Since Deborah Tannen introduced the distinction a quarter-century ago (in You Just Don’t Understand), it has become a cultural platitude to say that men, unlike women, won’t ask for directions. But there is a less recognized way that the genders part company directionally: everyone finds it necessary to give women, but not men, directions — not physical directions, but instructions about how to behave. Apparently many still believe that women are interactionally incompetent, and so cannot be trusted to get anything right unless they are told exactly how to do absolutely everything.
If the women do what they are told and it turns out well, their instructors get the credit. If the women ignore the advice, then they get the blame if it turns out badly. If it turns out well, they are still criticized because it could have been better, if only they’d been good girls and listened. So once again, no matter what women do, they do it wrong. Continue reading