The Plight of a Thinking Female

By Pat Wyman

I was first made aware of the challenges Thinking women and Feeling men confront in our culture by the late Otto Kroeger many years ago.  Otto was brilliant in his ability to maximize the benefits of the MBTI® by combining it with the attributes of Temperament.   Because I have several Thinking women in my family, his exploration of this topic made a lasting impression on me.   When Thinking women come into the public spotlight, as Hillary Clinton has during this election cycle, I can hear his voice decrying the rough road of a Thinking female.

We get our cultural stereotypes of men and women from the Thinking/Feeling dichotomy on the MBTI because about 2/3 of Thinking types are male and 2/3 of Feeling types are female.  We expect men to be logical, analytical, objective, firm, impersonal and to make decision based on cause and effect.  Thinking males are the developers of the scientific method.   We expect men to be tough, strong and powerful: “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!”  On the other hand, our cultural stereotype of women is based on the Feeling preference and has us expecting women to be caring, compassionate, sympathetic, tactful, appreciative, passive, nurturing, gentle and to base decisions on their impact on self and others.   As an example, Mother Theresa will soon be elevated to sainthood as a reward for embodying these qualities.   Recently, we saw many images of Nancy Reagan smiling up demurely into the eyes of her strong, powerful husband.  That image typifies the cultural stereotype of the American female regardless of the fact that Nancy played a much stronger role in the White House than the impression conveyed in the photos.

Otto always said that Thinking women and Feeling men were like salmon swimming upstream.  However, he was quick to point out that our culture cuts Feeling males some slack but almost doubles down on Thinking women.   Feeling men, such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, are able to put up a tough facade in order to look “presidential” and take on the role of Commander-In-Chief.  If they show some tenderness or compassion, they are absolved as long as they don’t appear weak.  We have become much more tolerant of men expressing emotions over the last 30 years.  When Edmund Muskie shed a tear while defending his wife during the 1972 presidential campaign, his chances for the highest office were unquestionably and instantly over.  Lately, John Boehner has cried regularly garnering little more than jokes on late night TV.  No one questioned his abilities or suitability for the office he held.

And now along comes Hillary.   She is a good example of how the journey upstream can be perilous for a woman.  It would be too simplistic to say that Hillary, as a Thinking woman in the public eye, is in a double bind because it is far more complicated and challenging than that.  Someone like Hillary is fighting more than the cultural female stereotype which causes her to be criticized for not being warm and caring but moreover prohibits a woman from being objective and analytical.   We live in a culture designed and controlled by those with the SJ or Sensing/Judging Temperament.  SJs are traditionalists who stabilize our society with structure, policies, procedures, rules and regulations.  They highly regard hard work, status and hierarchy.  Because we live in a Patriarchy (in case you hadn’t noticed), we can further assign our culture to STJ, that is, the male version of the SJ Temperament.  The role of the judging function, Thinking, for the STJ is to sort things into good/bad, right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable, etc. and then pass judgment on those things based on the values of the SJ Temperament.  The core values are two:  belonging, such as belonging to family, community, church/synagogue/mosque and country; and rules and regulations commensurate with the SJ values.  So we have some silly rules such as when you must stop wearing white at the end of summer, on which side of the plate the fork must be placed and what you are allowed to do with your front yard.  We have more serious rules around SJ values that govern who you can love, who is allowed to vote and the classification of children as property to be divided appropriately between their parents upon divorce.  When Hillary stands before the Thinking function of an STJ society, that Thinking function evaluates her according to the STJ values of our society at large.  She does not personify the culturally valued feminine qualities and so she gets a failing grade, regardless of her qualifications and experience.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump can say the most outrageous things and contradict himself repeatedly but he can get away with it all because, as an ESTJ, he embodies the values of our STJ society.

If that weren’t enough to garner her a 58% disapproval rating (at this writing), Hillary is an INTJ (disclosed by her).  NTs, or the Intuitive/Thinking Temperament, are known for valuing competency, professionalism, autonomy, independence and mastery.  Because of their need to be seen as intelligent and competent, they can unintentionally appear to be aloof or arrogant.  When a woman who embodies all these qualities presents herself to an STJ society, the Thinking function assesses her according to the values of the SJ Temperament.  Not much can be more threatening to a society that values a doting Nancy Reagan than an NT Hillary Clinton.

But there is yet another layer to this situation to complicate things even further.  Besides being an INTJ, Hillary is an Enneagram Three.   Some of the characteristics of the Three are:  succeed at all costs, look professional, be assertive, achieve, be competitive, exude confidence, be competent and never fail.  Because Threes liberally display these characteristics, they can inadvertently appear intimidating.   The knockout punch comes when the NT characteristics and the Three characteristics are combined in one woman.

Look at the Correlation Diagram below that shows how the two parts of Hillary’s personality interact.  The MBTI gives us a profile of her INTJ Core Self.   The Enneagram provides a profile of her Three Defense System.   Both parts have a distinct set of characteristics.  Sometimes these qualities are compatible and reinforce each other.  Sometimes they are oppositional, causing a sense of having a continual internal war.  The two circles in the Venn diagram represent the two parts of personality:  Core Self (INTJ) and Defense System (Three).  The degree of overlap of the two circles indicates how compatible or oppositional the two parts of personality are.


At the top and bottom of the diagram are the lists of corresponding compatible characteristics.  These characteristics are present in both Hillary’s Core INTJ Self and her Three Defense System and reinforce each other.  This means she has these characteristics “in spades”.  She cannot be any other way.  When you read the top/bottom lists, you can easily see why she is seen as threatening to an STJ-minded society.  She does not fit the female stereotype; far from it.  These same qualities in a male would be seen as exemplary — Thomas Jefferson, perhaps, or Abraham Lincoln.  Instead, a female INTJ is labelled as a controlling, arrogant __________(fill-in-the-blank).

Referring again to the diagram, the lists of corresponding oppositional characteristics appear to the left and right.  These characteristics are in diametric opposition to each other.  When control is located in the Core Self (INTJ), the INTJ characteristics appear.   When control shifts to the Three Defense, the opposite attributes emerge.  Clearly, both sets of characteristics have been evident in Hillary under different circumstances.

Finally, some of the negative reaction to Hillary from 58% of the public is attributable to the mood of the population in general more than to her and her INTJ-3 personality.  For decades, we have had a plethora of Enneagram Threes either in office or running for office.  The general public has lost patience with Threes who will charm, schmooze, manipulate, perform and package what they say to win you over.  It worked well for John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; all radiate the Three charisma.  But it seems people no longer want politicians who tell them what they want to hear.  Instead, they are opting for politicians who lay it on the table and tell it straight.  And so we now have the unprecedented popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, both Enneagram Eights, who have no problem being forthright and blunt.  The inordinate size of the crowds at their rallies tells us more about the people attending than about the candidates themselves.   The era of the slick Three politician selling snake oil is over for now and so Hillary’s Three holds little appeal.  It will not be an easy journey as she swims upstream.  Like the salmon, she’s likely to arrive bruised and battered.



Otto Kroeger, 1987 APT Conference, Gainesville, FL