Category Archives: Leadership

October 11th, “Day of the Girl”

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“In recognition of the importance of investing in and empowering girls during adolescence and preventing and eliminating the various forms of violence they experience, the theme of International Day of the Girl Child for 2014 is Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” -United Nations

(Full text: http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/)

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“In every community across the globe, girls and women should have the opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve their full potential. All nations have a responsibility to protect the basic human rights of all people, and when they do — when girls and women are fully valued as equal participants in a country’s politics and economy — societies are more likely to succeed.” 

“We cannot allow violence to snuff out the aspirations of young women in America, and we must not accept it anywhere in the world. Today, we resolve to do more than simply shine a light on inequality.” -Barack Obama

(Full text: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/10/presidential-proclamation-international-day-girl-2014)


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The Weight Of It All

I think the complexity of it — it being the effect of men on women, their weight and influence on our very existence — scares a lot of women from engaging in the conversation. We view our existence and our lives as our own; our ownership, our choices, our paths. But what if it’s not as simple as that? It’s much simpler to view it in black and white and peg us (females/feminists) as women who care too much/give a damn/make excuses/whatever. I wish women could be enthralled by the idea of diminishing the sexism and roadblocks, instead of being scared by it (it’s easier not to care, though). With the advent of sexism in the workplace and in daily life, I can only hope more and more women can be awakened to the barriers being placed on women. The weight of it all is real. The influence and weight men place on women is heavy and felt.

I’ve been networking the last few months, in preparation to begin a transition from current job into a new field. I made the decision earlier this summer to stop networking with men. It seems a brute and harsh reaction, but networking with men only led to not being taken seriously, connections not being made, and instead an offer to buy me drinks at another date, in perhaps a more “casual setting” (read: take me on a date). This happened to me and several other female friends, who all decided to refrain from networking with the opposite gender. What does it take to be taken seriously? We are all successful and driven; we even made a point to not wear tight-fitting clothes to these networking meetings. Though at the end, we were nothing more than a pretty face.

Though, what about how we women relate to each other? So often the first connection women make is whether or not they have a (male) partner. Half of the conversation is then spent comparing and contrasting experiences with males, with the important characteristics and facts about ourselves being saved for later. Why are men such a defining part of female existence?

Men continue to influence female workplace dress. Prior to interviews with men, I would agonize over what to wear. Would one dress emphasize my hips too much, in a manner that may be “suggestive”? What about a dress that hugged my curves and flaunted my figure? Would a pencil skirt imply I wanted to be fucked? In the end, I always choose clothes that fit somewhat loosely and give only an inkling of a figure underneath. I feel safer being bland and nondescript than being assessed on an underlying sexuality.

How much should we care? How much can be done? Earlier this week, I told a supervisor whom I admire and we have often had many a great talk about feminism, sexism in the work place, etc., that a client made a comment about my “pretty face”. I felt at great unease from this comment and was instantly distraught at the thought of my work being thought of as different, as attached to my body rather than my intellect and follow through. She essentially replied that I shouldn’t fuss/sweat it too much, since worse comments could have been made. Though I realize this is true, I was crushed at the fact that this woman, who has shattered many a glass ceiling in her day (hate that phrase, but it’s true in her case), could dismay my discomfort.

As a mental side project, started tallying how many times per day I’m catcalled on my 1/2 mile walk to and fro the public transit station I frequent for work. It’s disheartening, but telling. I’ve also made notes of whether the drivers are in vehicles that are clearly marked as part of a company, etc. I’ve often wanted to call these businesses and complain, but again, have feared the roadblock of a dissent manager getting in my way to do so. Despite often starting my day with such an upsetting experience, I’d rather brush it off and get on with my day than acknowledge it and have it be disregarded by someone who didn’t experience the tragedy of that moment.

A person very close to me, who is highly successful in a field in which men reign, hates the idea of feminism and all that goes along with it. She doesn’t see the point. She kept her mouth shut, did the work, and laid low to rise up. Why can’t we (again, feminists) do the same? It’s easier to assume instead of understand, and the sadness of that is difficult to bear.

The issue at hand is complex. In fact, there are many issues at hand. It’s more complex than it’s often given credit for (outside of liberal media, that is). The difficulty lies in the notion of getting people to feel that the idea is not “not complex”. There is weight and matters to be sorted through here, divided into layers and split up amongst their fixings.

The point, at the end of it all, is to have the voice be heard and the weight felt. To know that we don’t have to be silent, but that we can kick and cry and scream to move ourselves ahead if we need to. That we don’t need to mold into what is expected of us nor refrain from speaking our truths. We need not be discouraged. Hope is brewing, simmering, and rising.

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You’re A Hypocrite, I’m A Hypocrite, We’re All Hypocrites

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When we think of the word “hypocrite”, our minds automatically go negative. I would like to challenge that.

I am being a hypocrite as I write this because I have definitely called folks hypocrites in a negative light in the past. The point of this article is not that people should have no values and show no principle; my point is that the possibility of hypocrisy should not prevent us from speaking out or evolving in different ways.

The first time I began to think about hypocrisy in a more nuanced manner was regarding the Orthodox Jewish Community. I found myself calling various individuals in this community hypocrites; some of this had to do with treatment I had experienced regarding gender, my status as a non-Orthodox Jew and other disagreements I saw as value-based. Orthodox Jews are extremely visible in their values and therefore it is easier to see hypocrisy. We see their values in their following of Halakha (Jewish law) and often in the way individuals dress. This led me to a realization that those who put their beliefs and values out there in a very public way will always be hypocrites.

We live in a complicated world. Chances are you are pulled several different directions each and every day. And chances are every day you do not react the same way. Sometimes I call out the racist comment I overhear, other times I might not. Should I always say something? Probably, but the fact that I might not every single time does not automatically discredit when I do speak up.

When we get so caught up in the consistencies of our actions, it can be debilitating. We are not perfect; we are evolving creatures. This idea that we are 100% authentic everyday is ludicrous. I do not think the exact same way today as I did a week ago, maybe even an hour ago.

None of this is to say we are not accountable for our actions and should not act on principle. Hell, I will continue to get mad when I see dudes call themselves feminists and then exert extremely sexist behavior. The hypocrisy of this is infuriating.

It is inevitable though that we will be hypocrites in our life.

Human characteristics that I admire most are courage and the willingness to place oneself in an uncomfortable situation. This means individuals who share their opinions in public spaces and doing so is a risk. People are going to remember a bold statement; they are going to remember when someone pushes back. And eventually, that person expressing their opinion is probably going to do something that slightly disagrees or is perceived as being inconsistent with the sentiment that was just put forward.

In regards to feminism, when an exact definition of feminism is explained as THE definition, it can lead to a bit of policing. You are a feminist if you do “x” but NOT if you do “y.” Let’s not do that. If someone is bashing women for having sex, yeah I would argue that this is anti-feminist but if a woman is out at a bar and she moves her hips to a song that is less than respectful to women, there should not be a feminist secret camera watching this individual and monitoring their behavior for hypocrisy. And when I say camera, I mean that figuratively. Guilt can eat inside us if we feel that we are not perfectly aligning with our political beliefs. When we live in a world that is so incredibly unjust, we have to participate in it at times. I call myself anti-capitalist but I still need to make money and pay rent. There is a balance between living out our beliefs and also recognizing that our actions are at times going to be inconsistent with those beliefs.

My advice. Be principled but also know that you will be a hypocrite because that is what living looks like, especially when you are willing to take a risk in a public manner and be a leader.

 

Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay 

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