The Art of Being You: Building A Better Personal Brand (without the BS)

Fu*k the rules, do what’s right for you?
Seriously. Fu*k em. 

Do you remember life without screens? 

I mean the glowing, talking, ever-present & omniscient ones we wistfully while away our lives behind (be they big, medium, small, or pocket-sized?

Do you remember going out with your friends at the dew-drop-dawn of each new day & riding bikes from sun-up to sun-down. Making up rules to games that didn’t exist yet & relishing in the art of unfettered play?

Did you dance on tables for the joy of & not because we needed fodder to feed an algorithm or three? 

Let me tell you… I did. Thank GAWD we didn’t have smartphones & cameras documenting every waking moment of our lives when I was young. Instead we embraced boredom as a challenge. We invented adventures & undertook them fastidiously.

We found joy in recounting our harrowing tales of escaping scorpions, rattlesnakes, & Bob cats (ahem, we never had to escape really – we never saw all the critters we imagined we’d escaped from, it was their trails in the shallow dust that reminded us they were there though). Oh I loved the days before digital applause became inherently tied to our own self-worth.

When was the last time you spent an entire summer afternoon lying in the grass looking up at the sky & watching the clouds pass overhead?
I can’t remember the last time I did it. 
Has my 13year-old daughter ever done this?
Ever? 
I’m not actually sure. 

My own memories moments where I was truly present haunt me like gentle ghosts. Nudging me. Nurturing me. All of them are specters of a past that whisper in my ears “Do you remember…” hey haunt me in rare moments of silence & stillness, prodding at a dusty corner of my consciousness reminding me of the innate joy in doing nothing. Now though, nothingness is frowned upon. 

In a world where we pay to go places without wifi & are easily seduced by the idea of going offline, we struggle when we encounter boredom. We’re now hard-wired for connection 24/7/365. But the connection our brains desire (damn you, dopamine) isn’t real connection. 

We are living in a time where our personal value is oftentimes measured by how busy we are, how many titles we’ve put next to our names on LinkedIn profiles, & how many followers see the photos/videos/words we upload. The measure is simple: if lots of people see the reckons we post & the breakfasts we tweet about (accompanied by inane/clever/snooze-worthy hashtags), then we must be very important & interesting. Right? 

Yeah, nah. 

In the past 20 years the fabric of our connected culture has become shinier, sure. And don’t we just covet the shiny things? We attempt to grab more & more of the twinkly stuff. We show only our highlight reels to the world. The ups. The celebrations. The rising from a fall. The highest of peaks. Sometimes we show glimpses of the hard stuff. But, that’s only sometimes. 

Mostly though, we keep our fears & our anxieties locked away. 
We wallow in our own defeats when defeat looks like us. 
When the person we see in the mirror isn’t perfect we hide them & from them. 

We disconnect to connect.

For most of us, social interactions are a smoke-screen. A proof-point of interacting with a modernity that has over-run us. It’s social media that defines us. All of us. We post dreamy smiles in golden sunlight in the hopes of living up to the expectations of people we’ve never met. Expectations that have yet to be defined. 

We follow. 
We follow.
We follow. 
We follow…

And, in turn, we hope others will follow us.
Why? Because being followable is the new wealth. 

Whether it’s 100 people or 100million, being followed is a new currency by which we buy & sell our self-confidence off of the back of likes, shares, comments & the ever-elusive idea of virality. Our sweet-fix digital culture is killing us though. Quite literally. We’re drunk on algorithms. 

Here at home in New Zealand our depression & suicide rates are higher than almost anywhere else in the world. We measure our value, our lovability, & our cleverness by double-taps on a screen somewhere else in the world. People we will never know hold our lives in the palms of their hands. 

Which brings me to the topic of Personal Brand. 

Google the term or take a wee squizz on any LinkedIn timeline & you’ll find a treasure trove of people talking about cutting through the din of digital content & becoming a thought leader by building a better personal brand than the next person. Millions of articles purport the best tips-&-tricks for hacking human algorithms (not to mention the social media driven ones) & becoming instantly likable. Instantly famous. Instantly worthy. 

This isn’t a new idea, in fact it’s an old one. It’s only the platforms on which we’re meant to sparkle that are different. Le sigh. Hands up if you’re already bored of all of the beaty-chesty congratulatory swill that people post in an attempt to feel any bit of anything at all. We chase this kind of interaction because we’ve forgotten how to say “Thank you,” and “Well done,” and any other nice thing to each other in real life – so we look for kindness online. 

Let me be the first to tell you though, the beaty-chesty stuff isn’t authentic or likable. We’re smart. All of us. We can sense bullshit at a thousand paces. When it comes to professional platforms like LinkedIn I can spot a boot-licker from just as far a distance as a bullshit artist. 1,000 paces. 

The most frequent question I get asked is: How can you tell if someone is authentic or not? 

Firstly, let’s not beat around the bush. If you are wondering if someone might not be who they purport to be – then investigate further. Our guts are great at spotting/feeling when things don’t feel quite right. If you’re looking for something that’s based on a person’s online activity, a good rule of thumb to figure out if someone’s yanking your proverbial chain is simple. 

On LinkedIn, head to their “activity” tab & see how they interact & with whom. A person who never interacts with their own colleagues but who hammers ye olde LIKE button when it comes to the chiefs is an easy pick as a butt-kisser. When I see folks of this ilk, I unfollow/dis-engage immediately. There’s only so much brown-nosing a girl can handle up in a timeline, ya know? But that’s just one way to spot someone who is out for themselves instead of sharing themselves with others.

I believe that personal brand isn’t what you may think it is.

I’m here to bring you a different view on it. Instead of playing by other people’s rules, we get to write our own. We do! No one has to be one thing or another to have amazing thoughts & share them. You don’t have to be extroverted, shouty, or move at pace. You need only be who you are to be seen & heard. 

In fact, every single build a better personal brand article that I’ve read that doesn’t start with: “Fuck the rules, do what’s right for you!” is an article I automatically am cynical about. Cynical because if you’re going to tell other people how to live their lives, you’re not doing anyone a favour. 

So, in attempt to not write something that actually helps, & to answer questions that I get asked a whole heckuva lot, here’s my take on the best rules for building your personal brand online & offline:

  • FOLLOW THE WELL TRODDEN PATH
    Hahaha! LOL. Not. Don’t follow a path. 
    Follow a beat. Be it the beat of your heart, a beat of your own drum, or the beat of your favourite power song – follow by leading with that which feeds you. When you know your values & lean hard into them, then you’ll know the path you need to forge. I’ve always found inspiration in others. People who move through the world completely comfortable in their own skin are people I look to when my own comfort in who I am wavers. 

    The happier I am in who I am, the more I’m able to exist in a state of insatiable curiosity. I ask questions. And, I’m open to a magical melding together of electricity and stardust. To stand out, stand up. It’s not always easy to share. But it gets easier the more you do it. Don’t get stuck in the mud of the well-trodden path. Go on, Tiger. Tip-toe through the tulips instead. 
  • DRESS FOR SUCCESS
    Gross, no. 
    Dress for how you feel. 
    Dress how you want.
    Dress up, down, all around. 

    Just make sure that you are, in fact, dressed. 

    All of us should be able to show up in the world the way we want to show up. We must learn to take up space. To be visible in ways that work for us as individuals. Also, we must allow others to do the same. Celebrating diversity means being inclusive of any kind of vibe we bring sartorially. Obviously some professional engagements call for different attire and formalities. If you need to wear a suit, wear one. By all means. 

    But if you’re keen to wear that blue-flower print that makes you feel powerful, do it. Or, that bright orange number that makes you feel like a million bucks – it’s calling your name & does you no good hanging in your closet. If you’re more comfortable with a traditional corporate attire, that’s a-okay as well. You do you, Boo. You write the rules by which you play. If my penchant for double-denim is anything to go by, you’ll soon find out that when you’re at your most comfortable on the outside, you’re also your most productive & effective. Go on, give dressing for your idea of success a whirl. 
  • FOLLOW/NETWORK WITH EXECUTIVES & C-SUITE
    LOL, soz. No thanks. When I see people only managing “up” on LinkedIn & in other professional settings I instantaneously dry-retch. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t reach out to or follow people in positions you aspire to – just don’t let the idea of a corporate ladder be that which defines your personal branding strategy online (or off). Instead of seeking out the top-dogs only, follow people who inspire you instead. Search out people who have a genuine opinion & who aren’t afraid to share it. I always look for the helpers, the givers. 

    The people who spend most of their time with one aim in mind: to connect. These people are worth their weight in gold & then some. I’ve learned more from following people who are different to me & who are in different roles to me than I have by following a whole heap of CEO’s names John or Dave. With a good mix of colleagues, contemporaries, & kick-ass people who you just seem to gel with, you’ll make a much better impression on just on the world – but you’ll learn a whole lot more & be able to feed your curiosity more authentically.

    Also, things we should do more fastidiously are: 
    Thank people. 
    Compliment people. 
    Ask questions. 
    Banter. 

    Remember, building a personal brand isn’t about kissing asses. 
    It’s about trust, integrity, & being true to who you are as a person. If you’re keen on learning more from people higher up the ladder, follow away. But don’t forget to stop for a moment & look at everyone else around you. It might just be your network of contemporaries who lift you the highest as you move through your career. 
  • SHARE COMPANY STORIES 80% OF THE TIME, PERSONAL ONES 20%
    I see this a lot. Folks who are either a) drinking the Kool Aid hard-out & don’t realise the damage they’re dong to their personal brand by not branching out in their interests or who are b) looking for congratulations & adulation from others within their business alone. In the olden days of LinkedIn (yes, there were olden days & I lived through them) the rule of thumb was to only share stories about the business or industry you worked in, but that was because the platform was originally a hunting ground for job-seekers & HR folks looking to poach top talent. 

    If you were caught on LinkedIn during the Wild West days of the platform, you were always branded a person looking for greener pastures. Lucky for all of us, the platform has matured (hopefully as have we) & the facts don’t lie: to have people engage with you you must be engaging. Seems fairly obvious, right?

    Yet, I quite often see folks who will only talk about XYZ business & XYZ profits & XYZ strategy… blah blah blah. In all reality, if you’re looking to grow your personal brand online, you need to flip the above percentages. Or, be much cleverer in how you share information so that the people you’re hoping to engage with understand your personal drivers. If you share 100% business information, but can do so with a personal interest or a passionate & human spin, then that’s a-okay. Because… you guessed it… that makes the information you’re sharing relatable & valuable.

    I mean, I’m sure your big/small/medium sized business is awesome & that you are truly in love with the CMS, DMP, & campaign PIRs you work with… but tell me something interesting. Tell me something surprising. In fact, share a new idea. Say something bold. Something different. I’d love 100% of you & your ideas… but if you’re on LinkedIn, sure go on & pepper in some business speak. But please don’t make it an 80% love-fest about corporate policy.

    Humans connect. Be human. 
  • POST TWICE A WEEK ACROSS ALL CHANNELS.
    Again, this is another case of the “nopes”! What I mean by this is that winning the algorithm & going viral is kinda like winning the lotto. The odds are stacked against us all simply because of the vast amount of content being made & shared every second of every day. If you’re looking to do anything, look to make an impact on one person. Then two. Then three… etc. 

    Instead of trying to hack an algorithm, simply interact with intention. Quite often even I get caught up in thinking that I need to post to Instagram, or to Facebook, or to LinkedIn on a daily basis. But some days (ahem, MOST DAYS) I really don’t have that much to say. So instead, I fight the urge to post a bunch of waffle & instead I only post if I can interact in a way that gives. 

    When we give people our thoughts & our experience, then they receive the gift of knowledge. I love giving people my attention, my time, my expertise. Be boundless in how you give… give give give. 
    In fact, if you take anything away from this article at all, let it be this: GIVE. 
  • WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
    A few months ago I called a guy on LinkedIn an asshat. It was the nicest thing I could think to call him after he attacked me via DM & in public on the wall of my own LinkedIn feed. I’ve never met this man & really don’t ever want to, either.

    New Zealand being small & Auckland being even smaller, I probably will end up next to this dolt at a conference or riding home on public transport – but so far, I haven’t had to breathe the same air as him. Without going into too much detail, this poor, triggered fellah didn’t like my language. He didn’t like my ideas. He didn’t like me at all. 

    So, instead of blocking me or just moving on with his own damn life he tried to put his sticky beak into mine. He wrote to my employer. He attempted to continue DMing me well after me having blocked him. He just really needed to stop being an asshat. In reality, what this stranger was trying to do was to quiet me. To take my voice & my freedom of expression. He tried to bully me online, then through my employer (they didn’t bite, either). He tried to make me feel small. At all of these things, he tried & failed. 

    I’m old enough & worn around the edges enough to speak my truth. I do it kindly, I do it often. And, I hope you do, too. To build your brand, use your language. Speak your truth. People can see right through anything that’s not authentic. And, when that happens you lose trust. No trust = no ability to network.

    Never be afraid to use your language. Your own form of poetry is that which the world is ready to drink in. No one is allowed to steal that from you. One of Dr Maya Angelou’s most impactful quotes in my life has been this “A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing, she goes where she will without pretense & arrives at her destination prepared to be herself – & only herself.

    Don’t watch your language, friends – use it. 

So there you have it. 
A lot of words on personal brand that can easily be distilled down into one common theme: build trust by sharing your passion, your knowledge, & by being truly curious about who other people are & why they do what they do.

Also, wear double/triple/quadruple denim whenever you please. 
Your body. Your mind. Your rules.

Dr. Suess said is simplest. 
He said it best.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. 
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Go & do you, Boo. 

The Great Un-Following: Why I Unfollowed Men on LinkedIn for Six Months

Ah, the modern age. The internet has not only connected all of us in a Wild West kinda new frontier style, but it’s also opened up the opportunity for the democratisation of content creation and proliferation. 

Call it what you will, but most of what people push out into the vast & unending universe online is akin to unlimited drivel. It’s chatter without reason. Chewing-gum for the ego & the brain. 

The world is awash with opinions right now. As an unshakeable optimist, I’d like to say there’s more good information being shared than bad or banal – but going by gut instinct (no data was harmed in the writing of this assertion) I imagine good content is at peak needle-in-a-haystack alert right now.

Our online world is oversaturated with opinionated people who shout at decibels that could puncture eardrums. Armchair warriors and keyboard enthusiasts with little real-world experience (if any, at times), tippity-type away on subjects that they may or may not know a single thing about.

With the onslaught of social media & the reigning court of our age being a handful of powerful algorithms, I thought I might try to break – or rather, retrain – an algorithm that I still feel an affinity towards in the hopes of becoming more wokethat I think I am. (NB I don’t think I’m all that woke at all, but that’s for another blog post.)

Over the course of the past six months, I’ve been undertaking a very small (sample size of one, ahem, moi) experiment on LinkedIn. This wee experiment is quite possibly the most intentional & focussed ongoing personal challenge I’ve undertaken on social media ever. Yep, ever. My reasons for sticking to the experiment started quite shallow if I’m honest – I simply was getting bored with the platform but saw enough of a tiny glimmer of amazing content amongst the shouting & chest beating that I thought I might be able to turn that glimmer into quite the shining blaze.

I also have to come clean about something. If we all took a ride in a Wayback Machine to some point in time about 9 years ago you’d have heard a younger me saying things like  “I don’t like LinkedIn at all. It’s just a bunch of people shouting about their CVs or looking for a job. There’s no substance.” But, like the tides of time, my stance on the platform has changed as it has changed.

Recently I have come to really enjoy LinkedIn. In fact, the words “favourite social media channel” and “LinkedIn” may or may not have been used in the same sentence many times together. Okay, not “may have” they have been. Right here & right now LinkedIn is really the only major social channel that seems to offer me any value when it comes to learning new things, understanding the business world in a wider sense, & not having to wade through what secondary connections ate for lunch last Tuesday. I mean, you take a good pic of sushi, friends – but I honestly don’t give a fig about it. 

You see, LinkedIn is smart. The folks behind the channel pivoted when they needed to. They evolved their channel without pummelling the platform. And, they have given us an algorithm that seems pretty fair right now – all things considering. The content I’m being served seems fair, focussed, but also allows for exploration without being ballsy in attempting to be way too contextual. Believe me, there’s a creepy side to contextuality sometimes. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of annoying bananas (this is what we call people who grind our proverbial gears at my house) who are only ever trying to toot their own horns, hack the algorithm (remember when spaces between lines of SHOUTY CAPS TEXT was a thing?), & are self-serving jerks who assume a connection means it’s time to sell, sell, sell. But, for the most part, Linked In is a cool space to while away some time whilst scrolling for clickable headlines.

So it was when I started finding myself a wee bit bored with LinkedIn that I realized why I was getting bored, most of the articles & thoughts being shared were those of men. White men, specifically. Now, don’t stop reading here & brand me a man-hating-so-and-so-feminist, I love the fellas for their minds. However I was really longing for more diverse world views, opinions, & topical discussions. 

Thus, my experiment was borne. From the moment I realized why LinkedIn was losing its lustre for me, I started unfollowing almost all of the dudes I’d been following who I didn’t know IRL. My hypothesis was simple: if I unfollow a truckload of guys that like to pontificate whom I don’t know, then I can retrain LinkedIn’s algorithm to serve me more female, LGBTQ, non-western voices & content. 

Fast-forward six months: I haz findings! 

Before I tell you what I found out, I should probably tell you what I thought would happen when I started unfollowing 99% of the men in my newsfeed. I thought that I’d start seeing more and more original content by women. I thought I’d start understanding women in business more in-depth. And, I thought that I’d see a lot more ideas bubbling to the surface in my industry in which I’d be able to network more widely with women who are making change happen.

But, these things didn’t eventuate. More & more I started to see posts by women in my newsfeed outnumber that of men. However, the content that 90% of the women were sharing was that of men. I was (& am still) floored by how hard it is to unearth original content made for, by, and about professional topics that originates from the minds & souls of women. I started to get pretty frustrated with the lack of content penned & shared by women, before taking a deep breath and remembering that, no matter how smart an algorithm or AI is, we cannot take away the human variables to the equation.

Society has told us for a long time that our thoughts aren’t welcome at the proverbial table. We hold our tongues when all we want to do is speak. We look to each other for confidence and sisterhood, but we have very few female role models in the public domain of whom we can learn from & share their stories. To say I was & am still disheartened by a lack of content by women would be an understatement. But, I’m heartened to know that more & more we are putting our voices into the public realm. We’re facing the potential for bruised male egos & the anger that comes alongside the bruising. 

I’d like to use this small experiment to ask all of us to do a few things when it comes to being super cognisant of what we’re sharing online – especially in public forums like LinkedIn. 

When & where you can, ladies, please write more, record more, podcast more, pontificate more, share your unique points of view & your wisdom with the world. Men & women alike deserve to learn from your experience. Women especially are longing for your voice.

Men, whenever you can, LIFT WOMEN. We need you. We really do. Give us space at the table & just as much space online. Also, when it comes to algorithms & re-training an AI system to share content more evenly across diverse people & opinions, why not share twice as many posts from women as men? We’re not even in the running of the race yet, let alone about to lap you or even tie for back of the pack. The more you share our ideas, the better society & LinkedIn can & will be. 

All in all, six months has taught me an important lesson:
We need to fix society before we start can hacking algorithms.

Keen to follow me on LinkedIn, click here.

Speak Out & Shout, Every Voice Matters this International Women’s Day

Wake Up To Change 

I woke up this morning as I do every morning. Full of hope for the day ahead. Full of excitement at the promise of new adventures. And, let’s be honest here, slightly sleepy & bleary-eyed after what’s been a manic start to a jet-lagged week after two weeks back home in San Diego filling my soul & recharging my inspiration batteries.

Today’s a special day though.

One a bit different to other days. Today my Twitter stream & Facebook feeds are dominated by headlines of female world-leaders, strong women we meet every day, marches, protests, & (typically) cats.

Seriously, Internet? Cats? Still?

I guess if cat worship was a ‘thing’ for ancient Egyptians, then it makes sense in the internet age – kinda.

In amongst the usual algorithmic clutter of content, & off of the back of over a year of #MeToo, #TimesUp & #NeverAgain cultural movements, I’m heartened to see a huge surge of powerful posts pointing towards the tidal swell towards equality.

Words are forming.
Language is building.
Sentiment is taking shape – we’re moving from impassioned pleas towards demanding action. Now.

Vivid images.
Eloquent text.
And, vivaciously poignant videos.

Sheesh, it’s 7am & I’ve gone through this Kleenex box next to me crying happy tears, angry tears, impassioned tears. I should note here, Team, I’m not usually a crier. But, as I said earlier, today’s different.

A Happy And Heavy Heart

Friends, family, colleagues, brands, politicians and businesses across the world are bringing International Women’s Day to life this year across digital and social media in a way I’ve not experienced before.

My heart? Today, is happy & heavy. Happy that so many people are not merely recognizing today as a tick-box exercise in political correctness, but rather a necessary element of driving informed, honest dialogue around gender inequality at work, at home, and beyond.

Heavy because we still face a large opposition of naysayers. People who love the patriarchal BAU of inequity & inequality that keeps most down, & lifts only a few. There’s also a heaviness in knowing that one day a year of shaking the internet isn’t enough to bring gender parity closer to reality.

Having a day set aside to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women feels great, but stings just a little bit too. Ya know?

What happens tomorrow? Who among us will continue to talk, argue, scrap, and otherwise fight for women’s rights?

Will we just go back to ho-hum, everyday acceptance of the world as it is. Will we still be supported by our bosses, our lovers, our family if we speak up consistently? I’m not so sure we will be. At some point we are labeled as that feminist or that girl with opinions. 

Will the wheel keep spinning or will our voices quiet again until March 8th rolls around again next year? How will we continue the dialogue daily between all people – women & men alike?

Take Action

This time last year I made a promise to myself, to my colleagues, & to my family to do better. To speak up & speak out. And to call out moments of harassment, mansplaining, inequity, & otherwise detrimental interactions towards women.

365 sleeps later? I’m bloody proud of myself. Slowly but surely I see my younger colleagues – male & female alike – standing up for each other. Allowing each other to speak. And, treating each other with more kindness.

There’s still a lot left to be done though. Old Boys Clubs still run rampant through corporations large & small.  Women are still paid less then men in the same (or even lower) positions. Vernacular & language around leadership are still very male.

Make A Promise

As I did last year, I again am making a promise to do more for women in hopes that we actually start shifting the balance towards fairness. There’s a large piece of work to be done in disentangling visibility from power. They are not one & the same, though they are often treated as such.

My call to action for women & men today? Don’t be complacent. You have a voice, use it. Fight the fear of standing up for yourself or someone else. Do it. Make change happen through your own consistent actions. Small, large… whatever.  Just stand up for something or someone.

Every little bit counts.

Here’s to strong women everywhere.
May we support you. May we lift you up. May we celebrate you. May we be you.
And, may we raise the next generation in your light.

#IWD2018 #PressforProgress 

The #MeToo Movement Matters, So Does Your Reaction To It

I hope you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and understandably upset while reading this.

Super uncomfortable, even. Uncomfortable enough to want to click away to something more jaunty, more on-the-surface. Less laden with hurt, and less truth-filled. But, fight the discomfort. Keep reading.

Why? Because I want you to change, even in the smallest way. I want you to quiet that voice in your head that automatically puts this blog into ‘another story of men treating women badly’ bucket. And, I want you to care enough by the time you reach the last word to actually do something about sexual predatory behavior against women.

I want you to feel uncomfortable as you read this for a litany reasons. So many reasons. And, if one thing comes of you reading or sharing a story like this, I hope that  you’re able to empathize with, or start to understand how I (and many women) feel in public when we leave the fortress of our own safe spaces – that is, if we’re among those who have safe spaces at all.

Put simply, when we’re out in the world full of rushing, commuting, hustling, working, moving people – we’re at risk. Constantly.

This is our world today.

A world where men still belittle, sexualise, harass, stifle, and expect women ‘just take it.’ Openly. Randomly. Continually. At work and at home – and beyond. And, before we start off with the ‘not all men’ argument, I’ll put this right up front: I know not all men objectify and harass women. Good men are all around, but most good men don’t speak out. Don’t act out. Don’t stand up against daily micromoments of sexual harassment. I, for one, have been lucky to have grown up with – and in adulthood been surrounded by – good, strong, kind men. I’m under no illusion that some men truly do work hard to ensure women are safe. Because of this, I love men as I love women. As equals. As friends. As colleagues. But, I’m also a realist. We’re not equals. Not by a country mile. Not yet.

Let’s get real.

Men objectify women constantly – even when they don’t know they’re doing it. It happens in small moments, in big moments, and in the moments in between where a long glance, a throw-away statement, or a slight unwarranted touch still go unmentioned or unnoticed. It’s in-built into even the most liberal of societies that masculinity, at its core, is synonymous with being somehow bigger, brawnier, and entitled than women. And these traits transcend physical size (Believe me, I know. I’m a big woman.)

As you read this, and as you read article after article about Trump, Weinstein, and other depraved men, I want you to feel lots of things, but mostly gross. Gross because my story is average. In the great bell-curve of humanity, my experience and existence is akin to that of most other women. Right in the middle – but to both ends of the extreme curve, too – we have similar stories to tell. That in itself is gross. I also want you to feel as gross as I did when an old man on public transport in Rome thought that dry-humping me in public was okay. As gross as I do every time a man puts his body in my personal space and touches me without consent. As gross as I do every time I speak, type, post, or otherwise communicate while having to wonder ‘will this be read as flirting?’

I want you to feel the fear of walking alone after dark. And the intense anger I have to internalize when I walk to work in the morning while men in trucks lean out of their windows shouting degrading, disgusting words in my direction. You want to see my tits? That’s too bad. It ain’t happening, asshole. There’s a reason I’m wearing three layers on a hot day. You like my legs? Well I’d like it if you kept that to yourself. I’d rather you, Mr Catcaller (and all of your friends who laugh & think that public harassment is okay), knew just how intrusive your jeering looks, non-consensual touching, and degrading words make me feel.

I also want the other guys in said trucks to shut their friends up. To make everyday sexual harassment taboo. If you don’t speak up, out, or against – you’re part of the problem.

If you’re still here, keep reading.

If you’re online at all, I’m sure you’ve noticed the #MeToo posts across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter this week. Hundreds of thousands (perhaps, by now, millions) of women are using this succinct, powerful hashtag to show just how prevalent sexual harassment and abuse is against women. It’s disheartening. It’s scary. It’s banal in that we need to keep coming up with impactful ways to show just how widespread the mistreatment of women and girls in EVERY DAY LIFE is. Last night I thought about the #MeToo hashtag. I thought about my mother, my daughter, my fiancee, my friends, my colleagues, my heroes… and I realized that I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have a story about male predatory behavior.

Not. A. Single. Woman.

In thinking long and hard on the subject, and in trying to find ways to make meaningful discourse commonplace across the world – I retreated to the place I always retreat when I’m feeling ponderous. My own head. I started writing this blog before every putting pen to paper, and hands to keyboard. I thought about the innumerable times I’ve been harassed, felt unsafe, and been talked down to because of my gender. The unwanted gropes in rugby clubs. The unwarranted catcalls and professional moments of being called Sweetie while being talked over by men. I hoped beyond hope that my own daughter would suffer less vile behavior over the course of her lifetime. I hope.

It’s fair to say that I don’t know how to force a change in male behavior or shift the narrative around poison views of masculinity that drive such behavior. But, I have some ideas on where to start.

What follows are a few things we can all do to stop the normalization of sexual harassment. Hopefully, together, we’ll not see another generation of #MeToo posts. But, the cynic in me, sadly, thinks we will.

1. (Dudes) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

In the world we’re living in today, masculinity is judged in thousands of different ways – and most of them all lead back to sexual conquest. In fact, potentially all of them do. That means that even the idea of standing up for equality for women, and in treating them as equals goes against everything society says makes a man. My take is simple. Get uncomfortable in your own skin. Actively challenge how you measure your own worth as a man – and as a human. Dig into learning about what bothers/scares/worries/belittles women in interactions at work, in public, at home. Read blogs by women who have been raped, assaulted, or harassed. Don’t click away. Feel anger on the behalf of those who’ve been hurt, yet see their words as harrowing. Also, know that painful memories are shared with in hopes of stopping similar behavior in others. The truth of the matter is this: women feel uncomfortable almost all of the time. Those who say they don’t are either magical unicorns who never leave the house, or are absolutely drinking the proverbial Kool Aid of patriarchy. Here’s a quick win, don’t get all up in my grill. Don’t think it’s okay to put your body in my space without express consent. Don’t exacerbate the problem at work and come up to my desk, or any woman’s desk, and put your foot up on my chair so that your crotch is in my face. Don’t. Do. This. I’ll call you out on it. Loudly. It’s gross. It’s in appropriate.

2. Be hyper-aware.

Be aware of your body. Your voice. Your aura. Your manspread. As women, we’re aware of all of this all of the time. We know how much space we’re allowed to take up. We know how much we’re supposed to say in meetings before being spoken over or not spoken to at all. Be hyper-aware of the fact that all women have, in one way or another, been objectified (if not worse) by a man.  And every time it happens, it hurts. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Treat all women like you’d treat The Rock. I mean, you wouldn’t inappropriately touch, fondle, catcall or speak down to (or over) Dwayne Johnson would you? Not if you valued your life and physical well-being you wouldn’t! Not only would The Rock immediately let you know of his displeasure, he’d probably go to great ends to make sure you never displeased him so again. Also, an important fact to be aware of is that most women really like most men. We do. But just because we laugh at a funny joke or smile at you, doesn’t mean we want to go to bed with you. Most often, we only want to interact as equals. Be aware.

3. Stand up, Act Up, Speak Up

If your friends are the idiots leaning out of car windows wolf-whistling and shouting obscene sexual profanities at women while they walk or jog in public, and you don’t shut them down or speak out – then you’re an active part of the problem. If you’re in meetings at work where women are spoken over, call others out on this and make space for female voices to be heard and acted upon. And, if you see someone who is uncomfortably close to a woman and feel her discomfort, help. Do something. Don’t just shrug and move on. To be better, you need to do better. Act better. Speak out more. Standing up for women is a great first step in bucking a centuries-long tradition of belittling them. We all have the ability to do this in moments both big and small, day in and day out. We’re all in charge of our actions and reactions. Take ownership. Even the smallest actions you take powerful ones.

While the above is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to changing how society views sexual harassment and equality, I think there are some good nuggets to chew through when it comes to making sure women are respected in daily life – not harassed.

Women, we need to speak up, too.

Loudly. I know it’s scary, and it’s hard being that b*tch who calls people out on their bullshit. But we need to do it. The onus falls on us to act in solidarity. This doesn’t mean we all need to go out and burn our bras (but oh, a life without bras!), it simply means we need to be vigilant. We need to actively speak about our consent or non-consent. We need to yell right back at the catcallers if that’s what it takes. If all we do is giggle at jokes that men in power tell (jokes that are meant to put us in a subservient, cliche, weak position),then we’re propagating the problems as much as our male counterparts are. We all need to work together on this one, Team. We need to read more, learn more, act more, speak more, do more. Be more.

I hope this made you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and understandably upset.

I felt that way writing it. I feel that way living it.

#MeToo

The Day That Changed Everything

I recorded my first vlog last Thursday (New Zealand time.) It’d been a long time coming. A reaaaaaallllllllllllllllllly long time.

You see, I’ve been writing long-form and short-form blogs on topics ranging from fitness, to parenthood, to leadership, to feminism, to Dad Jokes for nigh on a decade now (yes, I am THAT old). So it just made sense that vlogging would be the next step for me when it comes to embracing the tickle of creativity in new forms and channels.

That said, there’s always been a little hitch in my proverbial get-along when it comes to posting a vlog. Writing has always come naturally, almost easily, to me. Words are comforting. In them I find routine, familiarity, and power. Discovering new words and marrying them together with those I’ve written a million times over to form a rhythmic sentence is a joyful experience. Blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, and Tumblr posts are malleable, editable. And, they allow me the freedom to re-jig a sentence or a paragraph if the first version wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined. In short: even though I can am fearless behind a camera, and in facing a blank page that yearns to be filled with emotions and dreams and pain… I am shit-scared of looking down the lens of a camera and opening up.

I’ve got all of the whiz-bang gear that any self-respecting Youtuber in the making needs. A sharp DSLR camera. Lighting rig. Heavy-duty tripods all around. And an opinion on most things (with, unlike many young content creators, decades of experience to back up said opinions.) That said, it took something big, frightening, and altogether maddening to get me into the DOING the doing. The only way I was truly going to allow myself to feel vulnerable, unprotected, and open to criticism, was in speaking up for others more vulnerable than me.

That’s why I had to do it Thursday.

Thursday was the day that the President of the United States decided to strike out at a brave community of already marginalized people. He, in a series of hateful tweets, tried to crush the aspirations and professional journeys of 15,000 trans Americans serving in our military back home. I know that this was a diversionary tactic meant to distract from his other criminal behaviors. But, this time he picked on the wrong people. At the wrong time. On the wrong platform. I for one had finally had enough.

From the moment I woke up to Trump’s idiotic, bombastic tweets I actually felt a both a physical and emotional response in myself. My eyes cried angry tears. My next blushed red with anger. And, I felt completely hopefully to do anything to help anyone. Being so far from home, I couldn’t join in the marches, or help the cause on the ground with my physical presence. And, I didn’t think something as simple as words on a page would be enough to let our trans brothers and sisters across the world know that they’re not alone. That I’m here for them. That they’re burdens on no one.

And then it hit me, this was the time. I needed to give those who feel like they don’t have a one, a voice – by using mine. For the first time ever, I needed to make a stand and speak up.

Trans people are not a burden.
They are brave.
They are strong.
They are worthy.

When simply leaving the house in the morning is an act of defiance, then I could face an unquestioning camera in an empty room and add my voice to their fight. Thursday (and, for that matter, every day) was as good a day as any to reaffirm the beauty in our differences. All of us. In my vlog, I ask my fellow Americans – as well as other global allies and citizens –  to stand with me in protecting our most vulnerable.

It was touch-and-go there for a moment when I thought I might break down into tears. Or spout expletives in rage. But, for those without a voice, I tried to use mine in the most respectful way I thought possible at the time.

Below is the video I made. Please watch it, and if you’d like, share it. If only one person watches it and sees that there’s help and love in the world for them – and they realize that others will stand with them and help carry the weight of their world – then I’ve done my job.

Our country was founded on the acceptance of difference. On different-ness.  Creed, race, religion… all of it. We need to go back to celebrating that which both binds us and makes us unique. We need to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.

Kindness first, always.

#NotMyPresident #TransRightsAreHumanRights

Suited, booted, and muted? Why how you look at work really matters.

I love, love, love this article is on Blue Notes. I find delving into the depths of human nature (and our inherent judge-a-book-by-its-cover reaction) an interesting way to think about our everyday professional and personal lives. And how the way we present ourselves to the world then charts our paths forward. Oh Casual Friday, I love and loathe you!

Why? Well, firstly I work for ANZ (a big bank) which means that (if I’m honest), some of my initial fears and stresses about moving from my last job (which was a bit more laid back) to my current one weren’t about skill level or the ability to climb the corporate ladder, but about what was lacking in my wardrobe. Yep, at a time when I should’ve been contemplating career growth, ways to enhance the business with my contribution, and other (more important factors), all I could think about was how much time and effort I’d have to put into my appearance to be taken seriously in such a corporate world.

For years, I’ve worked in an area that is seen more on the fringes of “creative” which means I don’t need to don hose, heels, or wear screeds of make-up daily to be taken seriously or to do my job well.  But, was that about to change? Would I need to buy shoulder-padded power suits and topple from high-heels each day just to be able to prove my worth?

So far, the answer has been “nope!”

That said, there are still times when I feel like I need to play the game and “suit up” – times when I’m definitely seen before I’m heard. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to look the part. I really do. Looking good enhances confidence levels and makes us feel good and more comfortable in our own skin. Especially when it comes to brokering big deals and living up to the expectations of managers, clients, and customers. We’re all human, and we all judge others based on their appearances at first glance. But it’s the good stuff boiling just beyond the surface that really matters most.

As a woman, though, I feel the lens under which we’re seen is still uber focused on how we look. Can you imagine a woman getting away with wearing the same thing everyday for a year??? Yeah, me neither.  That said, I think all people should be presentable, clean, etc.

We all have the freedom these days to create our own “personal brands” at work and away from the office. But it’s the changing of long-held beliefs that women need to fit a certain corporate brand and stifle their own ‘zhuzh’ that is still a while off yet.

Just having this discussion on a big corporate website means we’re all heading in the right direction though. Now…what to wear to the office tomorrow.

:o)

 

What Happened, America?

What happened America?
Michelle Obama and Jackie Kennedy
This photo showed up on my Facebook timeline the other day, and for the first time in a long time I physically shook my head and rolled my eyes in contempt at my computer screen. After gathering myself and deciding against a mini-social media tirade/melt-down, I took a deep breath and contemplated the stupidity of the implications contained within it. And then sat on all of the things I wanted to say for a week.

On the left, sits a demure and silent Jackie Kennedy. Pristine and smiling, but hard as nails underneath. All the while, unable to show her strength outwardly for the sake of propriety. And then, on the right, we have Michelle Obama – passionate, confident, and animated. A woman unashamed of her beliefs, her passion and her pure physicality. All politics aside, I know which kind of woman I was brought up to be, and it wasn’t the one who would sit back and take everything on the chin while portraying an image of physical and emotional perfection. No, I personally am much more Obama than I am Kennedy.

And there’s one reason for that. One big reason filled to the brim with millions of tiny implications wrapped inside it. That thing that happened to America and happened to me is the very same thing that has had women striving for equality in the workplace and at home for the last four decades. It’s the driving force between having a choice and a voice – or not.

That thing is progress.

Progress happened to America.

I feel for Jackie Kennedy in a way. She was a prisoner of not only the times she was living in, but of the strong men around her. Her husband’s ambition and his infidelities were more important than having a public voice. She was a strong woman for sure, she didn’t bend nor buckle under intense scrutiny or pressure. But, by the same token, she did not lead Jackie ofrom the front (in fact she often stood in the background). Nor did she ever speak up against a man who did her wrong over and over and over again. Jackie Kennedy was known for her flawless body and her fashion sense. She was a mother and a wife – and she filled those roles in the way that she was mandated to. Quietly, full of grace and dignity, and seemingly unsuffering.

None of this makes Jackie Kennedy less of a person – but when put beside Michelle Obama, she seems almost meek. Obama is not only a strong woman physically, she leads by example and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and come up with new ideas and initiatives to drive herself and her own goals. In images, she is often seen beside (or even ahead of) her husband. She is his equal.

This, my friends, is the picture of progress.

Passion, intelligence, and having a voice apart from her hubby is something I really admire in Michelle Obama. One thing’s for certain, when I see her I truly believe she wouldn’t stand for such public instances of scorn and dalliance by her hubby…even if he is the current POTUS. Not since Eleanor Roosevelt has a First Lady shown who she is so openly.

Hilary Clinton is another strong First Lady – but she, too, is another woman who has hidden her passions and humor at the expense of her political ambitions. Her ambitions have always been big, strong and have matched her husband’s in a political sense. Yet, as a woman even Hilary is ridiculed and made to deal with the public scorn for her husband’s inability to keep his member in his pants. There’s still a long way we have to go to stop blaming women for the actions of their men.MIchelle

In fact, I believe we need more First Ladies like Michelle Obama and Hilary. Good mothers, strong leaders, intelligent, driven women.

So when people ask what happened to America in comparing these two First Ladies? Progress, people.

Progress.