Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called “bossy”. Or “intimidating”.

Or how about “too” anything as in “too loud”, “too angry”, “too pushy” and, my favorite, the generic insult “too much.”

What these adjectives have in common, other than the fact that they’ve all been applied to me, is that they’re often used to remind (or force) women to remember accepted gender roles/norms. Being “too much”, bossy, or aggressive deviates from social expectations of the “nice” behavior that keeps folks comfortable.

I could get lost right here in a rant about the hegemonic, heteropatriarchy reinforcing the status quo, but I have a different point to make today.

My point is that when I coach women clients, or speak with women at workshops, invariably some version of the bossy accusation comes up. The women know these phrases are used as an attempt to diminish and silence them. It’s not a mystery. But it still stings.

The only thing that comes up more often is time management, followed by self-care as a close third. Because if you had better time management skills you would have some time for self-care right?!?

I know folks are working to shift the narrative on cultural norms and we’re all supposed to aspire to being a “Bad B**ch” or a #Bossbabe, but to me that feels like reinventions of the Enjoli woman with better memes.

Real women navigating insults and slights have to decide how to own the words and then strategize about when to ignore, when to reframe, or when to modify their behavior and language to make others comfortable.

Most simply aspire to being accepted, advancing, and achieving without censure or backlash for being insufficiently nice, agreeable or modest.

In the meantime, while we wait and work for the slow, societal shift away from sexism I propose the following solution.

A dance club.

Specifically a “Bossy Women’s Dance Club”. We would only admit women who have been consistently accused of being Bossy, Pushy, Intimidating, or Angry for a minimum of 27 years. Unfortunately, this means some members of the club will be in their early 30’s.

Feminist men of all ages are welcome if a member vouches for their feminism. Men will however pay an additional entrance fee equal to the percentage of the gender pay gap represented by their race.

A dance club would promote self-care with a triple whammy of “me time” in a nurturing, space with like minded folks, fun music to dance to (exercise!) and well made cocktails.

So as I wait for my angel investor to make the Club dream a reality, I make do with … Jazzercise.

I’ve attended Jazzercise in different spots since the late 80’s when leg warmers were all but required. I currently drive 30 minutes – each way – 3 days a week in DC traffic to get to a really great studio in Arlington run by a powerhouse of positive energy named Renee.

Jazzercise lets me sweat in a room without mirrors and pretend I’m still someone who could get into a club. It lets me worship at the altar of Mr. Worldwide with zero side eye & no discussion about the inherent cognitive dissonance necessary for my enjoyment of his beats.

Jazzercise is the perfect “self-care” for my bossy, middle-aged self because there’s no such thing as “too much” on the dance floor.

If you see me at Jazzercise I hope you’ll be pushy and introduce yourself.

For the first time since the slaughter of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hearing news made me cry.

Make no mistake there has been a nonstop parade of horrifying and repugnant behavior since 2012, but for whatever reason, the mass shooting in El Paso brought me to tears.

Later that same day I was having a discussion with a prospective client about how I facilitate discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They wanted implicit bias training but were worried about “blame and shame” – that I would be “too angry” or make their participants feel bad about racism.

This is a legitimate fear. Most discussions of “isms” will feel risky to somebody in the room.

In this case, talking about bias felt so risky to the client that they put off hiring a DEI consultant for two years following their decision to “offer education on the topic”.

As I explained how I work, I realized that I should probably need to include some description of my values and belief system on my website and in my proposals.

I need to be explicit about the change theories I ascribe to, and the evidence based research I utilize. These are the bits and pieces that help folks see the rigorous underpinnings that support my DEI work.

In the meantime, I told this prospective client that I don’t believe in “blame and shame”. My workshops, facilitation and coaching are always centered on individual growth. People shut down and dig their heels in when they are attacked. I don’t like when it’s done to me so I don’t make a habit of doing it to others.

That said, what I do instead is invite folks to be uncomfortable.

Think of it like when you go to the beach, or to the pool on a cool day. Some folks creep into the water slowly, some dive in and get it over with quickly, and others stop when the water reaches their ankles.

But they are all in the water.

Getting in that water – those discussions of racism, sexism, xenophobia and so on – is a choice for most people. And if you don’t know how to swim it can be scary, even life-threatening.

What I do when I facilitate is invite you to be uncomfortable.

I invite you to be brave and get in the water with me. To be cold, to flail and to tread water. To hold your breath and go all the way under.

To learn to swim.

I never throw anyone in the deep end by themselves. That’s not my style. I am right there with you in the deep or the shallow. You can trust me. I won’t let you drown.

Now more than ever we need to understand our role in shaping the society we live in.

We need to commit to the actions and behaviors that will make our “good intentions” reality.

We can do better.

If you work with me for more than five minutes you’ll know that’s one of my signature phrases. I use it to remind myself to start where people are to help them move forward. It keeps me in a place of hope and out of that cozy place of judgement.

“We can do better. We are all good people doing the best we can, and we can do better.”

When I tell the story of my career path I often use the image of a mosaic.

I sometimes use the words “Once upon a time…” to help bridge the distance between the idea of “job” and “career path” for audiences who may be more comfortable with one word and not the other.

At one point in my life I had jobs in what is now called “the gig economy”, scraping by in the nonprofit world doing what I loved. To make that possible I also worked cash registers, served fast food, cleaned houses, sold advertising and hustled for free lance.

When I was a child I loved books, and school, and my teachers so I thought I would also be a teacher.

As a young adult I imagined my life would always include the arts (Once upon a time I was an actor & director…), or arts management (I spent years at Cleveland Public Theatre & then founded and ran Red Hen Productions, Feminist Theatre…), or some creativity (play and story writing…), outside of this peripatetic blog.

Then I imagined I would spend my life in the academy reading, writing, discussing and teaching philosophy. (That’s a longer story…)

I was lucky to find my true vocation (coaching & facilitating change) and now devote most of my time and energy to working with people and organizations who do good in the world.

Because I was a citizen of the USA and worked at liberal (or tolerant) organizations, I always had the freedom (within reason) to be politically active without fearing repercussions or retaliation.

Now, as someone who is self-employed, my job is my career.

That means I have thought long and hard about what repercussions my opinions and political activity will have on my ability to get work. I know that I am a small fish in a small pond, and maybe (hopefully!) I am being paranoid, but the world seems to be titling toward those who take names and make lists.

Years ago, while canvassing for domestic partner registration, I spoke with an elderly Jewish man who said “I will never vote for this! It is a terrible idea! Lists make it too easy for them to find you.”

Thinking of this Jewish man, and with conscious choice, I have decided to resume writing about my politics on this blog. It is part of the mosaic of who I am and will only become more so if we continue our drift toward despotism. (Please watch this crystal clear 10 minute explanation of despotism if you think my use of that phrase is hyperbolic.)

And, as an American citizen, I believe political engagement really is my job.

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I am privileged to have some really smart friends who often write things I wish I had said myself, or from a perspective outside of mine. Today I exercise my privilege by posting a Guest Rant from a sharp, insightful and passionate woman with her permission of course.

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I’m sick and tired of the “lesser of two evils” narrative. I already voted for Hillary–proudly and with excitement. I don’t believe she is evil–and I’m pretty cynical about politicians.

If you hate Hillary–if you think she is corrupt and evil–I will gently suggest to you that you are as wrong as a wrong thing can be, and that you are buying a deliberate media narrative that I’ve been watching in horror for nearly 30 years.

Sexism is a helluva drug–and I can’t think of another American female political figure who has faced the degree of rank misogyny that HRC has for nearly 3 decades.

And yet…she’s still standing. Given what she’s endured in this campaign–and in all the years since Bill first decided to run for the presidency–that pretty much counts as a miracle in my book.

That is not to gloss over Hillary’s flaws. She is not perfect–and neither am I. The difference is that I’ve been able to live my life in relative privacy and I’ve never had thousands (millions?) of people’s lives in my hands. I wonder how well I would have done had I been in her place? How well do you think YOU would have done? And are you sure of your answer? Why?

We essentially ask our leaders to be perfect–but how can they be? They take on the responsibilities that the rest of us will not–CANNOT–even contemplate.

There is a reason the Emperor Constantine waited until he was on his deathbed to be baptized.

I once heard Jimmy Carter–a genuinely good, kind, FAITHFUL man–talking about the terrible decisions that he had to make while he was in office–and he’s the only president in my lifetime who did not lead us into war or preside over one that was in progress. He said there were times that he simply had to lay his faith aside when he was President in order to do his job.

I can only imagine the toll that took on him.

I also keep thinking about my favorite episode of “West Wing,” (“Take This Sabbath Day”) where President Jed Bartlett allows a federal prisoner to be put to death, even though his faith and his heart cry out against the evil of the death penalty. Watch that episode to see what it is like to be the most powerful elected leader in the world–and to have zero power to stop something you believe to be an offense against God and humanity.

The requirements of the job are superhuman. I would not want to have to make them–or to have to answer to God for the choices and outcomes.

But I believe–I might even go so far as to say that I KNOW–that Hillary is a person of faith, and I trust her to try her best to listen to what God is calling her to do–and to do it, even when it is hard and heartbreaking.

She is not perfect. She has made many mistakes–and will make more. Her mistakes will be so much more costly than any you or I will make–and she will be the one who has to look in the mirror, or lay her head on her pillow at night, and ask for God’s guidance and forgiveness.

So I will pray for her, because she is willing to take on a job that would destroy most of us. I believe she wants that job because she loves this country, and because she believes she can make life better for ALL of us–but especially the most vulnerable in our midst. I believe this because I have been watching her for almost 30 years.

No matter what you THINK you know about her–Whitewater, Bill, Benghazi, emails–*I* know this: She has spent her entire life fighting for the people that Jesus fought for–the poor, the marginalized, women and children. The record is all there if you only bother to look for it.

She will make mistakes–and I will hold her accountable for those. But she will also admit when she’s wrong, and ask forgiveness, which is something I rarely–if ever–see male politicians do.

She will push policies I don’t agree with–and I will push back when she does. But I learned a valuable lesson from the Tea Party (and from Bernie Sanders as well, TBQH)–intellectual/political purity is a recipe for disaster. Politics is the art of the possible–and that requires compromises and deal-making. My far-left heart finds this almost intolerable, but my brain–the one reluctantly trained in logic, statistics, and data analysis–knows the truth. We move forward an inch at a time–slowly and laboriously, but in the direction of justice and peace if we just keep trying.

And that’s why I’m With Her.  If you give her a chance, I believe she will lead us in the right direction. And if she doesn’t, I’ll be the first one in line to tell her she’s missed the mark–as I recall my own failings and pray for her, myself, you, this nation, and the world.

Kyrie eleison. GO VOTE. Amen.

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Donald Trump is the best thing to happen to American women since Seneca Falls.

In my work I get to facilitate conversations about implicit bias (racism, sexism, classism etc.) usually by using logic and humor, evidence and anecdote. These are calm, introspective, respectful conversations designed to be a thought-provoking means for people to understand that implicit bias is a human problem.

But now, with Donald Trump saying, or being accused of, something biased nearly every time he opens his mouth, the reality of assorted -isms is front and center in the public dialogue. No more pussyfooting around! Women are speaking up every day about the appalling, pervasive reality of sexist behavior and the weight of the evidence is to great too ignore.  And I am grateful.

The reason I named my blog Amandatoryrant was because once upon a time I facilitated conversations and trainings around bias that were mandated. This often seems like a good solution to the folks mandating, but its a tough go for those who don’t want to be in the room.

Like with many change initiatives, the first hurdle with bias is understanding there is in fact a problem. The second much larger hurdle is understanding that you – yes you – are part of the problem. This is a dangerous and fertile ground. Rich bottom land ripe for planting new ideas that is studded with landmines.

No one wants to be accused of being racist, sexist or think of themselves as guilty of any other bias. We are all good people.

However, thanks to Trumps unrelenting sexism and the growing evidence presented by women he has groped and assaulted, we are experiencing a crack in the complacency that normally surrounds these “minor incidents.”

The fact that millions of women are now sharing stories of how their bodies are touched against their will is making it easier to talk about everyday, casual sexism. This isn’t “he said, she said” this is millions of assertions of “that is my experience”, which makes it harder for reasonable people to ignore or discount.

So thanks Trump, for showing the world that sexism is really, really a thing. And its huge. It’s a disaster.

Once we accept that bias (implicit and overt) is a thing – and that we can do something to change it – the final hurdle is deciding what that something will be.

This is where I come in. I spend a great deal of my life (professional and personal) talking, training, and writing about bias in one form or another.

Coaching individual women (and some men) to surf, survive, and thrive inside systems where implicit bias burdens them with invisible obstacles. Coaching individual men (and some women) to examine and change systems where implicit bias has taken root.  And helping groups, large and small, to articulate their ideals and wrestle with how to live by them every day.

Our country is on track to [continue to] experience sexist, racist, xenophobic backlash for the next 8 – 12 years. And, thanks to Trump ripping the band-aid off our complacency, we are also on track to make progress around issues that will no longer remain under the surface.

I suspect that I will have a lot more folks knocking on my door looking for a consultant to help reduce bias and improve their culture of inclusion.

Call me. I can’t wait to get started.

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I survived watching the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The only moment that made me scream “What!?!” at the top of my lungs  came during post-debate analysis when syndicated columnist Mark Shields said that “Clinton is not likeable” and that she didn’t show herself to be the “kind of person you want in the carpool or on the PTA.”

Suddenly I felt like I was 13 years old again struggling to contain tears of frustration as I attempt to argue with my father and older brother that women are as good as men and deserve equal rights.

I didn’t have the language in 1978 to articulate the documented societal, cultural, and institutional obstacles that get in the way of women advancing and thriving in their careers.  What I did have all those years ago was a bone deep knowledge that I and other women were not getting a fair shake because of our gender.

By benefit of the world I grew up in and the family that raised me I learned quite a few lessons early:

  • Tears make you weak and only the strong get respect.
  • Strong women are angry and no one likes an angry woman.
  • If you don’t smile all the time you are angry.
  • Its OK for men to interrupt you and it’s rude of you to interrupt others.
  • You really don’t know what you are talking about if a mans opinion differs from yours.
  • If you complain about sexist behavior you are using gender as an excuse.
  • You only see sexist behavior because you are looking for it.
  • Other women may support your position, or tell you to stop making waves.

Watching the presidential debate last night, it appears that almost nothing has changed since I was 13.

One of the most accomplished women alive was accorded zero respect by an inexperienced man who blustered and shouted instead of answering questions. The post-debate judgement of performance was equally bizarre:

  • Her calm, composed presence was called “an icy stare.”
  • Her composed, thoughtful answers were called “a timid, hesitant start.”
  • Her thoughtful, detailed plans were called “an inability to give a short answer.”

Otherwise known as she can’t win for losing.

I recently had the pleasure of delivering a keynote at a women’s conference where I very lightly touched on some of the ways that gender bias can get in the way of women advancing and thriving in their careers. I say lightly because not everyone (women included) believes that gender bias is a thing.

Joan Williams does a brilliant job detailing four kinds of bias in her book “What Works for Women at Work.” Williams calls the balance women must strike between “likeability” and authority, “The Tightrope”.  This “Tightrope” is one Hillary Clinton has been walking for so long that she can probably now do blind-folded pirouettes at 10,000 feet.

But it doesn’t matter if her “likability” isn’t based on whether she’s the kind of woman you want sitting next to you at an important meeting, but whether she’s the kind of woman you want to rely on for your car pool.

While this sexist comment by Shields was meant to show how unlikable Hillary Clinton is I must say that if I had to choose someone to rely on to pick up my kid after practice I would stake my daughter’s LIFE on Clinton being there every time. Early. With freakin snacks.

In fact, I believe she is qualified for – and has excelled at – every position she has ever taken on from senior class president to senator to secretary of state.

So yes, Mark Shields, I am comfortable with Hillary Clinton running the PTA, the car pool and the United States of America.

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There are lots of ways to shut down women when they are speaking. For me the one that stings the most – even more than being called bossy, intimidating, strident or bitch – is the comment “Tell us what you really think.”

Not only does this remark effectively shut me up, it implies my strong opinion is laughable. Less valid because of how it’s expressed.

For good or ill I was born with strong opinions so I have been cut with this particular knife too many times to count. I take some responsibility because I know I do get going sometimes, hence the outlet of my Rant blog.

However, I’ve also spent the last umpteen years trying to squash my voice and style to fit someone else’s definition of acceptable. All that every got me was accusations of “cold and unemotional.” Can’t win for losing.

Just once I would like to hear someone acknowledge that when I am speaking strongly it’s because I care deeply.

If you use this expression, the next time someone around you is vehemently expressing their outrage rather than ridiculing, consider instead an observation that the topic is important to them. Or maybe ask why it’s a hot button issue for them, there is sure to be a reason – do you want to hear it?  Or share your perspective & your reasons.

Anything other than effectively saying “Shut up” would be appreciated by me and all the other loud-mouth, enthusiastic, outraged women out there.

And I will continue my struggle to moderate my emotions to a level that is more comfortable for the world.

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Moral restrictions on medical procedures. That is the framework of the anti-abortion movement and other conservative positions. My God says “No”, therefore it should be “No” for the whole country. We have been down this road before in history, which is why we have separation of church and state. Or we used to.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has until 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 30th to make any line-item vetoes on the state budget before he signs it into effect for July 1, 2013. Politicians should not be making medical decisions or forcing doctors to lie. For your Friday reading pleasure I give you an Op-Ed I submitted to Ohio newspapers, which they unfortunately declined to publish.


 

My Hands Are Tied
“My hands are tied” is phrase Ohioans we will get used to if Ohio House Bill 200 becomes law. This is the outcome desired by anti-abortion activists, and the future feared by those who believe medical decisions must be between a patient and their doctor. The people of Ohio cannot let this bill become law.
Women have been preventing and terminating pregnancies for 4,000 years. Because women who desperately need an abortion for whatever reason will do everything in their power to get one, they have died for lack of a safe, legal abortion. Access to safe, legal abortions has been the law of the land since 1973.  Since then, anti-abortionists have found ways to limit access, intimidate women, and yes, even kill physicians who have abortion practices.  This means that today 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties have no abortion provider.
Now Ohio legislators are attempting to further thwart this legal medical procedure by increasing the waiting period before a procedure and requiring doctors to give untruths to their patients and perform an unnecessary, invasive ultrasound or face criminal charges.
By increasing the waiting period to 48 hours, and requiring two visits to a provider before she can secure a safe legal abortion, the legislators effectively “tie the hands” of many women who cannot afford to travel twice in two days to obtain their medical procedure. By adding the provision that doctors who fail to comply with the House Bill 200 rules would be subject to a first-degree felony charge (the same class as rape, aggravated arson and kidnapping) and a fine of up to a million dollars, the legislature has tied and double knotted the hands of Ohio doctors.
This bill is a textbook example of a slippery slope. A slope that would be all but impossible to climb back up if it becomes law.
Doctors who are oath-bound to “do no harm” will be forced to lie. The bill requires doctors to provide patients with the patently false information that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Good clinics already provide information and counseling through trained patient advocates who talk with women about their feelings and beliefs without pressure or judgment. The goal at Preterm Clinic in Cleveland is to ensure that every patient is informed and sure of her decision whether it is to have an abortion, choose adoption or continue her pregnancy.
The slope gets slipperier. This bill requires doctors to divulge in writing “their gross income and the percentage of that income that was obtained” by performing the procedure. Will we have the same declaration when from a doctor before an MRI or a hip replacement? How does this information help the patient? The theory that there is a multi-million dollar abortion industry exploiting and “tricking” women into having abortions they don’t understand or want is a lie.
By restricting abortion to a “medical emergency”, this bill removes the right of a doctor to decide what is medically necessary for a patient. How can we expect a doctor, under threat of a felony charge, to not hesitate when deciding if a situation has gone from “necessity” to “emergency”? The American Council of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly opposes legislative interference that “causes a physician to compromise his or her medical judgment about treatment in the best interest of the patient.” As women – as mothers – we oppose that interference as well.
Where does it end? House Bill 200 ruthlessly and viciously restricts a legitimate medical procedure, forces physicians to compromise their ethics, and treats women as incompetent. After abortion is effectively inaccessible, what will be restricted next because legislators don’t trust you and your doctor to competently decide your medical procedures? Will you allow your judgment to be overridden by lawmakers? Will doctors let their medical training be overridden by politicians? Will you trust politicians to make your medical decisions?
We must stop this bill – and the slippery slope it creates – before all of our hands are tied. Women, and men who respect the right of a woman to make choices about her health care, would be wise to contact Governor Kasich and demand that veto House Bill 200 in its entirety.
Call Governor Kasich at 1-614-466-3555 and tell him to veto this bill.
Tweet Governor Kasich @JohnKasich and tell him to veto this bill.
Contact Governor Kasich through his website and tell him to veto this bill.
Do something.
Please.
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This was the answer given to the question “Why can’t men who have a lot of power keep their pants on?”

The conversation was about the Petraeus scandal and resignation but the response of the talking head – in all seriousness – was that men in power have too much testosterone and take increasingly large risks. She went on to list Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and many other politicians who unzipped their careers or reputations over the years, as a good argument for electing more women, i.e. power does not increase risk taking in women.

We now have a historical number of women in the US Senate (20, or 20%) and the House of Representatives (77 or 17%), which means that our standing in the world for participation of women in our national politics edges up from #80 to maybe #79. Statistically 79 other countries, among them China, Pakistan and Iraq, have a higher percentage of women in political office than the United States. Apparently we are slow adopters of best practices.

Interestingly, the same concept of moderating risky behavior is what drives many countries around the world into demanding quotas for women on corporate boards of directors. Critical mass of women on corporate boards is documented to reduce unnecessary risk taking, increase overall performance of the companies and lead to greater stability. That must be why, as the Petraeus scandal was breaking, the UK opposed the adoption of quotas for women on boards as a EU policy.

The UK (and others) protested that quotas are an “unwarranted interference in national plans to enhance diversity”. The preference is that companies prove they have “sufficient measures in place to ensure gender equity” which means they can continue to do nothing.

Interesting juxtaposition: The British government saying a “self-regulatory model” of increasing diversity is the best approach (so very 1980’s), a General accused of “being hormonal” and unable to control himself (while controlling the CIA), and women portrayed as calming forces in the face of political and corporate mishegas (evidence based, with a nurture/nature undertone).

Oh yeah, and lets throw in that some bloggers are blaming Holly Petraeus for “letting herself go” and “looking like a dumpy frump” thereby forcing her husband to have an affair with a woman 20 years younger. I must say that November 2012 is a confusing time to be female. Good thing I don’t have to worry about my hormones impacting my decision making.

Sometimes labels are a drag, like when it allows someone to reduce you to a single characteristic, and sometimes they are useful, like when a single word can convey your world view.

I am a Feminist. Its a regular tag on this blog. I have been, and always will be, adamant and unashamed of using the word feminist to describe myself. You get reactions of course. The most prosaic being that I must be a lesbian, and the most ludicrous being the women who respond by saying “Oh I’m not a feminist.”

I can almost understand and forgive this if the woman is under 21. Usually at that age you still think the world is fair and that your own hard work and merit levels the playing field. Maybe they don’t know women’s history (its a non-starter in our school system no matter how much I agitate), or maybe they haven’t experienced any gender based discrimination, I mean we are all equal now right? Most likely they just don’t know what it means.

Synonyms, which they are likely to be familiar with, include: Bitch, Feminazi, Ballbuster, Man-Hater, Lesbian, Dyke. Accompanying adjectives like ugly, shrill and humorless increase the need to for the average woman to distance herself from the label At All Costs.

But we still haven’t talked about the definition. Being a Feminist, in its simplest form that an 8-year old could understand, means that you believe that women are entitled to equal political, social and economic rights. Fair should not be dictated by sex organs. 

I propose an experiment: Try telling a group of third grade girls they only gets 3/4 of the candy that the boys get because they are girls and see what happens. I predict girls will shout NO FAIR! and the boys will be split between those thinking “Cool!” and those asking “Why?” 

Because gender based behaviors start at birth, we can ignore the results as they play out around us. We can pretend that inequality is not gender based until we are adults. Once you are an adult, it is harder to ignore. I continue to wonder why anyone says they are not a Feminist. Answer these questions:

  • Do you think women should have the same political rights as men? 
    • Should women be allowed to vote and hold public office? 
    • Should women be allowed to sit on juries and serve as judges? 
    • Should women be allowed to make laws?
  • Do you think women should not have the same economic rights as men? 
    • Should women be paid the same amount for doing the same job as a man? 
    • Should women be allowed to apply for jobs if they are qualified?  
    • Should women be allowed to own and inherit property?
  • Do you think women should have the same social rights as men? 
    • Should women be allowed to attend colleges and universities and study what they wish?
    • Should a woman be allowed to file for divorce from her husband? 
    • Should a woman be allowed to prosecute her abusive husband? 
    • Should women be allowed to have custody of their children? 
    • Should a woman be allowed to make decisions about her reproductive health (using birth control, when to have children, having an abortion, being sterilized)?  

If you answered yes to any of the above, congratulations, you are a Feminist. Don’t be afraid to use the label. I would bet 8 out of 10 people would end up being feminists if you ask them the yes/no questions above without using the label.

I was reading an article the other day on the “new trend” of dads being primary caregivers which is trotted out as a new trend in the news cycle every couple years. I have yet to figured out why this happens. Someday I will do a longitudinal study of the timing of the articles and see if it correlates to season (its slow around here so lets throw in more human interest stories) or national events like a woman getting a glass-ceiling breaking job (see Yahoo, pregnant CEO.)

The story kept referring to the dads as “at home dads” which struck me as wrong somehow. It took reading it twice, and asking my husband to remind me whats the term for women who don’t work, to figure it out.  Women who’s sole job is to care for the children are called “stay-at-home moms” but in this article about the dads they had dropped the “stay”.

Is this a signal that its only a temporary choice for these dads to do the child care? Is this the lens that is necessary so as to view the 5 – 7 year career break (until the last kid is in all-day kindergarten) as neutral or positive? Maybe dropping the “stay” will create the halo effect necessary to make daddy child care a feasible choice for more men. But they still have to explain the gap in work record – will that be perceived as a positive or negative?

Usually men get bonus points for things that ding women. A married man gets a career bump as a “breadwinner” and will be offered a higher salary than a single woman, a married woman and even a single mother. (And I am sick of having to prove this junk over and over so kindly look up the articles & studies yourself if you don’t believe me.)

Men get gold stars for leaving work to attend a child’s performance or sport event, women sneak out or use personal/sick time because they will be perceived as “less committed to their jobs”. Its not fair, or 100% universal behavior, or even visible, which is why there are always backlash reactions (from women and men) about how ‘my work place is not like that’, but it probably is. These are cultural and institutional biases and attitudes not policy in an HR handbook.

Will men using FMLA start to shift the “mommy biases” that work against career women? Or will stay-at-home dad be frowned upon once the economy picks up again. I don’t think there are enough of them to start making a difference yet. The article I read quoted increases based on census numbers. When you say “32% of men with working wives took care of a child at least one day a week in 2010” its sounds impressive.  When you say “3.4% of all stay-at-home parents nationwide are dads”, it puts it more in perspective.

The reason the article about dads got me thinking was I had just read a Forbes piece about how 65% of the women in a new study rejected the idea of being a Supermom. Sounds like good news if you forget about that 35% of Enjoli women still out there. The article, “Forget Supermoms – Its All About Smart Moms”, says todays moms are smart, comfortable, confident, in control, empowered and are not “overwhelmed victims”. Problem solved.

But then I got to the last paragraph that showcased and reinforced the cultural bias and expectations:

“That’s not to say there still isn’t tremendous pressure on both working and nonworking moms to do right by their children; navigate a deluge of information, advice and opinion spawned by the social web; and simultaneously keep their households, relationships, and work lives intact. They just have more resources now to tap to ultimately make decisions that are right for them and for their families”

So its still your fault if you feel overwhelmed – We gave you all the resources dammit!

No matter how much I dug I could not come up with the methods of the “study”. It was done by McCann Truth Central, an arm of the McCann worldwide advertising agency.  They have a facebook page, a blog, a website and a tumblr but no additional information about their “global thought leadership” methods or purpose. Seems to me that a “truth study” about Moms generated by an ad agency is probably to help clients market products to moms.

That’s fine, market away. But being in Forbes makes it news, which means it will get repeated, like the telephone game, and no longer be attributed to an ad agency. And we wonder where the pressure and mommy myths come from.

I continue to be fascinated by how society shapes the narrative about the roles of men and women. What is acceptable, what is an anomaly, what is the gold standard at this very moment. Because you know it will change. These two stories – “at home dads” and smart & competent moms who are so beyond the “Super” label – are the latest threads I am following.

Someday (in 2042?) I will read a paragraph like this in Forbes

“That’s not to say there still isn’t tremendous pressure on both working and nonworking dads to do right by their children; navigate a deluge of information, advice and opinion spawned by the social web; and simultaneously keep their households, relationships, and work lives intact.”

It has taken me years to no longer cringe and blush when a well-meaning person mentions the “blue people”.

You know, the blue people that come up whenever selection process is being discussed i.e. “I don’t care if someone is white, brown or blue, I just want the best person.” These kind of statements bring up all kinds of questions around intention and ignorance, progress and stagnation.

Questions knockin around in my head today:
1) Is it enough that a person knows that race, gender and other identity/demographic factors can be obstacles that are not usually experienced by majority folks?
2)Does someone having good intentions mean you should give them a pass on things like the “blue people” comments?
3) If you “know better” are you obligated to help people understand?
4) If you are white, and you witness mortifying racist behavior being inflicted on people of color in front of you, is there anything you legitimately do to intervene without being even more insulting?

This would be a purely academic exercise if a friend had not recently remarked (and I paraphrase) “at my age, and with a string of letters after my name, I had hoped I would no longer be hurt when white people compliment me, as if they are surprised, on how articulate I am.”

I wished I could apologize for an offense I didn’t cause, but I worry that gestures like that seem like I am just trying to say “I’m not like that! I’m not one of them!” and its not about me is it?

Oy, I think too much. Back into the fray.