“I have to explain something here. At that time back in the 70s, if a woman had her own show on TV and ‘spoke up,’ she would be labeled as a bitch, whereas if a man (such as Gleason, Berle, Caesar, etc.) did the same thing, he was labeled assertive, strong, smart etc. Hence, I seldom ruffled feathers. I would somehow find a way to ease into expressing an opinion and still be ‘ladylike,’ thus avoiding being a ‘bitch.’ For instance, when a particular sketch was ‘lacking,’ so to speak, instead of saying to the writers, ‘We have to fix this, it’s not funny,’ I would tap-dance around the criticism by saying, ‘Gosh, you guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me today, but I’m having trouble making this work, can you help me?’ Yep, that’s how it was back then. At least, that’s how I was.” -Carol Burnett, In Such Good Company
Let’s think about this two ways.
First, let’s not move backwards. This is still an issue, I know. So, let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. Guys, more often than not, the women we have surrounded ourselves with are smarter and far more intuitive than us. Don’t shut down a straight forward piece of feedback and label it as anything other than helpful.
Second, I think we can take a note from her approach to making changes and finding fixes. It was her show. She was in charge. But instead of placing blame like so many who had come before, she took responsibility. THAT is assertive, strong, and smart.