Is Confidence the Secret to Success? Not Exactly.

Many years ago, Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill saw a common message being sent to women through advertisements, self-help books, music and other means: the solution to all their problems is to be more confident.

Dr. Gill, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at City University, London.

She and Dr. Orgad, a professor of media and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, began to have a “basket of faith.”

“We will rip things out of magazines, newspapers,” said Dr. Orgad said. “We looked at specific genres where these teachings seem particularly prominent: the advertising, applications, and even the self-help industry.”

Over time, Drs. Gill said they realized that “inequality is being overcome by this psychological characteristic of self-confidence.”

Her research is distilled in “Confidence Culture”, a feminist cultural critique that will be published by Duke University Press in February. 9. This book dispels the idea that the challenges that women face in work, sex, relationships and parenting can lead to self-esteem rather than social structure.

In the following interview, which was conducted on a video call and which has been edited, Dr. Orgad and Drs. Gill discussed his findings.

Let’s clarify something. In this book, your critique is not directed at self-confidence as a general trait, but on self-confidence culture, or as you would call it in the book, “Confidence cult.” Can you explain the difference?

Shani Orgad: Our criticism is of a culture that often blames women and tells women that the problem is in their minds and their bodies and their behavior and thinking. We are not arguing against confidence. It is a wonderful thing for women to have more confidence.

Rosalind Gill: Confidence culture allows organizations, institutions and large structures to stay off the hook, because if women are responsible, we don’t really need to make any fundamental changes.

What is “Love Your Body” Marketing?

Dr. Gill: “Love Your Body” marketing was a real departure when it came along. Dove, Nike and L’Oreal were some of the first brands to make this change to keep women from marketing around their insecurities.

There has been a lot of criticism around her, not only in academia, but in popular culture, around her fakes – whether she uses non-models that look incredibly like models, or uses techniques like Photoshop or filters. There are really, really fierce examples of racism.

We criticize the way such advertisements demean the pressure that women feel around their bodies. He shows pain and suffering, but then he blames the women, as if the responsibility for the pain is on the women’s heads. If they could just move on and trust a little more, the problem would go away.

You provide an example in a Dove commercial book called “Patch”.

Dr. Gill: Women show up in a fake lab to take part in an experiment. They are given these beauty patches, like nicotine or hormone patches, and they wear them for two weeks while making a video diary.

In the end, of course, they come back with a better feeling about their appearance, more confidence, more comfortable in their skin. And then it turned out that there was nothing in the patch.

It seems such a toxic story line for advertising because it places all the responsibility on the painful, harmful nature of our beauty culture on women.

Instead of reducing the pressure on women, all these seemingly empowering, self-confident messages really add to it, because the need for good looking, young looking, beautiful looking, wonderful skin, hair, body, teeth has not gone away. .

But now, we have the extra pressure to be confident, to be comfortable in your own skin. Not being able to talk about your insecurities leads to mental discipline in women.

The women in the Dove video feel the pain surrounding their insecurity on camera and are told they can overcome it by believing in themselves or using Dove products. In the book, you describe the attitudes of powerful women who speak out in public about their insecurities and how they relate to a culture of self-confidence.

Dr. Orgad: There is talk of vulnerabilities, but not systemic problems that make some people more vulnerable than others.

If you are in a position where you can come on social media and admit your weaknesses, chances are you can only talk about it because it is already safe in the past.

It is exclusive to those in power. For most people, who are less privileged, it is still a problematic and risky thing that can cost them their job. It can be a huge emotional expense.

How is the message of confidence directed at men different than directed at women?

Dr. Gill: Confidence messages directed at men are more about the outward manifestations of self-confidence. They are about performance and success and achievement.

For men, it’s actually about getting more dates, getting better at work, somehow climbing the ladder, but it’s not based on the idea that they have a lack of confidence that is somehow linked to inequality.

Does a self-confident culture express itself as a feminist?

Dr. Orgad: The version of feminism that uses a culture of self-confidence is highly individualistic, and is in stark contrast to feminism as a political movement.

These mantras – “lack of confidence stops you” or “you are your own worst enemy” – illustrate how it is a very specific version of feminism that has become so popular that women are forced to undertake this very intensive task. Happens, how they look and feel and communicate and occupy space.

It’s a version of feminism that is upbeat and positive. It celebrates the achievements of women, which is great, but, really troubling, it denies the very emotions that have inspired feminism for decades: anger, frustration, anger, criticism. Emotions that are now negative and toxic.

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