Sexual Politics in a Brief Encounter…NO Girly Thoughts Allowed

Patricia O’Gorman, PhD


Sexual politics run deep in our responses, even in casual meetings. We act like dutiful little girls in our responses, and in an almost instinctive reaction, we do to ourselves what society has taught us to do. This reaction, which I’ve named girly thoughts, is one I fight against, and I’ve coined the term and literally written the book!

I was in a restaurant yesterday in the small town where I live when a man entered and approached me. He smiled and said, “I saw your profile in Strictly Business,” pause, “ and it was good.”

I stood so at least he wouldn’t be looking down at me, but then I almost did that girly thing—you know, the shrug, the modest “Oh, it was nothing,” statement accompanied by a smile and a giggle. Doing so would have taken away his compliment and my power. Instead, I did something that is still uncomfortable for me but is a much more honest reflection of how I feel: I looked at him directly, smiled, and thanked him.

The Subtle Dance

My reaction to his compliment seemed to surprise him. He quickly told me he had been profiled in the same magazine. That was nice to know, but that isn’t why he shared the information; he wanted me to know I didn’t have anything up on him. Then he felt it necessary to state that of course his wife had been profiled in the women’s edition.

Keeping in mind the subtle dance of societal expectations that is part of so many of our daily encounters, I decided his message here was not terribly subtle. He is a businessman, but his wife and I only qualify for special treatment in the women’s edition. I almost laughed.

Don’t Let Your Girly Thoughts Stop You from Receiving a Compliment

Is he a bad guy? No. He’s a community leader, an active volunteer, someone who I may even work with on a community need we began discussing. But he is a male schooled in seeing women a certain way, and I somewhat unbalanced him by not playing along.

I found not only his reaction striking but also my strong tug to do this dance with him. What should you do when you next encounter this type of subtle sexism that feeds your girly thoughts? In the words of that old song: Don’t Dance.

So what should women do when we are presented with a compliment?

  • Accept it, don’t talk it away.
  • Stand up straighter; you’ve just been seen.
  • Let sink in, and use it to empower you to do more great things.

When you’re stressed from going through a day filled with this type of tension, don’t anesthetize yourself with that beer or glass of wine, but instead, figure out the best way to fight your girly thoughts.

If you’d like to see my profile that caused such a stir, visit Strictly Business (, and watch for future blogs on the impact of being  a ‘cover girl’, this time for professional reasons.

Next stops:

  • TONIGHT: SUNY Potsdam, Potsdam, NY, April 16, 7-8:30 p.m., I’ll be speaking about: Freeing Yourself From Your Girly Thoughts in the Fireside Lounge, Barrington Student Union
  • Schenectady, NY, The Electric City: April 18, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Book signing at The Open Door Bookstore.
  • Grand Island, NE: April 30: I’ll be giving a workshop on “Trauma” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and a speech over dinner titled “Girly Thoughts from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • New York City, NY: May 17, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. “The Big Apple: Leadership and Girly Thoughts.
  • Worchester, MA: June 11, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. “Girly Thoughts and Addiction”
  • Lake Placid, NY: July 11, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Book signing at Bookstore Plus

You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my latest book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power