So Damn Polite
"You're too quiet," he rebuked us good-naturedly, "It's spooky."
He was right: we were too quiet. We were sitting in our first class at an all-women's college; we weren't used to owning the floor all on our own. Many of us had come from high schools where boys spoke out and girls wrote down. No one waved a hand wildly for attention; no one shouted out an answer to beat a fellow classmate. None of us let on that we secretly held any passionate opinions.
In my literature class, we bowed our heads and fell into giggles. Our professor, an attractive woman in her mid-forties, had just informed us why she hadn't married: she hadn't yet received a proposal from a man she could possibly imagine indulging in her bed.
While we giggled quietly, our professor smiled tolerantly: "You're so damn polite."
Politeness paves the road for you.
I don't remember my mother actually saying this, but she had grown up on rough terrain. Her older brother went to jail for creepy acts one mustn't divulge in polite society. Her younger brother used a bookie, which is not, it turns out, a cute miniature book.
When my mother "married up," she was transported from crime and poverty, but she became beholden to my father and seemed to agree with him unconditionally. If I asked for her opinion, she often appeared stumped and annoyed, as though I was trying to trick her into argument. Inside her new society, she had grown too polite for opinions. A strong one, especially, could lead to controversy.
Later, in the larger world, I would discover that people actually pay you for your opinions, but my mother held hers so close to her heart that, for years, I assumed she had none.
ETA: Inspired by a comment from Ultimate Writer, I’m posting results of a comparative study between girls behavior and experience in single-sex vs. coed schools. Here are a few findings:
In single-sex schools, Girls...
- Showed increase in self-esteem and self-confidence
- Were less critical of own behavior
- Held less stereotypic views of gender roles
- Showed more confidence in challenging courses
- Performed better in academics and athletics
- Showed more academic achievement in math and science
- Received a more competitive learning environment
- Showed increased interest in college
In coed schools, Girls...
- Showed more reluctance to express views and opinions
- Showed decreased risk-taking
- Were often called upon less in class
- Received less time to answer a question
- Received less assistance in class
- Classroom and curriculum was male-structured from textbooks to standardized tests
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to exalt Rudeness or discount the many virtues of Politeness (or better yet, warmth and kindness) in what may often seem a cold and rude world.