Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Art of Doubt

OK, stop.

Last night at dinner, I was informed that women aren't capable of being president. They're too emotional, I was told. They're too compassionate.

No, I wasn't trapped in a wrinkle in time. I checked, and it was still 2009. Now, from certain underdeveloped ignoramuses, all of them under the age of 18 and male, I expect this sort of thing. I do have two teenage boys, after all, and know how their little brains work.

But this was my 15-year-old stepdaughter, reporting out on a debate she'd just had in her social studies class. As noted, she assumed the "we gals are just too weak and emotional to be in charge of anything really important" position, while another girl - "a wicked feminist" - refused to budge from on her position that women can be just as sensible as men. Remembering this girl's words, my stepdaughter rolled her eyes.

When I could speak again, I asked how she could possibly feel this way. She is, after all, one of the most defiant individuals on the planet, as her teachers constantly tell us. "Look at Nancy Pelosi!" she practically shouted.

Huh? I told her Nancy Pelosi was tough as nails and I'd hate to meet her in a dark alley. Her father said he's always admired Margaret Thatcher. I brought up Indira Gandhi. He mentioned Benazir Bhutto. I threw in Hillary Clinton and, digging down a little, Kay Bailey Hutchinson. But our little pumpkin remained unconvinced.

So my question remains: Where is this coming from? Are we as humans destined to relive all the turgid social arguments of the past, ad infinitum, until the sun explodes?

Unfortunately, having seen how children develop their views, I already know the answer to this. And the answer is yes. Teen boys are all bluster, and, though annoying, perhaps it's a good thing. Why wave a white flag of personal weakness in front of friends and enemies alike? Self-understanding can come later; teen and young adulthood is a time for courage.

But teen girls dabble in the art of doubt and self-effacement, sometimes for effect, but often times as a strategy for life. Admit what I can't do, and no one will expect me do it.


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