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.

Adding More ‘Me’ Into My Days

Lately I’ve been taking stock of things. You know, adult-y, important, life-y things.

And, in taking stock of all these adult-y & life-y things, I’ve come to a fairly heavy, yet ridiculously common sensical conclusion – there’s just not enough time in the day.

Seriously! I work hard. I support my family. I try as hard as I can to stay in good touch with friends. That said, the time to do things beyond the daily routine seems as elusive as something, erm… elusive.

With time coming out as the main winner in the what-I-need-more-of stakes, I’ve gone around in circles (not literally) to figure out where I can cut corners, clip edges, & add more of time into my days.

Ruh roh, Rorge!

Bad news alert: Other than altering the algorithm of the universe & manufacturing more actual time, there’s no short-cut to making more space in our calendars other than doing just that.

In taking the time (see what I did there) to take stock of 37yr old me, I’ve come to find that I am really good at making time for others. And, by rights, I am shockingly bad at spending time on me. That’s set to change though. It has to.

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I stopped prioritizing time to understand my own thoughts, values, & goals – but I imagine it was when I was staring down the barrel of a traditional lifein my early 20’s.

Married at 23yrs old, child by 24yrs old & wanting to fit into templated cultural standards imposed on me, I went with the proverbial flow – even at times when I felt like swimming against the tide.

Living the ideal of Western adulting was an easy way out. I see that now. The few times I tried to fight to find my individuality, I was put squarely back in my place. Plus, I was  safe, content, mostly happy, & cool with how life felt when there wasn’t any conflict.

So I stopped fighting.

That was then. I built my life & my sense of self on pleasing others & helping others to succeed. This filled my soul almost to full, but the last little bit was always missing. The deeper I dug into what made others tick, the more I realized I wasn’t wholly aware of the things that make me tick.

Not knowing myself made it hard to truly know others, though. And, with the end of my first marriage & in falling in love again, I knew I’d have to really invest in myself to be happy & to make any close relationship truly flourish. Yassssss, ain’t flourishing grand??!?

Let me tell you this: the act of trying to understand oneself is an act of unravelling in itself. It’s also a piecing together of a puzzle that I now realize will always be a whole picture, even when incomplete.

So, how have I been adding more me into my days?

A bit like this…

1.      Allow yourself to be complex

Nothing is simple. Not a single damn thing. Especially not human beings. Humans, as being are inherently a state.

To behuman.

To bein motion.

To beanything is to be human.

Right? So when we try too hard to streamline who we are, or in an opposite turn, ignore who we are completely – then we lose ourselves. By allowing ourselves to be complex & to love the minutiae of who we are, we then give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We strive not for the simple, but for the beauty in the details. And, beyond everything else, when we embrace the complexity of being human – we embrace the beauty of who we were, are, & will become all at once.

2.     Say “Bye Bye” to the Binary         

We all reckon there are only two sides to a coin. But, good news, life isn’t like flipping a coin. Our trips around the sun, should we be lucky enough to experience enough of them, are beyond black & white. And, let’s be honest, Yin & Yang only offer us all so much in terms of understanding the world around us. No singular pro or con, expression of self, or way of being is binary. When you look for them, there are grey areas in which to pay, explore, & discover who you are. In doing so, you learn what matters most to you. And, when you know what matters most to you, you prioritize your time differently. You fill your soul more readily.

3.     Know your tipping point & really feelyour feelings 

We’re nuanced. Hugely so. However, when it comes down to it – we’re our own best judges when it comes to whether or not we’re about to speed full-tilt off of a cliff face or not. My coping method for corralling stress for a long time was to keep moving. My favorite quote was (and sometimes still is, but in a different way) ‘motion begets motion.’ By not slowing down, & by speeding towards a cliff-face I ignored all of my ore-determined warning signals that are in place to tell me I’m heading towards disaster.

Lately however, I’ve been making a concerted effort to really feel my feelings. I’ve suited up, grabbed my goggles, & decided to swim in the mire & murk of confusion. I’ve gotten comfortable with discomfort. And, in the process, I’ve become more attuned to understanding when, how, & why I need to slow down. By tuning in to my gut feelings, I’ve been able to sit in discomfort long enough to change tact. In doing so, happiness & relief follow. Halle-frickken-lujah!

4.     Step away from sameness

Same ‘ol, same ‘ol. There’s comfort in routine – to a point. I find I’m at my most creative, passionate, & driven when I am challenged. Challenges aren’t born of monotony. They just aren’t. When we surround ourselves with difference – time flies, innovation happens, & silliness is welcome in spades. Making a concerted effort to change little things, to shake stuff up a bit, & to embrace the opposite of sameness gives us all a better view of who we are & how we feel when we’re learning. I’ve always found beauty in difference, and as I grow older, I now realize that it takes a truly concerted effort to step away from sameness.

5.    Chase your happy

Listen to your gut, and when it’s feeling happy, take note. Then, chase that feeling. If there are big chunks of time in your day to day life dedicated to things that make you feel anxious or unfulfilled, throw them out. Seriously. Chase your happy. Those notes you took earlier when your gut told you that you were having a good time? Keep them close to you & read them back when you need them. Most importantly though, lace up, stretch, & sprint towards the things that fill your soul. I love to mull things over & wade in worry as much as the next person. But, there’s no better way to be happy than to chase your happy willingly. Go on y’all, try it.

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 

Why It’s Important To Be A ‘Challenger’ At Work

I’m stuck.

And I’m hoping you can help me out with a little modern-day conundrum.

Here’s the deal:
I don’t get the narrative we’re sold about how we should all live our lives.

Wait, let me rephrase, I do get it. I probably understand it far too well – and it’s messing with my head a bit recently.

You know the narrative I’m referring to. It’s the one that’s been built upon thousands of years of tradition, religion, and accepted inequality.

We’re told what we should do. We’re told what right and wrong are. And, for the most part, the great majority of people in our beautiful world buy into the whole shebang.

We’re not born sheep. But we’re taught to act like them more and more as we grow older.

What’s the deal with Keeping Up With the Joneses? Why are so many people obsessed with ‘stuff’ – so much so that they spend the majority of their lives in traffic or in offices to obtain the stuff they rarely use because they’re so time poor?

When did we all forget to just take in a sunset, or to find joy in time spent with family? When did the ideal of ‘busyness’ creep into our lives as a marker of success?  When will we, as a collective, go back to a pursuit of happiness and kindness over cold, hard cashola?

I’m not sure how to answer the questions above.

We all go about our days, weeks, months and years fairly similarly. All the while, we duck and weave that little tug inside of our heads and hearts, all to keep enlightenment and deep thought at bay.

It’s as if we live so fast and hard that we fear slowing down. We’d rather keep up the pace of facade than face our most genuine selves – just in case we realize we’re not sheep.

In most western societies, we start our journey to ‘success’ by going to school. At school we’re taught that we must sit still when we’re told to, run and play on a schedule, obey, learn by rote, and ‘repeat after me.’

We do what we’re told and get a lovely little pat on the head.

For following the rules, we’re given gold stars. Sticky sweet-fixes that hard wire our baby brains to tell our adult brains that we should conform to imposed standards instead of adapt while we learn.

We (especially us girls) aren’t supposed to ask questions, be curious, or speak out (especially not out of turn.) Lord forbid any of us ever questioned why we did what we did, or why we learned what we learned.

We just went with the norm. Didn’t make waves. We have always been told not to make waves, haven’t we? We’re just here to play the game by the rules someone else wrote. We’re not to change the rules (or even attempt to re-write them completely).

Nope. We’re here to just accept the world as it is. Inequalities dripping from the underbelly of unbreakable glass ceilings.

We’re told to repeat the mantras and learn the jargon.

Success is not measured by kindness or joy brought to others, but rather in quantifiable numbers on bank ledgers and the logo we wear on our clothing.

After school we’re supposed to find a ‘nice boy’, settle down, buy a house, have some babies to raise, and quietly delight in cooking meals for our brood.

Afterwards, doing the laundry, juggling a corporate career, and trying to find time for inner-peace as well. All the while striving to make it to the pinnacle of our human existence: retirement.

Grey haired. Porch sitting. Rocking chair knitting. A grandchild bouncing on each knee. Yep… those are supposed to be our best years.

While this scenario might be a dream for many, it’s a nightmare for me.

At this precise moment in time, as I sit here tippity-typing away on my MacBook (such a cliche) raging against the rules by which I’ve been told to live.

Before you ask, yes, I’m acutely aware of the ultimate irony of my life to date.

That irony being that I’ve followed the Path-of-Good-Educated-Girl-Who-Does-What-She-Should to a T. I’d get an A++ in the school of life for following the rules.

Yep, the path I’ve walked down has always been that of least resistance. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve just always been one to choose my battles while weighing all of the odds and thinking of the longterm.

Why choose the road to Normalville?

I did it because I thought that path was supposed to be my ticket to happiness. And, it was for a good long time. I also didn’t want to let my family and friends down.

In trying to live up to the ideals of others, I took a while to find myself.

For a long time, I was right on track to live the same, cookie-cutter life as most of us who were raised in the pre-Facebook, Zack Morris, Xennial times of rainbows and butterflies and sun-drenched sappy love songs.

Gag. Someone change the channel, will ya?

Every day I’m rufflin’ (feathers, that is)

How have I ruffled feathers? Simple. I’ve asked questions. Lots of them. Of myself and of others. Mostly to learn, to evolve, to innovate – and ultimately to grow as a person.

What I’ve found super intriguing is that asking questions causes people to stop and think. Sometimes abruptly. And, most people don’t like doing that. It’s uncomfortable.

Stopping to really evaluate a situation or choice makes most people feel uncertain – in themselves and in the world around them.

It makes them think about their own life choices. And, makes them remember that they have the ability to chose. Nothing is pre-determined.

Basically, asking questions causes most people to step outside of the comfortable narrative they’re buying into.

Me? I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’m recently divorced and am onto my second marriage. I don’t fit any stereotypes anymore – though I used to fit them all. That spectrum people talk about? I skate up and down it on the daily.

I’m simply, unapologetically me. And, I’m happy in my skin for the first time in a very long time.

I’m also a better parent, partner, colleague, and friend for it.

Sitting here on the cusp of what I hope will be an epiphany (and not a pre-midlife crisis), I’m questioning everything.

My home, my car, my bank account, my hair colour, my clothes, my plan, my purpose.

Why question everything? Because I’ve seen the Challengers. They’re brazen and brave. I’ve even toyed around with the notion of being one without committing to it whole-heartedly.

It’s that one-toe-in, one-toe-out approach that’s the worse! You’ve tasted true freedom of choice, but then teeter back to normalcy.

I’ve seen the spark in their eyes, these Challengers. I’ve breathed in the passion in their souls, and felt the burning heat from the fire in their smiles.

I’ve pontificated late into the evenings and gone of on otherworldly tangents – learning all the while – with these oddballs who poo-poo societal norms.

I’m ready to be a Challenger.

I’m ready to commit to Otherness. Outsiderhood.

I want to be someone who exudes individuality. Someone who lives for the pleasure of living. And, someone who works and toils endlessly the betterment of others.

I want to spend time with people I love. Earn money to live, not live to earn money (this is an old hippy chestnut of a saying, but is a goodie I cling to.)

And, most importantly, I want to be genuinely passionate about asking questions. I want to hear other peoples’ stories and forge my own path. Write my own narrative. Be happy without the confines of normality.

What are your thoughts on bucking the trends?

Why must we all follow similar, already forged paths when there are potentially better/different/alternative ways to get from one place to another?

Here’s to questioning, challenging…

…and to being The Challengers.

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

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)

 

New feminism and old boys clubs

I’m pissed off.

No, let me re-phrase. I’m REALLY pissed off. At myself, for thinking that the gender equality my Mom and her generation fought for was a reality -and, for not fighting harder to perpetuate and continue their fight. At the people who continue to try to make me feel less of a human for lacking one thing (a penis). And, at the patriarchal societal standards which promote old boys clubs as the place to speak openly, and to get ahead in life and relationships.

Yep, I’m angry. And for the first time in a long time, I’m ready to get the gloves out and start fighting back.

At 33-years-old, I’m a mother of a daughter old enough to notice that boys and men get special treatment and hands-up on life simply because of their gender. She’s starting to ask about my journey in life – and someday I’d like for her to look back and know to that the fight for gender equality is a worthwhile one to engage in.

Girls, it seems, continue to have to scrap and work harder for the same or similar opportunities as their male counterparts. It’s taken years of pretending sexism didn’t exist in the western world anymore, to get me to where I am now. A “last straw” moment happened yesterday for me, and I’m pissed off enough now to finally stand up and fight back. Because, I never want my daughter to feel the sting of hurt that I did. The feeling of being left out of a professional gathering because she’s “just a girl”.

In New Zealand, especially, the gender gap is bigger than the one that I experienced growing up in California. It’s visible in homes, at parties and gatherings, and in the workplace. I’m always amazed at how women and men automatically split into gender groups when families gather at BBQs and other celebrations. I enjoy the company of both men and women, and this divide annoys me to no end. It’s the polar opposite of what I grew up with. A mixing of men and women, adults and children – and a sense of girls being as worthy as the boys.

The last thing I want for my daughter is to grow up thinking that she needs to sit in a corner opposite to men and not to interact. This way of thinking and acting is old, out-dated, and needs to stop.

At present, I work for a company that is dedicated to ensuring women have an equal voice in leadership as men. Still, words are just words until people (especially men in management) take note of their actions and change them to ensure equality is more than just an idea or a pipe-dream. Changing how they act and interact at work isn’t enough – they need to believe in equality. And they need to practice it at home.

So what do we need to change these age-old “men first” standards? First and foremost, men need to stand up and take heed – and action. It’s hard for me to want to be friends with, or to even trust, men who say the right things but who don’t back up their words with action. I think I am one hell of a loyal friend and colleague, and I expect to be treated the same way I’d treat anyone else. But when male friends and colleagues perpetuate sexism by not pointing it out and continuing engage in it, it solidifies and gets harder to crack.

Stand up, men. Show us, don’t tell us, you believe in equality. If you stand by and watch it continue, you’re part of the problem. Not the solution.

We also need women to speak up. We need to be proud of who we are, of what we work for, and of being with men who believe in feminism. Because, feminism isn’t a bad word. The negative connotations associated with the premise of gender equality are man-made, and strengthened by women. Ladies, think about how you want your daughters’ lives to be. Will our struggle be their struggle? Most likely. I never want my little girl to have to fight for pay equality, for the right to sit at the table as a leader, or to even share a congratulatory beer at the bar with colleagues. But, I know she will have to fight.

It’s up to me to teach her not to back down. And it’s up to mothers and fathers of sons to teach their boys the same.

So yeah, I’m pissed off.

And, I’ll continue to smile as I fight.

Because, this fight is worth it.

Feminism today

I was raised by a feminist. Not a rip-snorting, bra-burning, man-hating feminist. But a woman far beyond her time who instilled feminist ideas and ideals upon my younger brother and me. This meant that, from day one, we both were certain in knowing that girls and boys were born with the same amount of rights and privileges. At least under our roof.

And, for the most part, the feminist belief system (which was never called that in our home – feminism was just how life was lived on regards to others) always seemed pretty fair to me.

But, as there always is in life, I saw inconsistencies in our beliefs every time I went outside, or turned on the TV, or flipped the radio on to my favourite stations. There was always something bubbling just below the surface though. The knowledge that, for some strange reason I hadn’t yet figured out, girls could usually only claim the rights and privileges of equality if they worked a lot harder than their male counterparts. And in climbing any ladder in life, they’d probably be labeled as bossy, pushy, bitchy (or worse). While their make counterparts would be heralded as strong leaders, dudes that don’t take any bullshit.

This more frayed element of my belief system around the truth of the promise of an elusive, perfect feminism let me down many times (and still does). But it prepared me, early on, to notice the inaccuracies in girl vs boy interactions. And it’s made me who I am today. As a mother of a young girl, I tell her daily that can be anything she wants to be. I praise her when she works hard. And, I don’t tell her there’s a caveat that means she can do what she wants, as long as she works harder than the men around her. She will find that out in time on her own, just like I did.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a woman who loves men. They are half of the world’s population – and they are funny, kind, loving, loyal, silly and beyond. I grew up with boys and girls as my best friends. Birthday parties included both sexes. Boys and girls laughed and made memories as equals in the California sunshine in the late 80’s and early 90’s in my house. I typically enjoyed the time with the boys for the simple fact that it got me outdoors and running (typically we played sports and had competitions to see who could burp the loudest on command – I usually won which meant burping and bragging rights). Plus, I was much closer with GI Joe than I ever was with Barbie and her dream house – finding a Ken and buying a big house and convertible was never my dream.

Even now, as an adult, my closest friends are both male and female – I choose adult friendships based on personality, not what does or doesn’t dangle. I married a gorgeous man who treats me as his equal. That said, no matter how hard I’ve worked over the years, or how many times I’ve moved up the ladder in my field – there’s always a man at the top.

This drives home that idea of feminism I grew up with even further. With an eye out for societal standards, I get that we women bear children and feel both the physical and emotional pull to be with them. But, it always blows my mind at how much work a working mother can do in three or for full days vs male counterparts who work full time but enjoy leisurely lunches and feel little or no guilt at missing out on a feeling of balance between home and work life to push ahead. Fair is fair…it is also often unfair. And that’s life for you.

Or maybe it’s not anymore. Yesterday, pop icon Beyoncé, faced the world in a blaze of bright lights, on a stage with almost endless reach. Behind her, the word FEMINIST was proudly displayed. Not one for MTV and the self adulation of celebrities and their peers, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the stir she’d caused online, in social media, and in print. And yes, I nodded in solidarity with Queen Bey yesterday.

The cynical out there will snigger at her and the idea she is asserting – but not me. Here’s the biggest star on the planet, a woman, letting the world know she is proud of her success. A woman in a man’s world – and, boy oh boy, she shines.

Her display yesterday is also significant because, in itself, it implies her husband (a powerful music man) is complicit in her beliefs. And, if Jay and Bey can both be proud feminists… Why can’t we all? I mean, this woman wants to end calling little girls “bossy”, I’m firmly on side with her now.

I know many men who struggle with the idea of feminism. The word makes them react with an emotion akin disgust and an air of dismissal. Their beliefs and ideals obviously born of patriarchal societies of years past – and thus still breeding the ideas of women as less equal because of our biology.

My daughter, for one, is growing up in an equal home. While the word “feminist” doesn’t crop up much due to the historical negative connotation that surrounds it, she knows her worth isn’t related to the body she was given, to her emotions, or to the future fact that she may choose to be like her mother and have a family and a career. If the boys grow up knowing they can have their cake and eat it, too, then so should the girls. I for one, will follow Beyoncé’s lead to reclaim my pride in being a feminist. I’ll use the word more with my daughter so that she’s comfortable with it.

Here’s to first steps, giant leaps, and embracing a feminism that means equal is equal – without the threat of burning bras.
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