I act confident because I have to.
The men at work say I’m “cocky”, or “a bitch”, because I act as if I know what I’m doing.
Do I know what I’m doing? They sure don’t make me feel that way.
At a leadership conference, we all have to get up in front of the room and role play. The same demeanor a man has that is described as “spot on” is looked down on when I adopt it.
When I was younger I thought sexism no longer existed. I felt that in this time, in this place, with someone as competent as I am, it could not survive. And it does not survive. It FLOURISHES.
Someone might ask me how I can feel that way, how can I verbalize this. You’re in “leadership”, you’ve been promoted. You’ve been recognized.
But when I look around that room of “leaders”, and realize I am the only one with two x chromosomes, my very presence there feels like a slap in the face. Am I here because I’ve earned this? Or am I here as a show that this company promotes fairly? Just this little seed of doubt can foster doubt in myself, in my abilities. Am I a joke to be tossed around when all the guys sit around and talk about their little experiment in affirmative action.
And when I get angry about something, it’s labeled “emotional”. I’ve never cried at work, in front of my co-workers, or even in the general vicinity of the work place. When I speak about things that issues I can become animated, loud, forceful, but I would not call it an emotional outburst. You certainly wouldn’t call it an emotional outburst if it were being done by someone with a penis. It would be dedication and passion. These things are valued traits in someone, but by no means would we ever want someone who was emotional in any real position of power. I’ll take the passionate guy with the anger issues.
I bet a man has never been asked at work, “don’t you wish you could be home raising your children?” I didn’t know that going to work every day and providing for my children both financially and emotionally was neglecting to raise them. All these years I’ve been just letting them raise themselves! Thankfully there are wise men such as yourself to show me where I’ve gone wrong. Forget this paycheck, I better get my little butt home (yeah the one you’ve been staring at all day) before the kids start swinging from tree vines like in the Jungle Book!
I can finally see the inequality. When people who have less seniority, and are less qualified are being given positions that should have been mine. When co workers speak in a group of “leaders” and they are listened to, and when I speak I am indulged. The only difference between these people and myself is they are men, and I am a woman. And because of that, I take my job less seriously. It’s something I do because of the economy and the need for a two person income.
I come home and I look around and think, I wish I could stay home and raise my kids. At least I know I’m good at that because no one is telling me that position is out of my league. No one is making me feel guilty for wanting to be a mother, or clean a house. We want to think, as strong women, that our own belief in our abilities is enough. No one will keep me down. You tell me I can’t have something, I’m going after it harder.
But what happens when you go after it hard, when you keep trucking up that hill and keep getting pushed back down. How much strength do you have to exert before you just stay down. Because our own confidence is going to run out eventually. We are all human beings; men, woman, child alike. We all need SUPPORT, we all need AFFIRMATION from someone else so that we can continue to replenish our self confidence and our strength.
So I stand in my house after a long day of working twice as hard as everyone else to prove I deserve to be there, even though I’m not sure I even do anymore, I realize that I’m down. And even if I don’t stay down, even if I gather what I have left and try to venture up that hill again, I let them push me down. And they’ve already won. The second I questioned why I was sitting in that room of pinstripes and wing tips, they won.
I don’t even think sexism is a purposeful choice for some or most people. I think the old roles are hard to break, and when a woman is both a good mother and a good leader, she is an anomaly and therefore scary. When something is scary, we are threatened. When we are threatened we seek to keep the scary thing in a safe place, like a closet or under the bed, so it doesn’t creep up on us unaware. I can’t blame men, and even some women, for having this horribly inaccurate and counter productive outlook. But I don’t have to forgive them either.
I am only curious as to where this is all going to go in the future…
I have to go get my kids. They haven’t been raised very well apparently and I’m sure they’re looting a gas station or something by now.