Friday, November 9, 2007

You Be The Judge

Yesterday I attended a small group meeting of pastors and other lay professionals. We all meet once a month to encourage one another and to hold each other accountable for growing and developing as leaders in our congregation and in our communities.

I'm not sure how this came up, but right at the beginning of the meeting, one of the other members (a Franciscan brother, by the way) looked at me and said, "If you dyed your hair, you could pass for a teenager."

I have a really nice streak of gray in front. I'm actually a little proud of it.

I'm not planning on dying my hair any time soon.

I must have had a funny look on my face after that comment, because he (and others) assured me, "You should take it as a compliment."

Now, I don't think this was an insult, but really: is this what a woman who desires to be a more effective leader really needs? To be told she could pass for a teenager?

Here's what I think: Maturity in men is attractive. Maturity in women is... what? Yet, as a leader, I want to project an image of substance, force, depth with grace. Somehow the word "teenager" doesn't really do that for me.

24 comments:

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

ok ok... now i've seen you and your face is young - kudos to your moisturizer! if it's any consolation... i met some ladies from a nearby church & their pastor and one lady interrupted me and said "how old are you because you look like you're 15!" i said thankyou and kept going...

LET'S TALK said...

It's a very good compliment and you should be happy to know that God has given you that blessing.

You know who you are and judging by what you are doing in Gods name, everyone else knows as well.

Linda (Sama) said...

nice blog. found my way here via Fran.

If I had known more Lutheran ministers like you when I was growing up, I might still be one....:)

Presbyterian Gal said...

It was a compliment. I'd wager that the gentlemen are fond of you. I believe that men just don't think deeply about these things, which I don't mean as a criticism. It's just how it is. So I don't think what they said was at all a reflection of their respect for you as a colleague.

more cows than people said...

THANK YOU, DIANE!

as someone who looks like a teenager without dying her hair... you're absolutely right... it is not helpful in our work.

and... yes, it is generally understood as a compliment, but i do not receive it that way.

i'm with you...

though i do agree your colleague meant no offense by it.

LawAndGospel said...

I wonder- Does it make a difference if ladies tell you that you look like a teenager as opposed to guys? I am sure it was a compliment - and good for you- no one tells me that! I think PG is right, and suspect that unless they respected and were fond of you, they would not have wanted to say something nice, nor would they have felt a comfort level to do so.

David said...

From the male perspective....enjoy it for what it is...acompliment from a man who thinks highly of you.

You are right about the double standard though. Women mature while men become distinguished. Not fair in my book either.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Diane, it was meant as a compliment, but it was a silly thing to say. Why on earth would any woman beyond the teen years want to look like a teenager?

Mature looks in a woman are generally not valued. Look around at any gathering that includes men and women of a certain age. You'll see a large number of gray-haired men, but few gray-haired women, thanks to hair dye.

revabi said...

Why do men think they have to say something about our physical looks when they like us. And then we are suppose to accept it as a compliment? Okay it was a compliment. I have been in too many meetings as the only woman or one of a few and been in your position. It makes you feel like you are in high school again, instead of the competent woman you are. And then you feel mad at yourself for feeling those feelings again, because you want to feel the maturity and competence as a woman, not a teenager.

I wonder if one way to deal with that is to accept it, but then challenge them to move beyond the physical. Oh I don't know. I am always at a lost. But I don't get those comments anhymore, now that I have aged and it has caught up with me and I am too heavy.

Wyldth1ng said...

What if he said "Young(er) Lady"?

Word choice in most male brains is not a top priority, because we are inherently dumb.

That's why we need the quick wit of the "young ladies".

Magdalene6127 said...

Cheeeez-Its!

You know. I'm sure he meant it as a compliment, BUT the problem here is nicely stated by Rev. Abi: it is expected that women want and will value comments about our looks.

Arg.

Diane said...

hot cup -- re the comment you got: ugh. sounds like you handled it the right way.
rev abi -- your comments are right on
linda - thanks for visiting. I am honored.
Wyld- LOL. I don't think men are stupid.
everyone -- thank you for your input/comments. I appreciate it.

Gartenfische said...

It was obviously meant as a compliment, but it's still a compliment that reflects the bias of our society.

I don't know that I would've enjoyed it, personally. People tell me I look young, but thankfully, I haven't heard that I could pass for a teenager, if only . . . .

jo(e) said...

Oh, I'm sure it was intended as a compliment, but yeah, that kind of compliment does reflect the sexist standards in our culture.

If this is a group of spiritual leaders who are supposed to hold each other accountable, I think you might want to explain to him why that kind of thing is not actually a compliment. In my experience, sensitive men are glad to be educated on that kind of an issue.

jo(e) said...

I should also add that I get that kind of compliment sometimes (more because I dress young -- jeans and t-shirt -- than anything else), and I sometimes give a puzzled look and say, "Why would I want to pass as a teenager? I'm a mature woman. With depth! And experience! I've earned these grey hairs."

Gannet Girl said...

You've put your finger on something that bothered me for a long time and I couldn't quite explain.

All of my life, my father has complimented me on my appearance. I figured it was some 1950s gentlemanly thing -- that he had been taught always to give a lady a compliment. Once in awhile I was grateful, but usually I hated the idea of so much attention going to how I looked.

But now I realize that my father, whom I know is proud of me, never knew me well enough to offer a compliment on anything of substance -- great case win, or great presentation, or anything like that. I think that has changed in the last few years, but this clarifies a long-standing sense I had of not being taken seriously.

Grace thing said...

Thank you! I get comments like this all the time and it drives me CRAZY. And people don't understand why it's hard to take as a compliment because it lacks RESPECT. It is hard to be an effective leader when one looks younger than they are.

Diane said...

gg -- I know what you are talking about. It's not that I don't value attractiveness, but that's not ALL I value.
grace thing -- absolutely hear you.
in this group, we are supposed to support one another in becoming more powerful leaders. though I'm sure the person meant well, it does seem at odds with this goal

Rowan The Dog said...

Diane,

I am sorry that you have to put up with things like that from your colleagues.

I think that men like this probably DO intend to give a compliment. But their intention doesn't make it one, nor does it let them off the hook for it. This guy needs to be educated and better that it should come from you than that he should go around the world saying stupid things and run into a woman like me.

This is just another way that men dismiss us, they turn us into children.

Lindy

FranIAm said...

I hear you on this one. If one more person tells me that I don't look 50, I will scream.

It it bad to look 50? I don't turn until tomorrow, but I think I like the way I feel at every age.

BTW, I admit that I do dye my hair (with chemical free organic dye!) as it is my one vanity. But not because I want people to think I am younger than I am.

It was probably meant in a fine spirit but speaks to a cultural bias having to do with gender, appearance, age.

It is your spirit that makes you look as you do. And I know I hope to look upon your lovely countenance one day at some point.

FranIAm said...

I hear you on this one. If one more person tells me that I don't look 50, I will scream.

It it bad to look 50? I don't turn until tomorrow, but I think I like the way I feel at every age.

BTW, I admit that I do dye my hair (with chemical free organic dye!) as it is my one vanity. But not because I want people to think I am younger than I am.

It was probably meant in a fine spirit but speaks to a cultural bias having to do with gender, appearance, age.

It is your spirit that makes you look as you do. And I know I hope to look upon your lovely countenance one day at some point.

Pastor David said...

Diane, I sympathize with you. As it stands, I am younger than most of the children of my members - the same age as some of their grandchildren. When I went without my beard for a few months this summer, I received the (hopefully) joking comment that they might not have called me if I was cleanshaven when we met, because I would have seemed too young. The dynamics, of course, are different for you as a member of the clergy who happens to be female.

I think the comments here show that you have touched on an important topic for many people. My take: it was, certainly, intended to be a complement. However, it was also poorly worded and insensative. As a guy who often makes complements that wind up sounding hurtful, I apologize on behalf of my male colleagues. We are schmucks, who often don't think through how our words will sound to others.

Diane said...

David, no apologies needed. You seem like a nice guy to me:). I've heard a few other comments along the line, too. Like the guy who said, when he found out I was over thirty (this was a long time ago), "Hmm. Must be that clean livin' in the Midwest."

Real World Martha said...

Very cute. I was a Director Of Chirstian Education in the LCMS church it wasn't helpful looking young at times.
I enjoyed your blog.
Blessings,
Debbie aka The Real World Martha
P.S. - Maybe you can give him a bottle of Just for Men for Christmas :)
http://realworldmartha.wordpress.com