Sunday, August 15, 2010

Writers: Gender Differences and Stress — March 11, 2011

Here's a repeat early post about gender differences in dealing with stress — and focused on writers in particular.

Blogger and writer, Kelli Russell Agodon, speculated about gender differences as they show up in writers. See the complete post and her blog at www.ofkells.blogspot.com
I have borrowed with permission and shortened the sequence, but not changed wording.

"If an editor of our press rejects work from a male writer, but writes something like, "This came close.  We'd like to see more of your work in the future, please resubmit" - we will usually receive another submission from the male writer within a month (though sometimes two) after he receives his rejection.

When we send this same note to a woman writer, she will resubmit maybe in 3-6 months (if that) but more likely it will be later than 6 months and sometimes a year (or the next submission season later).  Sometimes she will not resubmit at all.

I do not know why this is, but as a woman writer who grew up in the age of not imposing on people or being a bother, here is my guess to why--

When we ask a woman to resubmit she thinks, "When would be the best time to resubmit?  I don't want to seem pushy, but I do want to get them my work.  Maybe I should wait a few months so I don't seem desperate or so I don't irritate them by submitting so fast.  Do they really want to see more work, or were they just being nice?  I'm sure they want to see more work, but I should probably wait a couple months, I wouldn't want to be an imposition and it would be better manners and more respectful to wait a bit.  Or should I?  Yes, I'll play it cool and wait a few months. I wouldn't want to impose."
And then the woman writer waits and either forgets or send her submission out a few months to a year later.  (The generalization of women over-thinking things is going through my head right now.)"

Kelli's speculation fits in with research on gender and stress.  From a study by P. Matud about gender differences in stress we find out that one of several reasons that women experience more stress than men. Women carry a larger burden of demands and limitations at work and in the family than men, related to gender role expectations. WOW! The more things change the more things stay the same — still and again. My 1994 book, Genderflex, Men and Women Speaking Each Others Language at Work, is fortunately and unfortunately not outdated yet!

A further finding of the study is that men cope better with stress. They use problem-solving and emotional detachment to cope. They act. We use emotionally focused techniques and avoidanceand we don't take action. We stew. I'm sure you can see the connection to not resubmitting as a writer, which is a relatively benign consequence of women experiencing more stress and coping with it less well as you know. Our overthinking, inner critic is a powerful stressor — a stressor that fewer men have to deal with.

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