There’s been a reoccurring theme I’ve noticed for the last two years regarding the role of dominance in business and dating. It’s important to have definitions for the sake of conversation so that we can share ideas with understanding and compassion. Also, definitions set the standard for dialog that remains on topic.
- Masculine: having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness.
- Feminine: having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness. second definition: having qualities traditionally ascribed to women, as sensitivity or gentleness.
- Dominance: power and influence over others.
- Polite: having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.
- Aggression: forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuit of one’s aims and interests. Second definition: hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront.
- Intimidate: to make timid or fearful : frighten; especially : to compel or deter by or as if by threats
- Overwhelm: to overpower in thought or feeling
- Roiling: to move turbulently : be in a state of turbulence or agitation
- Passivity: acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance
- Silence: cause to become silent; prohibit or prevent from speaking.
There’s been some dialog from the male side (no, not ALL men) that in dating, women (no, not ALL women) aren’t aggressive enough, aren’t dominant enough and have generally had a desires that has been unfulfilled or entirely unmet in their relationships. Using these definitions – I’d like to illustrate that some men are expecting a masculine dominance to take shape instead of the feminine dominance that often presents itself.
In regards to business, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In addresses the “Heidi/Howard” study developed by Harvard Business School that highlights that women are penalized for showing masculine dominance in the business world. Women have been regulated to being quiet, polite, and likable as well as proving their competency and work ethic, before they are given the privilege of respect men are naturally given based on their masculine dominance as is the current social norm.
This sense of dichotomy for women makes it challenging to feel successful or pleasing, to say the least but I’d like to make an argument that women are both dominant and aggressive, but these both present themselves as feminine and as such, may often be overlooked. The masculine form of dominance tends to be, by my observation, fast pasted, non-polite or a “roiling boil” of a physical and verbal expression that inspires characteristics of intimidation, overwhelm, or male dominance in direct feedback.
Naturally – this poses the question: What does feminine dominance look like?
Feminine dominance often takes shape in active non-passivity – not aggression. The difference here is that women (again, not ALL women) will seek to influence and gain power through less direct ways often seen to be more communal and to protect the societal expectations of them to be quiet, polite, and likable. This is inherently a slower pace, often showing up as subtle; not due to lack of confidence or competency, but self preservation.
Women must become more vocal about the ways in which they are being actively non-passive again, I emphasize here NOT AGGRESSIVE. Historically, women have been silenced for providing a differing perspective not because the perspective was invalid, but because it showed up as being masculine. By the time a woman reaches the point of communicating in a male dominant style, often it’s due to anger and frustration. This proves to be entirely ineffective and worse, can be damaging if done frequently as the negative correlation becomes “She’s emotional” and often, can result in the worst outcome which is silence.
Silence is passive and while it is considered to be the polite response to getting out of aggressive situations, it does not address the need for masculine dominance to be polite and non-threatening. Both men and women need to be aware of the times when silence is useful – when it serves to alleviate hostility or tension and when silence is an excuse to be passive – or not address the need for physical and emotional safety.