despite the removal of sexist barriers to our participation is this fear of male judgement, the difficulty of performing in male-dominated spaces and activities and the negative effect this has upon our confidence.

Has anyone else experienced this?

Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 15 July 2009 at 7:48 pm

have to say i tend to use it, perhaps as an excuse for not trying things. unlike you im not bothered about looking like im doing well, but when i see a bunch of boys outside doing parkour or skating i want to join in and get involved, but i feel bad always starting as the noob, and the crap one as i dont tend to improve much and im not very determined, but also, like you said, because i feel like im a representative and if im crap ill hear a comment that we all are, or be patronised, or just not expected to do well. i asked a friend of mine that does parkour if he thinks that if i fell over theyd be all like “aww are you okay?” whereas with guys they might laugh, and i even found myself asking if there were any other women, and when he said a couple who werent regular i actually asked if they were any good or if they just stood around doing a little. i didnt want to reinforce that we were bad if they were, and i felt for the first time, that i needed a female role model, not to show me how its done, but to balance out how bad i might be! when he said they were pretty unfussed but nice about anybody hurting themseves its made me think i might try it after all.

Julia // Posted 15 July 2009 at 8:42 pm

I’m a palaeontologist, which involves a lot of fieldwork. I assisted on an undergraduate fieldtrip, driving one of the minivans. Although there were three female drivers I was the only one who didn’t opt out as soon as they could, so I found myself “competing” with male drivers. Despite being a competent driver (I have never had a problem with manoeuvres), with all the other drivers watching I managed to burn out the clutch, earning myself the nickname of “Clutch Lady” for the whole fortnight.

I’m also fairly nimble on my feet and pretty good at bouldering. A 6-ft scramble would have been very little trouble for me if I’d been on my own or in a group of girls. But faced with two men offering a hand to help me up I stumbled, lost my footing and had to be hauled up. I beat myself up about it for the rest of the day, because I knew I should have been able to make the climb.

I don’t know if we’re so caught up in worrying about what the men might think that we fail to concentrate on our activity, or whether we subconsciously act how the men are expecting us to act. I am expected to be a bad driver because I am a woman. I am expected to not be able to scramble up a rock face because I am a woman.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 15 July 2009 at 10:47 pm

On a more simplistic level I happen to know I can park my car on the street between two other cars very easily, but there were times when I knew a male was watching and immediately I thought ‘I know I’m not going to succeed at parking because “women are supposed to be incapable of parking”. That is precisely what happened – however, eventually I learned to ignore that inner voice and even if a male happens to be watching I ignore him and park very competently.

So, all too commonly it is the ‘internal voice’ and the never-ending misogynistic messages women and girls receive that they are supposedly innately more incompetent and less capable than men and boys.

One very important aspect to remember when attempting new tasks or learning new skills and that is no male irrespective of age automatically has the competence or skill, rather they like women and girls had to learn and this includes making mistakes.

The common misogynistic insult hurled at girls and also boys who do not demonstrate ‘innate masculine throwing skills’ is ‘you throw like a girl.’ Well, how did boys learn? Is this skill programmed into their DNA or does another male teach them how to throw? The answer of course is that boys learn how to throw and catch a ball. I too learned how to throw and catch a ball and guess what? There is a skill to this but it is a secret not commonly passed on to girls.

Empirical evidence proves that if a girl/girls or woman/women are told that certain skills are ‘masculine’ and females are supposedly less capable then the girl/girls/woman/women will in fact perform worse than their capabilities. However, if this same group are not told the subject/skill is a masculine one then the girl/girls etc perform far better.

Maths is a good example because it is widely believed to be a ‘masculine subject’ but truth is maths is not ‘masculine’ it is simply a subject wherein some females and males are adept at learning, whereas other females and males are not. But, given all skills are considered to be either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ it is not surprising so many females and males believe they are incapable of learning certain skills.

No one is innately nurturing – that is a learned skill but society claims ‘nurturing is feminine and males are supposedly incapable of undertaking this skill.’ Why then are some men male nurses if ‘nurturing is feminine?’ Are male nurses females in disguise?

So remember neither females or males are born with ‘innate skills or abilities’ – because we all have to learn and develop these skills and this includes making mistakes such as failing to catch a ball or learning to drive.

We must challenge these negative stereotypes concerning female behaviour and abilities because these messages are all about the myth of supposedly innate superior male skills and abilities, which are used to keep women and girls in a constant state of worry they will not meet male-defined and male-centered standards. All men are not innately more intelligent than all women but our patriarchal society refuses to accept this is a myth.

But given our society is a patriarchal one which means it is male-centered and male-defined it is not surprising there are so few positive female role models because women supposedly cannot achieve or learn a new (masculine defined) skill because their sole role is to be men’s sexualised dehumanised commodities.

tom hulley // Posted 16 July 2009 at 7:59 am

Really helpful, Laura (and other contributors).

Often I try to show people how gender socialisation affects our lives. However committed to change we may want to be, being brought up with inequality is insidious. It creeps inside us.

Your accounts show how this works. Some people claim that women can make their own choices and do anything they wish nowadays but your insights reveal the obstacles. What is claimed to exist (like freedom of speech) in theory can be very different in practice.

Jessica // Posted 16 July 2009 at 9:21 am

I think that in my experience (and possibly other people’s) it’s more subtle than being intimidated by men.

Firstly, I think I’m often intimidated by people. It doesn’t matter who is watching me park (a stranger, my mother, my neighbour) I get nervous. That either leads to me parking very well or very badly. For me, the male viewer is no more intimidating than the female viewer.

Secondly, there are other situations where I am much more intimidated by groups of women. But maybe that’s because I am simply more accustomed to dealing with groups of men (I work with mainly men) and not groups of women? Personal experience can seriously influence the way you see people. (For example, I feel very safe around large groups of teenage goths in leather trench coats — I used to be one. Most people seem to be scared of them.)

Thirdly, I think age comes into this. My reasoning seems to go: I’m young, therefore I can fall over as much as I like and not look stupid. Or: I’m young, therefore I can ask as many questions as I like and not look stupid. I’m a little scared of getting older and not being able to play the “newbie” card. Then again, my mother still seems able to ask questions and fall over and not look stupid.

However, there are plenty of occasions when people assume that I can’t do something. When my partner cashed the removal van into a parked 4×4, the driver assumed that I had done it. As soon as he discovered that a man was responsible, he seemed a lot more understanding. When we were buying a flat, agents often assumed that I had to ask my partner the details of the mortgage.

Society seems to tell boys that they don’t need to worry about people watching them park, and that if they fall over or ask lots of questions then they won’t look stupid. Society tells girls that they have to do it right or not at all, and that they can’t ask questions, can’t practise, can’t give it a go because if they fail then they will look stupid.

A lot of people, both male and female, seem to have swallowed this as: men should try things, women shouldn’t. Men can practise and get good, women can’t. Men are allowed to fail as long as they try again and succeed, women can’t fail and therefore shouldn’t try in the first place.

The only answer seems to be to grow a thick skin, ask the questions, give it a go, fall over and risk looking stupid.

JenniferRuth // Posted 16 July 2009 at 9:24 am

Well, I don’t drive but I do totally get what you are talking about. When I was a little girl I also used to feel that “you’re as good as the boys” was a high form of praise. I always wanted to outperform the boys – I still do, in a way. Many of my interests are rather geeky, so I end up trying to “out geek” men sometimes in order to prove that women can like comic books or video games. When I notice I’m doing it I try to stop!

At the moment one particular video game has become very popular with my group of friends – Street Fighter IV. Not just casual playing – advanced tactics, frame rates, tier ratings and a monthly competition. I really enjoy it and I am very good (I also just have to be as good as I can at everything!). But now I have been invited to attend an official, ranked competition. The best SFIV players in and around Manchester will be there.

To be honest – I’m actually a little afraid to go. Why? Because I know that I may be the only woman there. I also know that despite putting in a lot of practice, they will have put in hours more. I will most likely lose. Badly.

I don’t mind losing because in losing I will probably learn a lot of new things that will make me better. What makes me a little afraid is losing as a woman. I don’t want to reinforce stereotypes. I don’t want to be looked at as if I am “invading” a male domain. Plus, I’ve been on XboxLive and faced the abuse from men – although I think they would be much nicer to my face I can’t help wondering what will be going on in their heads.

But then I think…maybe this is why women aren’t turning up to the official tournaments? Maybe if I do it, next time I won’t be the only woman there? Maybe it is worth losing badly and coming back better?

I know it is only a video game, but I think this is the sort of thing that goes through a lot of womens heads when they have to go up against men. You don’t want to back down but you feel that you are being made into an avatar for all women. If a man fails, then he fails himself. If a woman fails, she seems to fail for all women…

Rachel // Posted 16 July 2009 at 11:09 am

I agree with a lot of what you’ve said – I always get nervous when I’ve got an audience, even when it’s something that I am confident in and know I am good at. I would hesitate at saying that it’s more of a problem in front of men – it depends on the person, and often a group of women can be just as intimidating. But I guess that as a rule I tend to feel more threatened by men…

I would guess that this phenomenon also has at least a little to do with the awareness I have that as a woman I am seen as public property – for looking at, judging, etc. And that tends to piss me off and make me nervous anyway, even if I’m just walking down the street.

Ellie // Posted 16 July 2009 at 11:40 am

I often wonder if i subconsciously self-sabotage when I’m doing something and turn out to be better than the men I’m with at it so that I don’t flout status expectations. The first thing that comes to mind in such instances is making myself out to be less intelligent and capable than I am.

I’m really trying to knock it on the head at the moment cus it pisses me off.

But yeah, I also think if women try something like poker and lose to men they’re more likely to decide they don’t care about poker because they can use that as an excuse to give up rather than having to win the respect of the men (which is harder to obtain for women it seems)

Jennifer Yong // Posted 16 July 2009 at 12:32 pm

“If a woman fails, she seems to fail for all women.”

I couldn’t agree more, JenniferRuth! As a fellow gamer, I have always come across shock at my being a woman, further shock at being actually good (for a girl), and then a host of challenges because men simply must defeat women.

Mostly, I get so nervous, I fluff everything up; and I tend to find that men when faced with a female competitor try that extra bit harder because it is so unacceptable to lose to a woman. And if/when they do win, they have put ALL women in their place, and the structures of society are secure. (On the other hand, if they lose, then I am obviously a man!)

Denise // Posted 16 July 2009 at 12:47 pm

What always pisses me off is that if you do something badly or not as well as teh menz you are a typical representative of stoopid female-hood. But if you do something better, you are an exception!!! It’s a no-win.

As Jennifer Drew points out, you have got to try and ignore that ‘inner voice’ composed of all the misogynistic messages you’ve received since you could walk and talk. You have to ignore the outer voices too!

So, Jennifer Ruth – PLEASE go to that competition. Just go. Have a great time.

Alex // Posted 16 July 2009 at 3:09 pm

I’ve been competing against boys since daycare, it doesn’t bother me…except for sports.

I play beach volleyball, the guys have a different, more aggressive, playing style, so I lose confidence. They are also bad losers, being beaten by a girl is this heinous sin against macho, so they play meaner.

Jo // Posted 16 July 2009 at 4:17 pm

“I also think if women try something like poker and lose to men they’re more likely to decide they don’t care about poker because they can use that as an excuse to give up rather than having to win the respect of the men (which is harder to obtain for women it seems)”

Ditto. I am generally put off trying new things unless I know there are also female newbies, because I know too many men take their sport/hobbies far too seriously. In my opinion, boys grow up being told they will be the breadwinner and they need to be competitive and better than everyone else. They take it very personally when they fail at something they try. Whereas girls tend to grow up with the idea that it doesn’t matter if they do not succeed. Society does not demand girls to be competitive and to win, because girls are not expected to be independent and fend for themselves.

I find this affects me a lot. I am likely to avoid competing with a group of men. Although it is not like I can’t succeed if I tried, I just don’t seem to have the same drive. This maintains the status quo that men are better at things because I am not putting enough effort into it.

Sam // Posted 16 July 2009 at 4:42 pm

Yeah, I’ve seen that mechanic at play (and I think it’s a scientifically well established psychological mechanism). I’m usually biting my lip before making a supposedly funny remark when a girl is driving. I think a lot of this goes back to different communication styles. It’s probably mostly teasing.

Btw, men usually try to be good at stuff to impress girls and women. We think we have to be good and impressive and better to get into your pants. I’m thinking this kind of posturing fits right in there. Women *are* (yes they still are, not all, but, in my experience, still most) looking for a man who’s displaying confidence in that kind of way. They are looking for a man who believes he’s the better driver, better spider-catcher, etc., whether it may be true or not…

Laura // Posted 16 July 2009 at 5:12 pm


Picking up on what you were saying on my rant post as well, I think what we’ve identified here is a real need for men and women to properly communicate and listen to each other rather than basing our judgements and assumptions on cultural stereotypes. I think many of the issues and fears we have are based on these assumptions rather than reality. These can be applied both to ourselves and the opposite sex, perhaps more subconsciously when it comes to ourselves – ie I’d like to say I wouldn’t be attracted to a guy just because he’s great at x, y or z, but honestly I do sometimes experience an initial attraction to men who are, say, awesome drivers with cool cars. That’s not what’s most important to me, and personality, sense of humour etc are paramount and can undermine that initial, shallow attraction, but it’s there and it’s hard to know if that’s just me or if it’s what I’ve learnt to find attractive.

Challenging our assumptions, fears and gender stereotypes and beginning to communicate properly is easier said than done, of course, when we’ve been socialised into believing certain things and not encouraged to question them, but that’s a big part of what feminism’s about as far as I’m concerned, which is why I write these kinds of posts. I am most interested in hearing women’s voices because we are generally less likely to have a platform for them, but as you say, men need to speak up about these things too and be listened to if we want to change the social and political dynamic between genders.

Sam // Posted 16 July 2009 at 5:47 pm


I couldn’t agree more. Honestly.

“I am most interested in hearing women’s voices because we are generally less likely to have a platform for them, but as you say, men need to speak up about these things too and be listened to if we want to change the social and political dynamic between genders.”

I’m not sure women are less likely to have a platform for *this* debate. I actually think they’re more likely to have one than men. Because this debate isn’t one that is catered to in any way by any mainstream media, and because of the dynamic we’re discussing here, men are usually much more careful than women to not appear weak, which means they will likely avoid any public discussion thereof. Which is another reason they flock to feminist boards to discuss their issues and thus often sidetrack what women would like to discuss. It’s just that men fear having this thing out in the open would leave them open to ridicule from men and sharply reduce their attractivity to women. And it’s not a baseless fear… so that’s why I think women actually will have more space to discuss this kind of thing than men. Men are sitting between a rock and a hard place in this respect…

It’s weird, for all the issues I have with parts of feminism (particularly with respect to some assumptions about sexuality and male sexuality), I do believe that feminism is actually doing a lot of important stuff for men, too.

Jenn // Posted 16 July 2009 at 9:05 pm

Back when I dated men, the constant one-up-manship wore on me, much like the performance anxiety that you talk about in your post. I remember I had to prove that I was as good as him at anything we did together: poker, driving, swimming, pool, darts, drinking, and video games. All of these things that I normally enjoyed became this horrible chore. See, if I was with my female friends and I didn’t shoot a good game of pool or wasn’t as good as them, it was because they were more skilled than me (more often than not, true) or I was having an off day. But with my boyfriends, it was always because I was a girl, unless I consistently outperformed him or matched him. If I beat him, it was chalked up to luck or that I “practically wasn’t a girl”.

It just zapped all the fun out of anything. Friendly competition became this stupid gender role play that was less about comradery and enjoyment than foreplay of gender scripts. Most, if not all, of my boyfriends put me down in everything, even my professional and academic interests, to make themselves out to be smarter, stronger, more intuitive, or more skillful. Then they could “show me how it’s done” or lavish insincere and condescending praise upon me, fulfilling the expectation that they were supposed to be better than me in everything. This is fairly constant with all the men, especially straight men, in my life. My father, my brother, my boyfriends, and my male friends all seemingly cannot stand the notion that I know something that they don’t, or I can do something that they can’t.

I don’t agree with the other commenters who say that this kind of performance anxiety is a product of our silly lady brains. It’s not. The men in my life consistently drive home the notion that they are better and smarter than me in everything, and that my skills will always be subpar to theirs. If I happen to bring up a topic that they cannot bluff their way into looking superior, they insult my interests and change the topic. It’s constant and on-going. When I think about it, it’s infuriating. This isn’t a problem with women, it’s a problem with men.

Daniel // Posted 16 July 2009 at 11:30 pm

Aw, sorry about your experiences Jenn.

As a chess geek myself I find this story quite interesting, but I can’t say I’m particularly surprised. I do believe this is officially called the ‘stereotype threat’ and has been seen weaving it’s black magic in a few other studies I’ve read (the most famous one involving maths tests). I’m surprised no one has mentioned it.

P.S. I would provide the links but my internet is playing silly buggers at the moment and it would probably take me hours. A quick Google search should find them though.

Jessica // Posted 17 July 2009 at 9:43 am

Regarding Jenn’s comments about men…

My experience is different. I have encountered men (and women, in fact)who are very competative, but my boyfriends and my friends haven’t been that type. My partner isn’t bothered by the fact that I earn slightly more than him, or that I’m a better swimmer than him (cancels out the skating and the rock climbing) or that I know more about our mortgage than him. My father is the same — he expects me to know more about politics and current affairs than him because I work in Whitehall.

So…I don’t really have much experience of being told I’m not as good at something. Well, not by real people — only by newspapers and TV. I often wonder if I’m living a double life. Every time I open the Times I see an article saying “people don’t eat at dining table” or “no one cooks from scratch” or “women rubbish at maths”. It’s easy for me to snear at that attitude — I have a supportive family, a job in the liberal public sector and live in Richmond-upon-Thames.

To get back to Jenn’s post: I don’t think that performance anxiety is a natural product of our female brains. (What is a “female” brain anyway?) But I do think that most girls are told by society that they are more vunerable than boys and that they shouldn’t try to do things in case they fail. I think girls are slowly brainwashed into believing this.

The problem is a society which insists that men and women have narrow roles.

Smart Blonde // Posted 17 July 2009 at 11:04 am

This article exactly describes my experiences – I could have written it myself. One example springs to mind….A while ago I went on a weekend camping in a group of 10 friends near the South coast of the UK. We went for a walk along the coastal path and when we got to a slightly steep bit the other girls we were with started to freak out and cling to each other. I had no idea why – it was just a path! Then we got to a bit where you could scramble down the rocks and get close to the sea. I was off down there straight away with the guys, while the girls cowered at the top. The guys tried to help me, which I did not need (grrr) – all except my husband (sigh – this is why I love him so much) who could see I was fine and left me to do it myself. I did feel like I was expected to wimp out and be rubbish at this “bloke activity”, both by the guys and girls. It was incredibly patronizing.

Sam (different Sam who usually posts as 'Sam' but might change to something else now) // Posted 17 July 2009 at 11:58 am

I’m just surprised that Laura Woodhouse has alloys!

Laura // Posted 17 July 2009 at 12:56 pm

(different) Sam: haha! I don’t have a car at the moment, but if I did it would have alloys ;-)

Anna // Posted 17 July 2009 at 12:57 pm

‘We think we have to be good and impressive and better to get into your pants.’

Maybe you should stop trying, then.

annifrangipani // Posted 17 July 2009 at 1:54 pm

Have some XKCD!


Everyone else has expressed how I feel far more articulately than I could, particularly Jessica. It’s interesting that women trying something and being unsuccessful is viewed far more negatively than the same situation for me. That’s us daring to leave the house and getting above ourselves, perhaps?

Marcy Webb // Posted 18 July 2009 at 6:15 am

Thank you for the post, and for your comments. I am here by way of Renee over at Womanist Musings.

I think that how we as women feel about our abilities in relation to how men view our abilities – whether real or imagined – is largely dependent on our upbringing and our exposure to women and men in non-traditional roles, whether it be professional or advocational.

In my own family, there were no assigned roles on the basis of gender. So, I grew up believing that whatever my brother could do, I could do, and vice versa. The home environment and parental attitudes, I believe, have much to do with it.

Danielle // Posted 18 July 2009 at 3:40 pm

Whenever it came to lifting or moving stuff I used to carry more than I could handle, in some misguided attempt to prove myself. Then I did a course in manual handling and realised I could do myself some serious damage, so now I don’t care if I appear “weak”. I just carry what I can and observe how the men always seem to try and out-perform each other.

It’s interesting, I used to think the whole performance-anxiety thing was just me, because I’ve always been a bit shy and nervous. It didn’t occur to me that it could be a gendered issue. And the more I think about it, the more I realise how much I strive to impress men, be it physically or intellectually.

Thank you for pointing this out Laura, I’ll remember it next time I feel inadequate at my lack of “manly” abilities.

Polly Styrene // Posted 18 July 2009 at 10:29 pm

Btw, men usually try to be good at stuff to impress girls and women. We think we have to be good and impressive and better to get into your pants. I’m thinking this kind of posturing fits right in there. Women *are* (yes they still are, not all, but, in my experience, still most) looking for a man who’s displaying confidence in that kind of way. They are looking for a man who believes he’s the better driver, better spider-catcher, etc., whether it may be true or not…


*wanders back to lesbian island*

Aimee // Posted 19 July 2009 at 8:41 am

The only time I ever experience this is when playing my boyfriend at Soul Calibur. If I lose to anyone else, i’m really not bothered. I can beat my other male and female friends at it easily, and if they win, well, they win, i’m not bothered. But if I lose to my boyfriend.. well… I get so agitated. I get this feeling that i’ve failed ‘cos i’ve allowed him to beat me at something and i’ve therefore relinquished my independence somehow.

… This, I know, sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I always have this sense that i simply cannot let our relationship descend into the type of relationship that is not an equality; where he has one up on me. I feel i need to prove myself more with him, and i’ll get really angry when i can’t. See, sexism effects everything we do.. even Soul Calibur!

Zoe // Posted 19 July 2009 at 2:57 pm

Hey JenniferRuth, I like Street Fighter IV too and wish I could do it competitively. Unfortunately I can’t because I use my friend’s XBox (we play a lot together) but I’m thinking about getting my own so i cna practice. I say you go for the tourney- even if you are the only girl competing, you’ll show the guys that girls can do it on a competitive level and you definitely won’t be the worst player there- there’ll be a bunch of guys who are worse than you.

Who do you main? And is the Manchester event putting up videos of the matches? I’d kinda like to see you play. I sympathise with you about the idiots on XBL, I think you just have to make it so that you are only contactable by people of your buddy list, or just don’t use the voice thing. Weirdly I’ve used voice communication on Wii network and people aren’t half as bad on there. What is it about XBox that attracts these dolts?

I’m better at Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix where I main Cammy. I like the fact that there are more female characters in SFIV but dislike the fact that all but 2 are unlockable so don’t count in tournament play. C. Viper, why are you so hard to master? If it was up to me I’d just get rid of unlockable characters so I could play Rose or Sakura.

lindsey spilman // Posted 20 July 2009 at 12:51 pm

Men as a group only appear better at some things then women. You have summed up one of the reasons why this is, many women do not want to be made to look a fool by the boys doing better then them. My question here is why do you care what the men think of you, is it that you do not want men to look down on you for not doing as well as them? or you want to show other women that you can do as well as men. I went through a time in my life where i was competitive with men, but i have never been bothered if they beat me as i get into things for the challenge. For many years i would rather challenge men then women, simply because i felt better at directing my competitiveness towards men. It is safer because if i won i did not feel bad for it. But there have always been women that i knew that appeared to not share my drive to have a go. I always assumed that these women were afraid of hurting the male ego if they won. I used to go circuit training a lot and i used to race men on the shuttle run, and sometimes i did win. Once the instructor did a tri athelon in the gym and i decided i would do the male version, i did beat some of the men. Even when it comes to talking about things which require prior knowledge i have observed women will not get into talkes with men or if they do they act differently when they are there. Again i assume that they are afraid of knowing more then the men in the room and again making men look small. I feel more confident having talks with men, simply because i know that i canm be myself as they are not as easily offended as women are, and i do not mind it if i know more. I do not feel ashamed to do better then a man. Most women are afraid of doing this. I am not fully sure why. What is worse is that i know that most women could provide a perfect rival for men in most things, as most sports, games and jobs are more about skill and useing the mind then strength.

The main problem is that most women never take there foot of the breaks, they waste all there energy on inhibiting themselves and each other. Faliure and being made a fool of is part and parcle of learning, men go throught it all the time but learn from it. There is no chance of being good at anything if one cannot deal with this. Women need to not be so hard on other women, that is the real issue here, before puberty there is no strength difference, infact girls have there growth spurt first. So why is there a gender difference, and who gives girls the sense that they are not as good as the boys, i wonder if mother may do? Girls toys do not challange the brain in the way the boys toys do, infact everything about girls toys prevents girls developing the skills needed to be goods at most of the stratargy based games men play. Boys toys are all about construction and useing the brain to work out stratargys. I am aware that some girls play with boys toys, some girls play with the boys, we all know that tom boys do not have these inhibitions. But for girls and women who choose to spend there time with there own sex only there is a tendancy to do typical girl things which build up only certin regions of the brain. There are adult toys for men, these include flying helicopters, space ships and of course kites. I have seen familys useing them, i have seen adult men alone or together useing them and kids mostly boys. But i have yet to see two or more girls or women useing them with no men with them. I am still looking for female friends that are interested in doing these things. Men spend time together doing things like this, its hard to get a woman to play even a board game.

Laura // Posted 20 July 2009 at 12:58 pm

@ Lindsey,

You seem to have quite a low view of women! I was a ‘tom boy’ (v much dislike that phrase; I was a girl who liked things that only boys are supposed to like) and I still have a problem competing with men. This isn’t because I don’t want to shatter their ego or embarrass them, but because I worry that if I fail I will be taken as a representative of all women, ‘proving’, in men’s eyes, that women are useless at that activity. Because of this tendency, when I do compete with men, the awareness that I may be being held up as a representative of all women makes me less confident and I perform less well than I should, so the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I agree that I need to get over this and if more women tackled this issue we’d make a lot of progress; but I don’t think blaming women for not doing so or for holding each other back is particularly helpful.

Kit // Posted 20 July 2009 at 1:41 pm

For me, I definitely feel more intimidated by other women when it comes to doing “guy” things. I think it’s because if I’m on my own among a group of men and I’m not good at whatever it is I’m doing, there are plenty of men in the group who are just as bad, if not worse, so I don’t really stick out.

But when I’ve been in male dominated groups and there’s been another woman it seems there was a tendancy for the men to compare us to see who’d make the best candidate for Token Girl. Once you’re “outed” as being “a girl” if you want acceptance you have to be the one they like, otherwise you’re just chopped liver. Blending in as “one of the boys” seems much better in comparison…

The one I really remember feeling concerned about how well I was doing in comparison to men because of my gender, was in a group project in my CS course where I was in nearly an all-woman group. I think we all felt like if we didn’t do well we’d be letting the side down.

Alex T // Posted 20 July 2009 at 1:57 pm

And how come only men ever try to direct me into parking spaces? I hate being directed anyway but have only just realised that no woman has ever stood outside my car waving me into a space. Hmm…

fannie // Posted 20 July 2009 at 10:57 pm

Hmm, this is interesting.

Personally, when playing recreational sports with men, I have found that the men have tried harder against me than they have against other men. I think it has to do with them having a strong fear of being publicly outplayed by a woman. I think that fear can go a long way in explaining some of the reason that men sometimes perform better against women than they do against men. Although, I can see how fear of male judgment could also come into play.

Being observed by, or competing with men, rarely makes me nervous. Rather, my competitiveness kicks in and I use it to my advantage.

Rachael // Posted 21 July 2009 at 1:43 am

Well, having parents who’ve always been incredibly encouraging and never made me feel that I couldn’t be as good as boys at anything and gone through life believing this I must admit to not having felt much more pressure when competing with boys though I’m obviously aware of the oppressive stereotypes that still exist. I’m currently on the Manchester University University Challenge team and not only am I the only girl on the team but I was one of the few girls (out of quite a large number of students) who attended the auditions for our team. I’ve often noticed that UC teams are often male dominated and what with that and the ridiculous sexist drivel that Gail Trimbal had to endure last series when she had the timidity to be a woman and to be good at answering general knowledge questions very quickly, I’m not surprised less women than men put themselves forward. I’ve heard people say that men are just better at that kind of thing but I don’t think that’s anything to do with it, I think it’s because, more than anything, it’s seen as bad form for women to demonstrate any kind of skill or ability publicly. It’s as though it’s just about acceptable to be ‘clever’ as long as you don’t show it, especially when there are men about, because, if you do demonstrate any kind of superior talent in the presence of men you’re being ‘a smug bitch’. None of this has anything to do with my team mates or anyone I’ve met during the UC process, where I’ve encountered no sexism at all and where I’ve felt just as much a part of the team as everyone else and haven’t been patronised or overlooked in any way, it’s just a comment on the way the media reacted to GT’s success last year where even the positive comments were horribly sexist since most of the positive remarks were remarking on how she managed to be clever while also being attractive and modest, because, if you’re not attractive and behave in a ‘ladylike’ manner then anything else you might be able to do counts for nothing. Given this I’m not surprised that some women will be put off participating in a show like UC and if they do in performing as well as they might have done. I know it’s a trivial example but I think it illustrates the point.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds