This subject is not entirely INTP related, but more related to the history and education of my sex and current generational struggles which I felt like commenting on here:
In recent years, we have gained this expression in my country which roughly translates to ‘A+ grade girls’. It covers the tendency among my generation of particularly young female students who strive towards getting good grades (and a perfected image) all around, which has also fostered a series of performance anxiety, wavering self-esteem and other stress-related illnesses in large numbers across universities, high schools and now all the way down to elementary schools(!).
The expression has become symbolic of a serious symptom. In fact, it has gotten so bad that it has become a matter of somewhat national urgency.
Though, ambition in itself is not a problem and the fact that a large generation of women achieve a higher education in a variety of subjects than ever before and are able to make a name of themselves is positive, it is also historically new and revolutionary. For most of history, women were merely subjects of their fathers and husbands, duty-bound to obey and be ‘good, little daughters and housewives’. No rights, no vote, no voice, no (financial) independence, no educational prospects. Only very few could see themselves so lucky or privileged to get one or two of those things.
The fact, nowadays, that women now strain under the pressure of living up to all these new opportunities and expectations (given by themselves as well) and a perfected image, is, of course, a problem. A societal symptom which we all share a responsibility for. Let me be clear: It is not the women’s faults. The problem is much more complex and goes much deeper.
And that’s exactly it: The expression ‘A+ grade girls’ unfortunately embodies a sexist, derogatory prejudice as well. The way it is said and used, in a slightly blaming manner, tells of a historically old sexism that stills prevails in our society and which could also be roughly translated to: ‘Blame it on the girls.’
I sometimes sense a troubling lack of understanding among some men and even older generations of women in power who carelessly fling out this expression every now and then to underline whatever point they want to make.
Yes, statistically more women have entered and done better in the higher education system than men in recent decades, but simply because women experience historic progress in this particular field doesn’t automatically undermine the men. Is it really good, ol’ butt-hurt and fear of women out-performing men? Because something is off with the passive-aggressive way some seem to say ‘girls are winners, so now boys are losers’ and ‘fuck these girls and their outrageous ambitions! They should either stop whining or stop competing with each other and just give it a rest!’…
I get so angry and frustrated when I sense this is the problem! Especially because I, myself, is somewhat of a ‘A+ grade girl’ (along with my sister). Though, it has as much to do with my natural intelligence and being academically inclined as it has with my being a woman and a Millennial and feeling the obligatory pressure of performing well with all the opportunities given. Unconsciously or not. It is just the way it is for most of my generation, that much is clear now. And why shouldn’t I make use of my intelligence and opportunities? (I almost did the common mistake of my sex there: Unnecessarily apologizing beforehand for ‘tooting in my own horn’).
And so it’s even more frustrating when I’ve – to my surprise – witnessed my own father spew above-mentioned sentiments twice and refuse to listen to whatever I have to say because he has already set his mind to disagree with me. It’s all the more sad and hurtful that he seems to carry a hidden grudge against girls like myself and my sister; that we are clearly the problem, that we either try too hard or complain too much, and that we need to deal with it ourselves.
I may be colored by this, but, in the end, I think most will agree it is an utterly ignorant and unproductive way of explaining and dealing with a national, and possibly global, symptom: A whole generation of young people reporting sick with stress and battling low self-esteem and anxiety because all they want to do is to perform well and now have all the opportunities to do so that previous generations didn’t have! Not just girls, boys too, but because girls are of the majority of the higher education system thus their number simply are greater.
Of course, the tendency to want to perform well in all of life’s aspects may be sociologically and evolutionary gender-specific. Historically, women have been more exposed to changing circumstances, forced to be adaptive in order to survive and obliged to work twice as hard as men to get the same respect and recognition, juggle multiple roles as well as more restrictive, contradicting demands and expectations from society than men. More so than ever when we did make mistakes, became victims of circumstance and oppressors, and failed to live up to said (often inhuman and paradoxical) demands and expectations. It didn’t take much to step out of line. Which were most of the time. Well, we are humans and humans make mistakes. We lived in a noose that tightened every time we wriggled in the slightest, and our positions in society made us easy targets of all sorts of exploitation since we didn’t have the rights or the voices to fight back or demand justice. (I’m not even sure why I’m speaking in past tense; inequality and sexism are still alive and well).
And let me point out: Having gone through hardships is not a contest nor is this my attempt to exploit or wallow in the female suffering; I’m simply stating the female experience (not excluding racial and socio-economical aspects): We had to make do with what we had and could, which wasn’t much.
But the fact that more women today are dealing with these high ambitions – all these new opportunities included – doesn’t equate making women the enemies in all of this. (Apropos the noose analogy; it’s like some evil repetition of the Salem witch trials. Whatever we try, something can be faulted). Sure, we put a pressure on ourselves but, let me repeat, only because we want to do good. Make good use of our opportunities and prove ourselves – to ourselves and to others. And though ambition is far from everything in life (I’d be a hypocrite to say otherwise), understanding female history is crucial in order to understand the female perspective in this and why women may be more prone to strive for perfection and achievements in every aspect of life.
In fact, it should be seen as a demonstration of women’s extraordinary adaptability and multiple capabilities, especially when faced with adversity, as well as a recurring need to please – for better or for worse, but which shouldn’t be sneered at as it so often has been.
Another incredible historic example of this characteristic of my sex is when WWII arrived and all the men went to war, how women went directly from the kitchens and nurseries to the factories and all the previously male-dominated jobs and did them just as well and efficiently. And then, when the men returned, the women were unfortunately obliged to go back to the kitchens and their previous positions as secretaries and assistents and the sexist treatment that came with them. Just like that. No sulking. No hitch in the sudden shift of skills. Like the men, they had to do what was needed to be done and what was expected of them, though there are always two sides of that coin.
I only wish the current general opinion of the so-called ‘A+ grade girls/generation’ could shift in favor of my generation’s standpoint and desperate cries for help (which is what I also see this symptom as). Because if it continues as it has been, I’m not sure where we’ll end up. The average marks for admission are getting so high at some universities, no one can or will be able to get in. What’s the point of education if it’s all just this ‘good-better-best!’-attitude everyone seems enslaved to..?
I wish all parts of society could see the shared connection and responsibility of this problem, stop pointlessly vilifying either sexes and make a change for the better in the entire mindset of not just the educational system but what values we install in the coming generations.
I’m that idealistic.
Rant over and out.