Wednesday, December 07, 2005


In a conference far far away and a long time ago, a professor bought me a whiskey and told me, smilingly, that I have too much hubris. "The gods love punishing people like you" he added, and drank happily to my expected demise.

I don't think he meant it as a warning or in any way a negative comment, because if I am the hero filled with hubris, daring the retribution of the gods, he is the helper who tries to make the dreams and the wild plans possible. But his observation still made me pause and question my behaviour, what made him say something like that?

I have slowly come to the conclusion that it is because I am a woman. A man could not get away with talking about grand plans and world domination the way I do (metaphorically, of course), because those things would be possible to a man. He would simply be a dangerous maniac who might do some real damage. A woman who aspires to the role of evil overlord is filled with hubris, overconfident and certain to be destroyed.

On the one hand, this should make me seriously angry: Why shouldn't I be able to run the universe as well as any man? On the other hand, it gives me more freedom to fail gracefully and tragically, and not because I am stupid, but because the gods are against me and no mortal can outwit the gods. There is a certain security in that, it is comforting to know that I can blame something else, somebody else.

But that thought brings me to another male who used to return to the claim that women are always using equal opportunity work and gender prejudice as an excuse for not qualifying themselves academically. "The gods are against me, I can't finish my Ph D..." Oh, wait, I did!

So what am I trying to say? I think this sums it up:
1. Women are allowed to try things men can not, because we are expected to fail.
2. When we fail, we are expected to be bitter, angry and blame everything but our own incompetence.

Luckily there is a point three:
3. Some people know about both opinion 1 and 2, but insist on listening to other expectations, continuing to offer support and advice and the occasional glass of whiskey.

So here's to hubris, to naive over-confidence and the belief that we don't have to live our lives like stereotypes. (Not even that of a tragic hero.)

No comments: