Thursday, January 18, 2018

You Wanna Burn Down the Patriarchy? Here Are 5 Simple Rules to Help You Do That

I found it depressing, predictable, and more than a little ironic that the whole Aziz Ansari sexual misconduct story was followed by a nasty, public feud between two career women: The young journalist who wrote the story, and another more seasoned journalist who was following up on it.

No need to get into the details; you can read all about it here. But it made me rethink something I spend a lot of time thinking about—both in my personal and professional capacity: 

How to support other women.

Women supporting and lifting up other women is the best patriarchy-smashing tool in our arsenal. That’s why it's so tragic when women fight among themselves over who is REALLY a feminist and who is REALLY doing the “Good Work" and who REALLY needs a smackdown.

The fact of the matter is every career woman can take steps EVERY DAY to support and lift up other women in their careers. 

Through trial (and plenty of error) between 21 and 40, here are a few simple rules I’ve learned for doing that in my own life and career:

If you’re established in your career, take young women under your wing. Invite young women to meetings. Listen to them with an open mind and insist that they both contribute AND get credit for their ideas. Introduce them to powerful people. Compliment them in public and include them. Leave your door open to listen to them. Tell them it’s okay to cry. Don’t be mean to them just because some older woman was mean to you. Bury that hatchet and break the cycle of abuse.

2. RESPECT GOOD MENTORSHIP AND REALIZE YOU HAVE A LOT TO LEARN: Conversely, if you’re young and just starting out, recognize that a good mentor can make a HUGE difference in your career, and try to respect their experience. Don't burn bridges. Try to learn from older women and honor the path they've forged for you. Try not to judge them for not necessarily grasping the norms of the next generation. They have something to teach you, and you have something to learn and also teach them. Make it an exchange of ideas—not barbs.

As women we are socialized and conditioned to compete with each other for male scraps and resources, using our physical appearance and sexuality as currency. Fight this. Do not insult other women’s appearance—their weight, their skin, their hair, their lipstick, etc. Do not eat your own. This shit has nothing to do with what a woman has to offer, and while women are busy being petty with each other, men are getting promotions you could have had.

The Ellen Pompeo bargaining story is a good example of this. Take an objective look at what your male counterparts are doing, making, etc. and insist on respect and parity. Again, this is uncomfortable because we are conditioned to take whatever we are given and be grateful, but you have to think outside that box to move forward.

Realize that what one generation thinks is acceptable (“what’s a little grab-ass from your boss?”) is not okay to the next generation, and what seems fine to that generation (“what’s a little persistence a.k.a. 'bad sex' in the bedroom?”) is not considered acceptable to the next. This is a good thing, because it means that women are evolving to insist that men begin to look at the world through their lens, not the other way around, and that men too--and older women--have a role to play in insisting that men do not perpetuate misogyny. 

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1 comment:

  1. Here is a real question. Because it happened. What mentoring advice would you give someone watching a younger woman repeatedly use the stereotypical "sexy, dumb woman thing" when you know she has other skills but refuses to actually use them? Seriously, I heard her tell a male ADA once, "Oh! (breathy laugh) You are talking about sportsing! I know nothing about sportsing!" and then later explain that it was a way to get on his good side to hopefully have a better working relationship with him.


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