Safeguarding the Fragile Male Ego in Academia
Posted on June 11, 2018
‘Hey, I think you should do it this way…not because what you have is wrong, but maybe it’d read easier like this.’
I found myself saying this to a male colleague last semester, instead of outrightly saying: ‘what you wrote makes no sense to me, no matter how much I re-read it.’ I said the former because I knew that if I said what the exact problem was he (1) would not believe me and (2) tell people just how much of a bitch Tamanisha always is.
Unsurprisingly, he had other males read what he wrote too, and I do believe that they told him the exact problem without any fluff. These men would never be subjected to number 2—however, as a trusted female colleague who is frequently introduced to others as “she’s smart,” he felt that with me telling him the same thing (of course) in a “nicer” way, his ego would not be harmed. Thus, I ended up freely helping him solely to keep his ego in tact, because, why not?
Far from people’s beliefs, I do not consider myself a “feminist” in the same way that some women who might study feminism may. I hardly ever read feminist texts— although I do tend to always be subjected to white feminism in grad school.
But something that has been irking me as of late, is the easy way in which men in the academy—at the professor and student/colleague level—dismiss women’s knowledge if it does not serve their ego. What this looks like, for me as a black woman, is a continued conversation of always showing that I too am an intellectual. I too am capable of critically thinking and that in spite of your emotional backlash when your male ego is harmed:
I DESERVE TO BE HERE.
Safeguarding the male ego in academia happens when you must tip-toe around the truth, so as to not upset a male colleagues ego. You must dumb yourself down—in case he has not read— to not threaten his ego. You must pretend to be able to see his side— no matter how wrong or not effectively argued it is, to not threaten his ego. Otherwise you go from “smart” and “respected” to now your academic intellect is being called into question. This happens quite frequently to me because although I do not mind the occasional ‘dumbing oneself down,’ I refuse to let someone that is blatantly wrong, pretend to be right— solely for the sake of his ego.
The safeguarding of the male ego in academia is atrocious, when one considers that sometimes we negate information, to not harm the male ego. Sometimes we pretend to not have knowledge to keep that ego in tact.
What is being witnessed via this safeguard goes beyond simply accepting instances of mansplaining. It is like we are accepting “fake news” helping fake news spread itself, for the sake of something toxic.
Some of the men in academia need to set aside their emotional, condescending remarks to women when their fragile male egos are hurt, and instead use that opportunity to really learn.
That education should also be done by themselves and without the expectation that their hand will be held through that learning process since they are the ones that must undergo it. Women should not be tasked with explaining academic and political intricacies to them, because their egos make it incapable for them to learn or understand what is being said contrary to their own beliefs, simply because it is coming from a woman.
This behavior is insulting.