Say Her Name, Say Her Name

By Liv Stephens

It’s time to talk about a little bit of Monica, Erica, Rita, Tina, Sandra, Mary, and Jessica.

anigif_enhanced-28999-1428709735-5Lou Bega was definitely not afraid of name dropping when he wrote the jive pop 1999 classic Mambo No. 5.  However, the song has us vibing for more than one reason; it promotes female autonomy!

No, it’s not a trap. You see, research suggests that male and masculine voices address women using language that identifies women through their relationships with other people. It is almost never done with malicious intent, and research basically chalks it up to a style of speech that men learn by talking with other men called “attachment erasure”and it looks kinda like this:

“This is so-and-so, she’s that one dude’s __________ [girlfriend/roommate/sister/cousin/ hookup/friend/classmate/dog groomer]”

Or this:

“Oh, I know you! You work for/with ______ [the name of your sweaty co-worker] ”

You may not have even noticed it before, but everyone does it to everyone.  It’s hard to not fall into this language pattern.  The problem is that references to women are much more likely to use attachment erasure than references to men. This means that womens’ networking looks and sounds a lot different than mens’.

Here’s the deal: generally speaking, we prefer to network with people who we like.  And research indicates that we like people more when we perceive them to be similar to us.  It’s called the principle of homophily.

Here’s why that matters: A 2006 study conducted by Vasilyeva and Doerfel interviewed and surveyed employees of a retail company to study differences in the ways that guys, gals, and androgynous pals communicate. Among the tsunami of relevant findings they uncovered, they found that women need a higher degree of homophily (aka social sameness) than men do when networking with men in their field. As in, women need to be seen as similar to the man they are talking to in order for social attachments to form.  Unfortunately, this “one of the guys” feel is confirmed through statements of attachment erasure.  

Men, on the other hand, do not need need to establish similarity through others to affirm their attachments in the workplace, and can instead assert their sameness through personal characteristics such as similar goals, activities, or achievements.

A 2016 article by Susan Durbin explains that mentor relationships that involved at least one woman were only reported to form between those who already had common social connections, often initiated through a statement of attachment erasure.

This might look like:

“Oh, you’re Linda’s cousin!”

“Hey, did you work for Tom over at Company Inc.?”

Men, on the other hand, were able to create mentoring relationships via activities and hobbies both internal and external to the workplace.

That might look like:

“Hey, did you also go to Expensive University?”

“Were you the guy who gave that presentation at that conference last week?”

You get the picture.

So, what does this mean for women? Women must focus especially on their social credentials, and not their personal credentials, to boost their networking abilities. The semi-unfortunate truth is that who they know may be more important than what they know. In order to regain their autonomy, women must establish personal similarities (or what the research calls attachments) instead of social attachments through other people.

We can all help close this attachment gap by referring to people of all genders using their personal characteristics, instead of their social connections.
Bega said it best: you “must stay deep, ‘cuz talk is cheap.”

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.

American Horror Story: Earning more money than your husband

By Erika Harrington

Lions, tigers, and high-earning women! Oh, my!

Framing a situation where a woman makes more than her husband as a marriage-dooming horror story is nothing new. From family to friends to tv shows, we’re constantly told that if we ever find ourselves making more money than our partner, we’ll be welcoming a host of problems into the relationship.

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Now you’re probably wondering, do you have to choose between a fulfilling marriage and a fat paycheck?

Not quite. Don’t let this myth crush your hopes of a decent future, and allow me to ease your stress. I’m happy to report that these fears, instilled in you by society and the media, are just as real as the boogeyman.  (Assuming, of course, that you don’t believe in the boogeyman. You do know he’s not real, right?)

According to Gregory Eirich and Joan Robinson, there is no evidence that the wife being the higher-earning spouse has any effect on financial satisfaction and marital stress [in the context of a heterosexual relationship]. Although some marriages may face finance-related strains, Eirich and Robinson report that those strains have little to do with who makes more money.

Amazing. Who would have ever imagined that which person makes the most money does not actually matter in the relationship? Oh but wait, because the best is yet to come.

giphyThe best part about this study was the finding that at the end of the day, what really matters isn’t who makes more money, but how much money a couple makes combined. It turns out that no one really cares who’s picking up the bill for a five-star dinner, or whose credit card the tropical vacation gets charged to. The only thing that matters is actually eating that steak and laying on that beach. The moral of the story: Marital strife is influenced by how much money a couple makes combined—not by who is making it.

Revolutionary.

With that said, this wouldn’t be a proper InformHer post without reminding you that a problem still persists. If people don’t really get divorced because the wife is bringing home all the bread, then why are we talking about it? Sadly, even though a woman out-earning her husband isn’t the life ruining issue that so many American dramas say it is, this myth can still impact the important professional decisions of many women. Further, it can have an impact on the egos of some men. The idea that each spouse has certain marital roles to fulfill and that a woman should be afraid of being more successful than her partner can seriously alter a woman’s intended career path.

So let’s use this research as a guide to closing the gender gap, and to shoot down any excuses keeping women from the top. It’s time to readdress our priorities, and start putting a possible beach house and a new Mercedes over an overly protected male ego.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.