After reading this, be empathetic to the situations of others. I want you to consider their experiences, their downfalls, their vulnerabilities, and most importantly their humanity. You should be able to see women for more than their gender. Take witness to their passions and spirit. I want you to consider being a feminist.
The Isle of “…Not Like Me”.
I live in a neighborhood, a predominately old neighborhood, a predominately old white neighborhood. A predominately old white neighborhood with a few Indian families and one black family. Survey says that one black family is all mine. I’ve become accustomed to this, so it isn’t the end of the world for me but I’d be a fool to tell you it wasn’t isolating. I have great neighbors, but it’s culturally isolating.
“Culture is important…”
I have come accustomed to some Indian culture due to personal exposure and the occasional documentary, but…it’s still culturally isolating because I’m not Indian. But, I can say I love their food dearly. I experienced this in graduate school as well. Isolation feels crappy. You enjoy what you can with other cultures, but there is nothing like sharing the nuances of your culture, with your culture. Especially as a parent. When you see other ethnicities embrace their cultural likeness, you want the same for your children.
Culture is important, but what about gender. Having a daughter, I’ve become more aware of where women stand in our society. As I began to research and listen increasingly, I slowly developed into what some would call a feminist. Okay, I’ll wear that as a badge of honor because, you know… family.
Too much silence for feminist
Having a daughter (Ya Ya), I have to be ahead of the issues that will face her. Sniffing the newswire, I’ve especially seen issues related to female leadership. Where are the women leaders? That is a hyperbolic question to ask, of course, there are many women leaders in many fields. However, women leadership is not normalized. There is disrespect linked to women when it comes to leading men. As if we were in the dark ages, women have only been accepted as leaders of their home economics, and not much else. It’s fine to be leaders of the household, but incredible levels of awesome elsewhere shouldn’t be reserved for a male majority. Unfortunately, many disagree. Take for instance this non-exact quote from a sharp tongue TV personality. “I’d never buy my girl a watch because she has a clock over the stove”. I’m not going to get into the more sexist rhetoric that has been the standard, just know that it’s disgusting.
Stay in your lane, you are only good for…
Women have been permitted to bear children since the dawn of history, but only recently have been permitted to take on combat roles in the military. Ask any woman who has pushed a child out of her “lady”, she’d probably tell you it wasn’t a walk in the park. Knowing this fact alone, I couldn’t tell a woman where her place should be anywhere in the military. “You just pushed out this big head baby? Do whatever your heart desires” Shouldn’t their patriotism be as significant as the male Army Ranger? Fortunately, there has been headway in military female leadership with the promotion of generals like Lori Robinson. There are other examples of improvement in female leadership, but it it’s moving at a snail’s pace, especially in the technology and finance sectors.
Silicon Valley of Men
CNN Money has an interactive chart that can filter gender and ethnic data for a few Silicon Valley corporations. The results are damning, especially when it’s filtered for black women. They probably would have been better off not survey this part of the population because it is nearly non-existent. We can look in other top-level administration roles as well. In a league of 30 teams, the San Antonio Spurs has been the only team to staff a female coach. Becky Hammon is the first full salaried coach ever in the NBA. Sure, there is the WNBA. That shouldn’t absolve other predominantly male institutions from embracing gender diversity within their ranks. So, in the spirit of “enough is enough”, here are few things men can do to promote change in gender diversity.
Change our Pride, Listen
Pride is a hurdle. We achieve things and are proud of them. We achieve more and become experts. As experts, we forget how little we actually know. Especially when this comes to experts who find themselves looking at other experts, male experts. Along comes another expert, a female expert, but her ideas are cast to the side because what sits between her two lower limbs. Shameful as that is, there are examples of women flourishing when pride wasn’t a part of the equation, and when it was, showed the resolve to power through.
Bethune Knew Something
Franklin D. Roosevelt put his pride to the side and named Mary McLeod Bethune to his Black Cabinet back when he was POTUS. I’d bet a pretty penny, he got backlash for it, however, he didn’t allow his pride to step in the way of something pivotal. Mary was later a trailblazer in the United Nations and given her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, she was able to advocate effectively for her black constituents. If pride beset FDR, who knows what alternative history would have taken shape.
Annie Oakley is the epitome of a gunslinger. In the late 1800s, she routinely beat out unsuspecting men in sharpshooting events. One of her victories was even over her husband to be. I know most men wouldn’t have taken losing to a female lightly…but to ask for her hand in marriage speaks volumes for what sort of woman Annie Oakley must have been. The groom in this scenario, Frank Butler could have gone about losing to her in an entirely different way. My assumption is that he saw what Annie saw in herself, confidence in who she was and her abilities. Society usually squelched that sort of confidence in women.
Female or Male?
If you know anything about the wildly successful empire of Harry Potter, then the name J.K. Rowling should be one of the first names you think of. But why “J.K.” Rowling? How come she didn’t use her birth name, Joanne Rowling? Well, her publisher felt a book by a female author would diminish its success within the target market of teenage boys. Was her publisher right? Harry Potter is forever etched in stone. However, it is an injustice the environment for her target market wasn’t one that embraced gender equality. Joanne Rowling has moved to crime novels in recent years but under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. Even in another genre, it’s clear a reader’s bias and pride is revealed upon the gaze of an author’s name (and apparent gender), rather than their content.
So leave your pride at the door. Abilities and accolades need more nuance. More than just gender.
Change the Thought Process
Merit-based thinking should be a high priority of the critic. Usually, it’s not. Mental hopscotch is played to avoid the pitfalls of microaggressions and implicit biases towards gender, race, and socio-economic backgrounds. Of course, this game isn’t easy. It requires work. If only we had a way to make it easier (sarcasm.com)
Think of the Work
Fortunately, there are women like Toni Morrison, who pushed forward and let their work speak for itself… even when it wasn’t accepted. From “The Bluest Eye” to “Beloved”, Toni Morrison’s work just holds up. It sucks for those who shot the work down because it’s better to experience greatness when it happens, rather than to reflect on the record of greatness. If we approach analyzing and reading work in general from the viewpoint of “does it hold up?” versus “what’s the gender of the author?”, women wouldn’t feel they have to prove themselves because they didn’t have a Y-chromosome.
Consider taking an empathetic role, by opening your eyes to the realities of the other side, even if it isn’t “your” reality. A great way to do that is to immerse into different environments. If a man immersed himself around women, attentively listened and conversed about the various aspects of their lives, I’m sure much would be learned and respected. This exercise can be extended to other areas of life. I call it empathetic immersion.
Change the Exposure
Blessed are the exposed. Blessed are the exposed, Blessed are the exposed. My taste buds have benefited from that mantra. Exposure to food, countries, books, people, and emotions has blessed me beyond measure. I’m able to take my experiences and use them to paint vivid pictures that would otherwise be dull compositions. They are forever in my arsenal now, ready to use when appropriate.
No fences for the fencer
Ibtihaj Muhammad showcased the merits of her exposure to fencing on the world stage in the 2016 Olympics. Coupling her passion with her faith, she has been a symbol to Muslim women that they can pursue their dreams even within certain tenets of their religion. Exposure is a tool that can work effectively when done correctly. For example, expose someone to something new and tell them to share it with a person previously unexposed. The process continues, time passes and more and more people have been enriched. Ibtihaj’s parents exposed her to a sport where her faith is still honored. She chose to continue the sport and became a boss at it and now has exposed others. At times, that is all it takes.
Girl and women support groups have been essential places for support, affirmation, and camaraderie. The support and affirmation should be in all places beyond support groups. This earth shouldn’t isolate the power of affirmation and support to only a few outlets. Proliferate it. Let your co-workers, daughters, wives, sisters, mothers, aunt’s…damn it all the women you know, let them know… “I got you”. The rest of society doesn’t, you know. Give affirmation, even when they don’t need it. Listen and champion them. Honor them. Women deserve it because they are more than just, women.
Do a bit more
Try not to walk through life as an apathetic zombie. Increase your sensitivity to others and the issues that affect them. Come from a place of understanding and when you can, be the solution to their problems. I don’t have it all figured out in this regard, but I’m happy I have a wife and other women that can make me more and more aware of what it’s like being a modern woman.
What is your experience?
Have you experienced or saw an example of gender inequality? Leave a comment and let’s discuss it?