At a time when machismo seems to be receding in a good number of countries, a paradoxical fact occurs: girls show the same capacity as boys when it comes to learning, but they are treated with condescension more frequently and, when They stand out for their abilities, they often encounter rejection from people around them.
And no, it is not a question of envy. So… what happens?
A problem linked to self-esteem
The researcher Heidi Grant Halvorston wrote a while ago that part of the reason girls tend not to be as opinionated and assertive is the way they see themselves, that is, their self-concept. The idea is that boys and girls perceive their abilities differently, but not because of genetic differences, but because of the way in which they have been taught to think about themselves. Specifically, she believes that Bright girls or girls with special talents tend to believe that they are born with a series of abilities that they cannot changewhile children, regardless of their abilities, believe more in the possibility of improving by learning.
When children encounter difficulties, because there is something they do not understand or have not yet learned to do, the people around them encourage them to continue and frequently remind them of the importance of a culture of effort.
In the case of girls, however, condescension limits their learning. When they do something well, they are rewarded with kind words about how smart they are, or how good they are at school. This, which in principle is something positive, has a double edge: Girls internalize a type of discourse that constantly reminds them that if they are successful in a task it is because “they are like that”because it is part of their identity, and not the repertoire of behaviors they have learned.
Creating a culture of stigma
In this way, when they notice that there is something that they do not know how to do, they believe that it is because they are simply not made for those tasks. In the same way, They will be surprised that other girls try very hard to master something that at first they did not know how to do., and sometimes they can be stigmatized. In this way, a culture is created in which an idea is internalized that kills the development possibilities of many talented young women.
Brilliant girls have to deal, therefore, with a double obstacle: the difficulty of learning the skills necessary to prepare for adult life and, at the same time, the difficulty of managing the negative reactions that their abilities produce. But, of course, this rejection comes not only from other girls, but from many other people, due to the inheritance of machismo.
The imprint of machismo on intelligent girls
Currently there are many studies that point out a curious phenomenon: Compared to men, women are more likely to receive negative reactions when they adopt a role of authority. That is to say, women who behave assertively encounter more problems than men when it comes to asserting themselves, whether when it comes to asking for a raise, negotiating the distribution of tasks or proposing initiatives and strategies.
This disparity between men and women could well have its origins during the childhood years, in the way in which boys and girls interact with each other at recess and in group activities. The role of women has traditionally been linked to household chores and raising sons and daughters., a context characterized by stability and in which one cannot stand out above other people. Competitiveness in an unstable and changing context was the task of men, who left home to earn money by differentiating themselves from the competition.
This makes the male role more related to individualism and differentiation through effort, while women adhered to much more discreet roles. The existence of bright and talented girls who strive to hone their skills and who do not bother to adopt a low and discreet profile clashes with this conception of the tasks of men and women.
If girls with special talents receive a feedback negative reaction from other people is, basically, because where the education of these minors is carried out there is also a cultural context with the presence of machismo to a greater or lesser degree.
Presumably, addressing this social and collective problem will also improve something as individual as the way in which each of these young women experience their potential without being stigmatized for it.