Thursday, May 17, 2012

Women, Success, and Quinoa Cookies

The other day, Dr. Peggy Drexler posted over at the Huffington Post about the notable absence of female role models in popular culture.  Drexler writes that "strong, confident, accomplished women are out there by the legions. But they are going about building lives beyond the peripheral vision of popular culture."

I happen to know a lot of amazing women.  Some of them work outside the home.  Some of them are stay at home moms.  Some of them are accomplished writers.  Some of them do all of these things at once.  Few of them are traditional business successes (because that's simply not the circle I travel in).  But when we get together to talk, seldom do we seem to talk about our success.  More often, we tell each other stories of crisis, stories about things that don't go well.  I remember reading a blog post by Kathy Caprino, a career and life coach, a while back also on the Huffington Post, about this particular phenomenon, and I remember thinking to myself, why is that?

I wonder if it's the nature of our connections with one another.  Do women connect better around crisis, because it invites sympathy and empathy?  Are success stories too individual, and therefore not the kind of stories that build relationships?  Do they seem boastful, and women are less given to braggadocio than men?

I think about the blogs I read.  Though I haven't done a scientific study, most of their writers (all women) are most prolific when there's something going on that bothers us (I'm including myself here).  Something that's worrisome.  When writing can be a cathartic release.  And while it's true that we gather our tribe when we're in turmoil, why does it seem to be that we don't do so when have worked hard to deserve our laurels?

My yoga teacher talked tonight about strength, and about how in asana our consciousness usually goes right to the place of most sensation, and that we should try, sometimes, to bring our consciousness to a place in our bodies that might not be experiencing as much sensation.  Instead of the hamstring, notice our foot.  Our toes.  In life, she said, we are often consumed by pain, or distress, or crisis, because those things make the most "noise," when we could shift our perspective if only we decided to draw our attention--even temporarily--to the smaller, quieter things, like joy.  I wonder if it's the same for failure and success ... that we pay more attention to failure, because it's louder?

If any of this is true, that women don't talk about their successes as often as they do their failures, is it any wonder that popular culture fills the vacuum with celebrities, as Caprino suggests?

It's interesting ... I talk a lot about my kitchen successes here.  Every once in a while, I write about failure.  But I can't bring myself to publish recipes that I think are absolute flops, and sometimes I publish recipes that someone in my family didn't like, because taste is such an individual thing, that it's worth trying a recipe if someone thinks it's good.  Nor can I bring myself to take pictures of kitchen disasters.  And yet, when I'm not in the kitchen, I'm just as guilty as the next person of talking about the things that go wrong.

What do you think?  Is this just my perception, or have you experienced something similar?

Quinoa Fruit and Nut Cookies
I wouldn't count these cookies as disasters at all.  In fact, I thought they were pretty good, and they did the trick of using up the quinoa to which my husband discovered he is now allergic.  However, they do taste like "healthy cookies," as my husband calls them.  Which means you might give yourself permission to eat more than you'd intended.  Consider yourself warned.

1/2 c. coconut oil (solid)
1/2 c. date or coconut palm sugar
3 T. honey
2 large eggs
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 t. vanilla
3/4 t. almond extract (or more vanilla)
1 c. cooked and cooled quinoa
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. rolled oats (not quick)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t.baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 t. salt
1 c. dried tart cherries or dried apricots
1 c. whole almonds or walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the honey and the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the applesauce and extracts.  Gently mix in the quinoa until well incorporated. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing on low speed until just combined. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand and stir in the dried cherries and almonds.

Drop the dough in generous 2-tablespoon portions 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets.  Flatten slightly and bake until the cookies are golden around the edges and on the bottoms, 12-15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
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  1. I absolutely believe that woman don't like to talk about their successes, and I think it's because of the reasons outlined in that article (a great article by the way, thanks for linking). It's true that woman are liked less for their success, while men are liked more. And I do think woman are trying to maintain connection and not make others feel bad. We are empathetic creatures and we are in tune with other people's feelings and we also compare ourselves with others. When we hear that someone is doing really well we might feel bad about what we're doing and we think of that when we're the one doing well - we don't want someone else to feel bad, like we once did.

    I don't know if I'm making any sense. I feel like I'm kind of rambling here and not really getting to any kind of point.

    I don't know how women can stop doing these things. We've been programmed from a young age to act a certain way, and being boastful is not one of the ways were taught to be. It's just not. And if we're not taught to share our successes in a way that is acceptable, and therefore not seen as boastful, it's hard to start sharing them.

    Again, this feels like incoherent rambling. Sorry if it is. I'll think about this more and hopefully return with more relevant thoughts.

    Very interesting post.

    1. I think you're making sense. It's interesting ... why do we see success as something that will make people feel badly, rather than inspire them to find their own success? And doesn't everyone define success differently, anyway? Or shouldn't we? More to chew on.

  2. I don't know how you do it, but you always manage to weave three or four different things into the same thread... you leave me speechless too often, as I feel like I need to think up some poetic response worthy of such a beautiful and insightful post... so I too often never figure sonething out to write. I'm sorry! i love your posts.

    I think we women learn early on that humility makes other people more comfortable, ans as such brings people into friendships more easily. Plus, there is nothing better than finding someone who makes you feel less alone when you are in those dark, sleepless hours. Lots of success and confidence, sure that's nice, but too much of it just makes me feel competitive and bad about myself.

    1. Well, if it's any consolation, you'll notice that I've been posting a LOT less. :) And I'd love to hear whatever you have to say! Don't be sorry.

      I can't help but think about how this plays itself out in academe ... how women don't get ahead in the same way ... is it because they less often puff out their chests?

  3. Beautifully written post and some very thought provoking questions!

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I've missed you around these parts.

  4. This is an intriguing post for me. I made the decision early on in blogging to not blog around drama much. I didn't want drama to drive my blog because then I'd be attracting problems to my life. I wanted to talk about what is going well, about funny day-to-day things.

    I've done all right with those things. But I do sometimes worry that I seem more positive than I am, more "lucky," more better.


    1. Interesting ... maybe the drama just stands out more for me? You're right, when I think about it, there's also day-to-day funny things or beautiful things that people write about. I'm still not sure, though, that women write about "successes."

      And honestly, none of our online personae are *exactly* who we are, are they? Even if we try to be true to ourselves, aren't we always telling a story? Making choices about our narrative? Even if we write for ourselves, doesn't the genre of the blog require us to make those authorial choices for our readers, whoever they may be?

      Now you've got *me* thinking ...!

  5. I think it's - at least in part - because we're taught to be humble and to not brag about our accomplishments. But I also think that it's very hard not to get sucked into the whole drama loop. Confession: when I first started blogging, I planned on doing healthy living blogging. And then - after getting sucked into that world - I one day found myself actually feeling dull because I didn't have an eating disorder. No, seriously. Ridiculous, I know.

    1. Ha! That's funny, in a scary kind of way. ;) I love your blog, because you turn drama into humor. But it's still sort of interesting that we don't talk about how awesome we are. Because you are, you know ...

  6. I think its difficult to talk about our accomplishments because personally its more difficult to take a compliment and its easy to get sucked into the obsession on failure.

  7. I think it has to do with wanting to connect with others, not wanting to seem better than them and because we tend to focus on the failures more. Also our society seems to strongly suggest that we can always be improving, that we should always be making strides at getting better at something - losing weight, eating healthier, being more emotionally healthy, improving our marriage, etc., which is of course not a bad thing but it also moves our focus away from what we are doing right at any given time to what we are doing wrong and how we can try to fix it. The self help section of the bookstore is a large section, news programs feature these topics a lot, even the grocery story is full of products aimed at making us better. These kinds of themes run especially strong in women's products - women's magazines, women's clothing stores (clothes that are supposed to make you look better, skinnier, etc), books and products for women abound with these themes. I think that says a lot and it makes it hard to do a good job and feel like we can rest on our laurels.

    1. Jenn, I love this point ... there IS a much larger market for women's self-help, isn't there? Or at least, so it seems! Interesting ... so external forces also conspire to make us focus on the things "needing improvement," rather than our successes ...

  8. Great post. I agree that women probably talk about their successes less often for the reasons you listed. I will definitely be keeping this in mind as I talk with my friends (or blog) in the future.


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