Being a Woman in a Man’s World

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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.

What is a “good man”?

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I have friends, women friends, who are single or with someone but unhappy. The general consensus between all these women seems to be that they want a “good man”.

Don’t ask them to have a general consensus about what a good man is, though, because obviously like anything else that definition is going to vary from person to person.

So, the dictionary of Stephanie comes into play. The most accurate definition of what a good man is. You asked for it, and here it is.

A Good Man:

A good man is someone who tells you that you’re beautiful every day. He looks at you with wide eyes when he says it, so you know he means it. A good man tells you this while not being able to keep his hands off of you. Loving, touching, squeezing; all that jazz.

A good man doesn’t JUST tell you that you look beautiful. He specifies what about you is beautiful, so you know it’s true. He tells you that you have flawless skin, or that you’re ass looks AHMAZING! (yea, ahmazing with an h, say it like this… ahhhhh mazing)

A good man cups his hands around your face and tells you that he loves you, he tells you that he’ll love you forever, and he believes it… so you believe it.

A good man looks like a homeless person, his hair is getting so long, yet when he has a chance to get it cut he stays home to pay the bills.

A good man rocks his son to sleep at night and listens to the same YouTube video over and over again because the two year old commands it. Even though he says, “only one more time”, he listens to this YouTube video an additional three times before tucking the little one snugly and warmly into bed and saying goodnight.

A good man gives you a back rub at night, even though he worked all day, even though his back probably hurts, too. But he doesn’t ask for one in return, he just gives.

A good man doesn’t want you to spend so much money on Starbucks coffee, it really drives him crazy, yet he has come to terms with the fact that it makes you happy, so he doesn’t say anything.

A good man cries when he sees you walking down the aisle at your wedding. He takes your hand, and even though he knows he is wearing a mic, tells you a plethora of emotional and loving things.

A good man stays with you through millions of hours of pregnancy, what feels like millions of hours of labor, and millions of hours of sleepless nights. He doesn’t understand what it is to carry and birth a child, but he really thinks it’s cool and amazing and recognizes the sacrifice on your part to do it.

A good man tells you that he loves that you have a strong personality, he laughs at your jokes and he listens to your rants. He knows who you were, accepts who you are, and sees who you could be.

This man does laundry, vacuums and makes sure you have a clean pillow to lay your head on at night. When you cook for him he always tells you it was good, and then he washes the dishes. He kills spiders, chases away bees, hangs pictures, washes cars, kisses away bruises and tears, pushes little bodies on swings and down slides, checks homework, makes beds, and shampoos carpets. He is tireless, and selfless, and maybe still looks homeless…

But he’s beautiful to you…

Because he’s strong, and sweet. Because his smile still makes you feel like the world is a good place, and his arms are still the safest place in the world for you. Because no matter what you do or what you say, what kind of evil witch or sulky little girl you turn into, he still sees you as his soul mate.

This is a good husband, a good father, a good person. A man who once told me that if all he left behind was the legacy that his children and his family viewed him as a “good man”, that this would be more than enough for him. Who could ask more from their partner in life? He doesn’t want riches or notoriety, he doesn’t need a high flying career or fast cars (although he would like them)…

All he needs in this life is to give himself to his family, to show them that he loves them and that he is there; every gray hair, every wrinkle, every puffy eye is because he is out there giving it his all for US. All he needs, all he wants, is to be the best for the people he loves…

And all I need is him.

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“He fills me up, he gives me love, more love than I’ve ever seen. He’s all I got, he’s all I got in this world, but he’s all the man that I need.” -Whitney Houston