Posted by: ambermyhand | February 10, 2015

Does the double bind doom us all?

The article I decided to write about was one written for by Bonnie Marcus. The article is about how women who ignore the reality of the double bind in America are doomed to failure. She recognizes that gender stereotypes put women as a disadvantage, because if we adhere to them our leadership is considered incompetent and less effective, and the same issue occurs when woman act “too masculine”. But, she says that not all hope is lost, for women who can successfully navigate this double bind can be more successful than both genders as a leader, and will get more promotions and opportunities.

Bonnie then goes on to give tips for how to navigate the double bind to your advantage as a woman. She has fourteen tips listed. These include obvious tips such as balancing our style so as not to be too aggressive or passive, never negating our opinions and making sure to have our opinions heard at every opportunity. She also discusses having self confidence, learning to say no if somebody acts inappropriately (such as asking you to go pick up their coffee or dry-cleaning). One tip that I found to be the most insightful is instead of reacting emotionally to others put-downs or rude behavior, reacting appropriately and focusing it to be beneficial to you. I think this is so important, because if somebody ignores you, or allows their gender perceptions to affect your life, if you react badly, then it may only reinforce the negative stereotypes already associated with women. I think it is a really smart idea to calmly assess and react to a situation. She also mentions building your self worth and confidence.

Overall, I found this article to be interesting in the authors point that no woman can be successful i she cannot navigate the double bind. I don’t necessarily know if I agree with that, thought I can see how it would be prevalent in America. At the very least, I find her tips to being successful are helpful overall for anyone male or female. But I still wonder if the double bind is something we will ever overcome. When I am 90 (if I live that long…), I wonder if women will still have to navigate the labyrinth and the double bind. What can we do to overcome this phenomenon despite learning to be successful within it’s constraints?  Is that all we can do? I think women should be trying to change the face of leadership to include both man and women while respecting their differences instead of using the differences against us.

It almost makes you wonder, are women of our generation and the new generation being taught to navigate it naturally due to the prevalence of these issues? Will the women of tomorrow who are just now being born be naturally ingrained with the talent of navigating the double bind because they will see our generation conforming to the double bind just to get by and be a successful leader? In the future, will the double bind just be pointless because women will already have the skills to be successful within it’s constraints? There are so many possibilities for what the future holds for women and it both excites and frightens me.

I think it is just basic equal rights and equal opportunity and treatment for there to one day be a balance of qualified leaders that are both male and female. Does anyone think we can get there outside of the double bind, or do we have to navigate within it?


  1. At this moment in time in certain jobs , like highly masculine jobs, that navigating the double bind might be the best plan of action for women. In a more feminine leadership position I do not see that women have to navigate as much, but they should be aware of the double bind and some of the skills that Marcus brings up would still be helpful. Though as newer generations get older and are becoming educated I think that the double bind might not be as prominent in any workplace, but this will take a few years. If we teach our children how to be strong and independent I think the skills Marcus brings will feel natural and they can navigate through the double bind with no problem. The skills she brings up for women can also be applied for men because they teach people to have self-confidence and stand up for their opinions. If men understand the double bind also I think it will help women progress faster and become equal in the workforce.

  2. We talked about deciding to play the game or to choosing not to in class. If you decide to balance the double bind, results have shown you will be more effective. Does it solve the problem that it still exists? It may lead to the evolution of women to learn to balance this bind, but I don’t know if women are the ones that need to evolve. Consciously not playing the game may result in less effective results but I think will lead to a new generation without the presence of the bind. I also see that some women may blindly go into an aggressive, masculine career, not knowing about the double bind. Not knowing about this complex game might even make the double bind worse. She wants women to be prepared and understand it exists and gives tips on how to and not to play the game. One of her tips suggest that women should use the word “I” more, suggesting women should not use mitigating language towards their advantage. The bind should be recognized because it is very present, but there needs to be thought behind how women adapt to the bind.

  3. I think that it is a really interesting point that you bring up that the women of tomorrow may not have the same problems that the women of today are facing when concerning the double bind. It would be interesting to see if this topic gets more steam and if it will really start to impact society through each generation. This being said, I don’t believe that women will ever be able to truly get away from the double bind. I believe this because regardless of how degendered the workplace becomes, women are always going to be the child bearers. This means that biologically, women cannot get away from this pull to be both in the workplace or raising a family. Even if it becomes more acceptable for men to stay at home while women become more of the primary breadwinners, there will always be that pull to stay back home. I think that this will also be a problem due to what we have learned about gender spillover. If women will always be seen in a “motherly” light in some form, it will be difficult for others to take women out of that context and not to attribute those characteristics that are so inherent in society to the female gender. I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing, however, I do think that it will always be just that much harder for women in the workplace when concerning the double bind.

  4. First – I think the labyrinth exists for everyone, not just women, but rather it is just the maze of life. Second- why are we fighting differences so much instead of celebrating them? Maybe if we stopped trying to constantly bridge the gap and make sure everyone is the exact same, we could appreciate differences.
    Third – honestly, I don’t always see the whole concept of the double bind as a negative thing. Yes, of course we must have balance between the two extremes….but we get to swing to both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, women have to have children and stay at home for a certain amount of time….but on the other hand, women get to have children and be at home for a certain amount of time!! It’s something really special. Men are more limited than women in my experience. In my life all I have experienced is the freedom to do and pursue whatever I would like. If I want to be a mother and have kids and stay at home, great! If I want to just have a career and not settle down, fine! If I want to do both, whether at the same time or in a certain order-wonderful! Some may say I live in a bubble, but honestly when you think about it, it doesn’t make sense that women complain so much. I think there have been huge strides made in leadership for women but we fail to slow down and appreciate those.
    Lastly- I heard some young men talking about how Jennifer Lawrence is their role model. I know this is only one example and that she is also a beautiful, famous actress. But still, they are attracted to her strong views and attitude. And I don’t think it has anything to do with her gender, it is simply her personality, her style, her leadership that people are attracted to.

  5. I find these “assertive” tips to be helpful, probably for men and women leaders alike. (Although it is possible they are tips men already follow while women need more encouragement to do so.) Number 13, “unhooking emotionally from situations with difficult bosses and colleagues” is a little hard to accept (Marcus). I think it is valuable to focus on your reaction, not the actions of others that you cannot control, however I do not know if removing your emotional attachment completely is a good idea. We are given emotions for a reason and it is wise to keep them in check but if we remove them completely then we can easily become numb and end up hating our jobs. My interviewee, Kimberly, told me that she sometimes responds to possibly sexist comments in a straight-forward but also humorous manner. These are different ways to deal with difficult situations and I am sure it depends on the situation as to which way you should correctly respond. As far as navigating the double bind in the future, I believe that as women gain public positions of leadership and show that they can have both “masculine” and “feminine” traits, navigating this bind will eventually not be necessary. Eventually, I hope, we will focus on efficiency in leadership rather than which gender should behave in one way or another. I believe we will no longer view it as women “navigating the double bind.” Instead it will be women and men “navigating leadership.”

  6. This article is very interesting interesting, these tips are very advantageous.

    My interviewee, Deirdre Perry, said that she found herself riding the fence of the double bind. Carefully not stepping completely outside or inside of her expected gender role. Sometimes stepping outside of her “gender role”, being more assertive when necessary was beneficial, and she did not receive any backlash for doing what was needed. Other times she needs to tap into her emotions and being understanding and more realistic with her co-workers. She believes that this develops a more trusting, collaborative environment,

    I believe that women gain different characteristics, masculine and feminine, that best suits their their specific leadership position. Perhaps they don’t have to navigate as much as other feminine leaders do, after all it is a fine line that women have to ride. I personally think that if a woman is comfortable with stepping outside of her gender/leadership expectation (being more assertive) when needed, it is extremely admirable and courageous. Sometimes we have to be more assertive to get things or certain tasks completed.

    I think the majority of women navigate through the double bind on a daily basis, and that the labyrinth encompasses the double bind. I know I personally find myself navigating through it. Do men do not have the same concept of the double bind? I think there is. If men show emotion, or tap into their feelings they are considered too feminine, or gay. There is an expectation for men to be extremely assertive and masculine. I believe there is a labyrinth for men too, but perhaps not as extreme or hard to navigate through such as the women’s.

  7. I agree with the article when it says that if we ignore the double bind then we are doomed. This statement reminded me of colorblind racism, the idea that if we ignore the differences between white and minorities then it makes things worse. Because the double bind exists, women need to be armed with the tools to navigate and overcome it. I understand that the double bind is an inconvenience and an insult to women but her statement about if women can crack the code then they will be the most successful makes sense. Good leadership is all about striking a balance between two opposing qualities. If I was a follower, I would want a leader was firm but fair, a boss and a friend, etc. In this sense then the double bind is helping women practice that balancing act and if the get it right then they are more success than men.

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