I'm both a yoga teacher and a corporate business person. In a recent meeting, I acknowledged my two top sales people: one's a female, and the other is a male. Since the salesperson with the highest revenue wins a bonus, this meeting can become spirited. This month, the bonus went to the woman.
After I made the official announcement, I heard a team member taunt the second-place finisher: “You were chicked!”
I’ve heard this line of insult between men in sports, but this was the first time I’d encountered it in business. While I was pretty sure I understood the term, I looked it up after the meeting to be sure I was interpreting correctly. I found what I was looking for in the Urban Dictionary:
“Chicked: When a woman outperforms a man in a physical activity, such as biking, hiking, or skiing, where normally a man should outperform the woman.”
Apparently, Urban Dictionary hasn’t stayed current on the term’s expansion across society and into my boardroom.
But the word’s usage in any venue seems behind the times to me. To imply that a man has been chicked requires a belief system with the assumption that the man should outperform the woman. As if any other outcome goes against the natural order of the world.
I thought we’d progressed beyond this concept, even in the athletic venues in which the term originated. Yes, there are some sports in which some men have a physical advantage. However telling a guy he’s been "chicked" is insulting because it infers that the man hasn’t lived up to his natural superiority.
This strikes me as not only a skewed point of view, but also obsolete. Are we assuming that the typical male foursome of weekend golfers should defeat the top ranks of the LPGA just because they’re male?
Rather than diminishing within a society that values equality and promotes the eradication of sexism, the notion of being chicked is apparently expanding through a widening array of situations from baseball to business. The common thread seems to be competition and a battle of egos. This opens many new possibilities for men to feel like failures if a woman bests them, and for women to question their abilities.
Which brings me to yoga....
In addition to running a technology company, I also spend quite a lot of time in yoga studios as a student and a teacher. While teaching yoga, where men and women line their mats up side by side, I’ve never heard the phrase “you’ve been chicked” when a male student struggles with an arm balance and the yogini next to him is floating above her mat.
However, it’s unrealistic to assume yoga is completely free from competition or egos. Both are a part of the human experience.The difference between a yoga studio, a football field, and a sales meeting isn’t whether or not the humans involved experience ego and competitiveness. The difference is that yogis practice separating their reactions from their triggers. In that moment of separation, we can realize our power of choice. We can choose to engage in the competition or cultivate a different approach to challenges.
However, even with this philosophy, the yoga industry isn’t immune to being contest-oriented, and we may be heading more toward that direction. In recent years, competition has gained some presence in the practice not only in venues such as the National Yoga Asana Championship, but also in local studios.
The drive to do better is separated from the drive to best everyone else by a fairly thin line. This can be felt clearly in classes that become pose-offs and by the abundance of Facebook yoga selfies. An emphasis on conquering poses and performing is yoga’s kryptonite. It dims the power of yogis and leaves us vulnerable to the same attitudes, insecurities and biases that foster the fear of being chicked.