Thank you, Ashton Kutcher

Gender equity is a two-way street - And more dads need to speak up.

It's not every day that the Gendersphere gets up in arms about the institutional and social barriers faced by male parents, but thanks to Ashton Kutcher's totally justified expression of frustration at the fact that there are "NEVER any changing stations in mens (sic) public restrooms," that's exactly what happened. 

And I was stoked.  Not because Ashton couldn't find a changing station, but because he complained about it. 


One of the reasons women have not made as many gains in the workplace as we would like is because men have not been enabled, nor have they felt particularly empowered, to take on more of the responsibilities at home (Happy Anniversary, Second Shift!) Anyone (parent or non-parent) knows that parenting is hardReally hard. So when we structure everything around the assumption that women are the primary caregivers, like "NEVER" putting changing stations in public restrooms for men, for example, it happens by default. It won't matter that mom hasn't had two seconds to herself for two weeks and would relish the five minutes it would take dad to change the baby's diaper, the buildings say it's mom's job. And so on and so forth....

One of my favorite Gloria Steinem quotes goes something like this: 

We've begun to raise our daughters more like our sons...but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters. 

The general point being that we've created a society in which it's perfectly acceptable (thankfully) for girls and women to transcend gender stereotypes to do (and wear) things that have traditionally been associated with men. But we have failed to create a society in which boys and men feel equally entitled to and supported for doing (and wearing) things traditionally associated with women. Don't believe me? Think about the difference in people's reactions when they see or hear about a little girl who only wants to play with trucks, and a little boy who only wants to play with dolls

Dad and son.jpg

Many like to argue that little girls naturally gravitate toward dolls (and some do) because females are natural caregivers or something along those lines. Setting aside the monetary benefits of marketing the same toy differently to boys and girls, if this is so, then why would we have a problem with little boys wanting to play with dolls? Are we afraid they're going to learn how to be good dads?  I think I speak for a pretty healthy segment of the population (read everyone) when I say that we can never have too many good dads

We've recognized the importance of telling girls that they can be feminine and strong, but where are the commercials and videos telling our boys that masculinity and emotion are not mutually exclusive? We've recognized the importance of encouraging girls to maintain their interests in STEM subjects, but where are the movements dedicated to encouraging things like empathy and caregiving in little boys? For the most part, they don't exist. At least not to so powerful and pervasive an extent to merit a Superbowl commercial. 

Fast forward to adulthood where you've got millions of fathers and male caregivers like Kutcher trying to do what women have been doing in the workplace for years: take care of a family while tentatively maneuvering your way through a world that was not built with you in  mind, and in some cases, just doesn't think you're worth the effort, despite all evidence to the contrary. Just as women have a right to fight for gender equity, so too do men. And women should (and DO) support them. 

So thank you again, Mr. Kutcher, for calling out sexist design in public spaces. 

The infrastructure and design of our public spaces sends a message. It's time to start sending the right one. Changing stations in men's restrooms is a really good start. 

Have Our Strides Toward Workplace Equality Made it Harder to Break the Glass Ceiling?

Excited to share my first post at Feminspire

The reality is that we’ve succeeded in creating a workforce in which all women can(and more often than not, must) participate. But we’ve yet to create one in which women are welcome and considered competent to participate at the highest levels.


Corporate America Has Discovered Feminism

We've seen quite a few ads recently featuring women and/or girls with very clear feminist overtones. Some have been more successful than others, and while I think some send better messages than others, the fact is that corporate America is helping to create awareness of issues that feminists have been trying to get into the mainstream for years. 

Most recent is Always's new #LikeAGirl ad. I've written before about the the fact that a girl's self-esteem plummets around the age of nine. This new ad does an excellent job of visualizing how truly sad this really is. 

Verizon Wants More Women in STEM in their new #InspireHerMind ad. A common explanation for the lack of women in STEM fields is that young women and girls just aren't as interested as the boys. Period. This new ad from Verizon takes this explanation a step further and asks: "Whose fault is that?"

Pantene has two ads in their #ShineStrong campaign. The most recent wants you to have spectacular hair, and don't you dare apologize for it. And while you're at it, don't apologize for anything else either. #SorryNotSorry  This follows their first ad that aired in the Phillipines illustrating the double standards used against women in the workplace. 

Why Girls Don't Feel Awesome

On self esteem and the proverbial pissing match. 

I'm glad that issues many feminists have been discussing for decades have found their way into the mainstream. However, I'm starting to resent the fact that almost all of these conversations are disproportionately placing the burden of fixing workplace inequality and other symptoms of everyday sexism on me. The most recent example being Claire Shipman and Katty Kay's declaration that women suffer from a "confidence gap" which stifles their professional development and hinders their ability to rise to the top of their respective professions. It's an ironic cacophony that ultimately reaches the same conclusion: Ladies, you need to fix yourselves. 

Amidst the consistent exhortation for a self-help remedy, I came upon this discussion by Nancy Lyons:

Girls by Gisella Klein on  Flickr

Girls by Gisella Klein on Flickr

It dawned on me that in all these conversations we're having about the challenges of claiming our own voice and standing firm on our feet as strong women, what we're really trying to do is fix something that broke inside of us a long time ago. And it's still broken...

Studies have shown that a little girl's confidence peaks somewhere around age nineNine. I can't remember age nine, can you? If true, this means that millions of women have little to no recollection of a time in their lives when they felt truly confident in themselves or their abilities. And, according to Lyons, it haunts us to this day. 

If our own self-esteem didn't crack and crumble as young girls, we wouldn't have to be healing those pieces now....

This realization hit Lyons as she observed a group of middle school boys taking turns "reinforc[ing] each others awesomeness: one-upping but also validating as they went." The girls, by contrast, "sat quietly listening to the conversation unfold with slight grimaces on their faces." When asked if they too were "awesome," the first girl responded in the negative, while the other conceded that she was at least "amazing."

This troubled me. A lot. I was troubled by their hesitancy in participating in what, on the surface, looks like a silly conversation. Because it wasn't silly. The conversation actually conveyed a serious and important message about, and reality for, these young women: they don't think they're awesome. They don't feel awesome. And boys do. 

Of course girls don't feel awesome. How could they? Soraya Chemaly says it best:

We socialize girls to doubt the importance of their words and actions, and then, oddly, turn around and ask why they lack confidence. From the moment they can talk, we expect girls to be quieter, more cooperative, and polite...Gendered politeness norms teach girls to be subservient and boys to be dominant. 

Those girls weren't participating in the boys' proverbial pissing match because they were taught from an early age to sit and be quiet. Girls are not praised for bringing that type of attention to themselves in the way that boys are. Boys can be rowdy, rambunctious and assertive while girls, by and large, cannot. Have you ever heard anyone say in response to a bunch of little girls making a wild raucous, "girls will be girls"? 

We don't teach girls to brag about themselves, we teach them focus on the feelings of others. We don't let girls sit around trying to "one-up" one another because that's not "nice" and girls should be "nice." We don't teach girls to support and challenge each other in healthy environments like the boys observed by Lyons. Instead, we teach them to compete with each other for the attention of the boys. Even Beyonce knows this. 

We don't teach girls to view themselves as independent and capable individuals, we teach them to gauge their value based upon what others think of them. We fret more about their looks than their minds, and girls know this. We knew it. So of course a girl isn't going to tell you she's awesome. She's been socialized to think that she is only awesome when someone tells her she's awesome. And her "awesomeness" as perceived by others is primarily dependent on almost everything but her intelligence. 

Case in point. When David Perry attended the pre-school graduations of his children, he noted that even though these children were only four years old, they both recognized and yearned for the public rewards that come with conforming to the traditional gender stereotypes they had already internalized. 

A few years ago at my son's preschool camp award ceremony, I sat silently as well-meaning counselors called each child forward. Girls: best hair, best clothes, best friend, best helper and best artist. Boys: best runner, best climber, best builder and best thrower. My son won best soccer player. In general, girls received awards for their personalities and appearance and boys for their actions and physical attributes.

It was similar at my daughter's ceremony, where the teacher told us that all the children were so excited to see what award they would receive; it had obviously been built up as a big deal. The gender disparity was subtle but present.

A boy received best engineer. A girl got best friend. Another girl was the best helper, and another most compassionate. A boy received best break dancer. A girl was named most athletic, and the teacher told us how when all the class raced around the track this girl "beat everyone! Even the boys!" And then my daughter got her certificate, showing her in a funky orange sweater, tight pants, and holding a bowling ball. Her award -- best dressed.

I agree with Lyons when she says that no amount of leaning in or what have you on the part of adult women will have any long-term impact if we don't help our girls.

Maybe we can save the next generation from struggling to fix something broken if we put effort into making sure - now- that it never breaks in the first place. This is what I imagine can happen if we talk to our daughters and the young women around us, and include them in the conversations we're having. It doesn't matter how far we get in conversations about us - and the balance we deserve or are seeking - if we don't change how it happens for little girls. 

However, I disagree, to some extent, with Lyons' belief that "victimization, more than anything, is what we need to eradicate." (emphasis mine)

I worry that as we talk about all of this - our power, our opportunities - that we're talking in ways that suggest it's not up to us whether we GET to live our full potential. The power to realize our complete selves is entirely within us - it's not some magic talisman bestowed upon us by an external force. No one else gets to decide.

Girl by Daska on  Flickr

Girl by Daska on Flickr

Actually, others sometimes do  get to decide, and that's part of the problem. While I agree that women don't always have the power to control outside forces, and that they can control their reactions to those forces, that only goes so far. Because the reality is those outside forces are kind of a big deal. Whether it's a hiring manager or boss, a potential professional or academic mentor, a client, etc., what they think about me as a woman, and by extension, what they think about women in general, matters. No amount of self-actualization is going to change that. 

Does this mean that all women are victims who should just resign themselves to a lifetime of oppression and inferiority? Absolutely not. I don't think that awareness of institutional sexism and widely proven barriers to women in the workplace and beyond constitutes "victimization" in the way that Lyons does. Jessica Valenti, in refuting the confidence gap said, "[t]he 'confidence gap' is not a personal defect as much as it is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured."

The truth is, if you're not insecure, you're not paying attention. Women's lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them.

Which brings me back to those little girls Lyons observed. Their response to her question about whether they too were awesome, illustrates just such an understanding of this society and their place in it.  

So, no, girls don't feel awesome. And they haven't for a long time. As long as we continue to raise girls in an environment that socializes them to look to others for validation of their intelligence and self-worth, to care more about the feelings of others rather than their own, to be quiet and to sit still, to be small, nothing will change. As long as we continue to reward boys for behavior we punish and criticize in girls, nothing will change. 

So what can we do?

The list of things we need to change to solve some of these problems is too long for this post. But like Lyons, I think including girls, when appropriate, in conversations about leaning in and the like is a good start. I would go further, however, and include little boys in these conversations as well. Girls aren't the only ones who need to be able to identify gender bias in order to eliminate it. Just think what a difference it would make if we didn't have to spend so much time and energy trying to convince people of the existence of gender bias in the first place!

Further, if we can't completely eradicate the fact that little girls gauge their self-worth based upon how they are perceived by others (read: boys), then the least we can do is try to change how the boys perceive the girls. Little boys need to see and hear female characters that are just as strong and just as powerful as male characters. We need more books, films, and television shows that don't include story lines filled with damsels in distress who need saving by their (male) heroes. And for the love of all that is Holy, please stop segregating toys into "girl" toys and "boy" toys, especially when the "girl" toys consist primarily of (PINK) cooking, cleaning, and homemaking paraphernalia. 

Which brings me to my last point. Let's not repeat the mistake of previous generations by having the courage to raise our daughters more like our sons, but failing to raise our sons more like our daughters. We have succeeded in raising little girls who aspire to have both careers and families, but we've yet to do the same with little boys. Little boys should grow up expecting to do their fair share of the household chores and child-rearing. Are we making progress? Absolutely. But we've still got a long way to go. 

Women Aren't the Only Ones Who Need to Retrain Their Brains

Work, we're doing it wrong: Women are doubting themselves on an epic scale.

It's called the "tiara" syndrome. The belief many women have which holds that if they work hard and produce quality work, their efforts will be noticed and appreciated by the boss (prince) which in turn will lead to promotions and higher salaries resulting in their living happily ever after. This belief that quality work, by itself, should result in high praise and rewards based on merit alone isn't a bad belief to have, it's just incredibly, depressingly, wrong, and according to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, the authors of Womenomics, it's contributing to the wage gap and the stubborn stagnation of efforts to place more women in executive-level positions. 

They're calling it "The Confidence Gap," named after the phenomenon that is high-achieving women and their baffling self-doubt about whether they actually deserve the success they've earned.  

In two decades of covering American politics as journalists, we realized, we have between us interviewed some of the most influential women in the nation. In our jobs and lives, we walk among people you assume would brim with confidence. And yet our experience suggests that the power centers of this nation are zones of female self-doubt - that is, when they include women at all....

Even as our understanding of confidence expanded...we found that our original suspicion was dead-on: there is a particular crisis for women - a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes...A growing body of evidence shows how devastating this lack of confidence can be. Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence. No wonder that women, despite all our progress, are still woefully underrepresented at the highest levels. 

Nature or Nurture?

So where does this crippling lack of confidence come from? The authors tackle this question from both a nature and nurture perspective. On the nurture side, they cite three "formative places: the elementary-school classroom, the playground, and the sports field." 

School is where many girls are first rewarded for being good, instead of energetic, rambunctious, or even pushy. But while being a "good girl" may pay off in the classroom, it doesn't prepare us very well for the real world....[Girls] learn that they are most valuable, and most in favor, when they do things the right way: neatly and quietly...They get a lot of praise for being perfect. In turn, they begin to crave the approval they get for being good. 

This early socialization of little girls to essentially sit quietly and behave while the adults try to herd the little boys into the room is to the little girls' detriment, Kay and Shipman argue, because this desire to garner praise for being "perfect" discourages little girls from taking risks and making mistakes; All things that psychologists now believe are essential to building confidence. The little boys, however, "tend to absorb more scoldings and punishment, and in the process, they learn to take failure in stride."  In fact, one study found that little boys in a grade school classroom "got eight times more criticism than girls for their conduct." Eight times.  

In addition to brushing off scoldings in the classroom, boys learn to brush off each other on the playground. It turns out all that smack talk next to the jungle gym and the tether ball (do playgrounds still have tether balls?) causes such derogation to lose its power. The same can be said of organized sports. 

Other psychologists we spoke with believe that this playground mentality encourages them later, as men, to let other people's tough remarks slide off their backs. Similarly, on the sports field, they learn not only to relish wins but also to flick off losses. 

Despite the progress made with the passage of Title IX, "girls are six times as likely to drop off sports teams, with the steepest decline in participation coming during adolescence. This is probably because girls suffer a larger decrease in self-esteem during that time than do boys."

To summarize: we socialize girls to be quiet and sit still from a very early age  while letting "boys be boys" at the same time. As a result of this generally one-sided freedom afforded to little boys, they are harder to deal with once they enter structured settings like a classroom. This results in little girls being heavily praised for being "good" which in turn results in an internalized desire for perfection.  

They leave school crammed full of interesting historical facts and elegant Spanish subjunctives, proud of their ability to study hard and get the best grades, and determined to please. 

But somewhere between the classroom and the cubicle, the rules change, and they don't realize it. They slam into a work world that doesn't reward them for perfect spelling and exquisite manners. The requirements for adult success are different, and their confidence takes a beating. 

On the nature side, in addition to the traits associated with estrogen and testosterone levels, new research suggests that "brain structure could figure into variations between the way men and women respond to challenging or threatening circumstances." The amygdala, for example, appears to activate in response to negative emotional stimuli more easily in women than in men. 

[This suggests] that women are more likely than men to form strong emotional memories of negative events. This difference seems to provide a physical basis for a tendency that's been observed in behavioral studies: compared with men, women are more apt to ruminate over what's gone wrong in the past.

In addition, the anterior cingulate cortex, also known as the "worrywart center," is larger in women than it is in men. 

This little part of the brain helps us recognize errors and weigh options....In evolutionary terms, there are undoubtedly benefits to differences like these: women seem to be superbly equipped to scan the horizon for threats. Yet such qualities are a mixed blessing today.

The Catch-22 of Female Confidence 

Here's the rub: We tell women to be more confident. To speak up in meetings. To "lean in", etc. BUT "when they do behave assertively, they may suffer a whole other set of consequences, ones that men don't typically experience." 

Attitudes towards women are changing, and for the better, but a host of troubling research shows that they can still pay a heavier social and even professional penalty than men do for acting in a way that's seen as aggressive. If a woman walks into her boss's office with unsolicited opinions, speaks up first at meetings, or gives business advice above her pay grade, she risks being disliked or even - let's be blunt - being labeled a bitch. 

The more a woman succeeds, the worse the vitriol seems to get. It's not just her competence that's called into question; it's her very character. (emphasis added)

Ding ding ding! 

The authors end on a hopeful note citing new scientific research suggesting that our brains can literally change in response to our environment (such as the decrease in a father's testosterone levels when he is with his children). 

Almost daily, new evidence emerges of just how much our brains can change over the course of our lives, in response to shifting thought patterns and behavior. If we keep at it, if we channel our talent for hard work, we can make our brains more confidence-prone. What the neuroscientists calls plasticity, we call hope.

Women aren't the only ones who need to retrain their brains.

I don't disagree with the findings or the facts in this piece. In fact, I found it riveting. My only complaint after having read through it a few times is this: it still puts 100% of the responsibility to change things on women, by retraining our brains to be confident in the hopes that this new-found confidence will result in higher wages and more women in the C-Suite. If only women "keep at it" and "channel our talent for hard work".

But this line of reasoning sounds eerily similarly to the tiara syndrome mentioned above. What about the rest of society? No amount of brain plasticity will make a difference if women are still socially penalized for being confident. As the authors noted, study after study has proven that the social rewards for confidence as applied to men simply do not transfer to women. 

This doesn't mean that I don't think women should try to retrain their brains to recognize and be confident in their accomplishments and abilities, because I do. But in order for things to truly change, those on the receiving end of female confidence need to re-train their brains to appreciate and reward it. And for that to happen, we must also ask what society can do to change the way it thinks about and how it portrays confident women. We must ask what parents, teachers and schools can do disrupt the socialization of girls that results in an unrealistic and damaging desire for perfection. 

We need a new social construct.



I'm Tired of Employers Getting a Free Pass

Leaning In Will Not Solve Pay Equity Because Leaning Out Is Not The Problem

For fear that this post could be misinterpreted as accusatory or malicious (not my intention at all), I want to preface it by saying that in no way do I think the intentions of all involved are anything but genuine and true. Nor do I question the validity or integrity of the panel in question. I have personal relationships with the women involved and I witness their fierce dedication to issues affecting women and girls on quite literally a daily basis (they are exceptional, really). This invite simply served as a catalyst for discussion of a broader issue.

I received an email this afternoon from The Women's Fund of Central Ohio, in collaboration with The Columbus Young Professionals Club, inviting me to a panel discussion on April 8th, 2014, Equal Pay Day, entitled Equal Pay: Leaning into your full potential.  

Here is the full text of the email introduction:

I read the email a few times trying to determine what it was about the invite that was bothering me. Then it hit me. The basic premise of this panel as outlined in the introduction rests on an implicit assumption that there is a legitimate reason why women are not being paid as much as their male counterparts for the same work, and that reason is the women themselves

The battle over pay equity revolves around the fact that women are not paid the same amount as men for equal work. If women aren't being paid as much as men because they aren't "leaning in to their full potential," or because they don't "feel confident and capable in the workplace," then there isn't really a valid argument for equal pay is there? In fact, these are precisely the excuses that many employers offer when they are confronted about this issue. The false assumption that women are somehow less committed to their jobs than men is one that continues to be internalized by employers and employees alike, which results in male workers being paid more than their female colleagues for the exact same job. Just ask Lilly Ledbetter

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.

I can't help but feel that hosting a panel discussion about leaning in on Equal Pay Day sends the wrong message. It tells women that it isn't your employer who needs to change, it's you. Institutional sexism is not the reason you are being paid less, you're being paid less because you aren't "leaning into your full potential," and because you don't "feel like your true value is being seen and appreciated." I will acknowledge that there are situations where these reasons do, in fact, play a part in pay disparities, but I don't necessarily think that Equal Pay Day is the appropriate time to address them. 

Pay equity and leaning in are two distinct problems that don't always overlap. There are millions of women who can "lean in" until they are blue in the face (many lean in to multiple jobs), but that will not increase their pay. There are millions of women who can take any and all steps to "feel confident and capable in the workplace," but that will not increase their pay. Women make up the majority of workers in minimum wage jobs in which they have practically zero power and influence in relation to their bosses. Plus, the reality is that the many women do not have the luxury of being able to stroll confidently into their boss's office to ask for a raise. 

I think the reason we spend so much time talking about what we as women can do is because we feel like it is the only thing over which we have any power. We can change ourselves but we can't change other people (or organizations). If we lean in just a bit more and work just a little harder perhaps it will make a difference. 

But it isn't enough. 

What about the employers?

At what point do we ask what they can (and should) be doing? We discuss "leaning in" and other empowering mantras every other day of the year, but talking among ourselves about what we as women can do, means absolutely nothing if employers aren't on board. As long as employers can get away with paying some employees less than others, they will continue to do so. Quite frankly, providing a space for female employees to talk about what they can be doing better to merit better (or even equal) pay, instead of demanding it from the employer is pretty convenient for the employer

The panel invite is right. We, as women, do have the power to change the pay disparities between men and women. But not just through modification of ourselves. Through social advocacy and awareness and changes in public policy. Just ask Lilly Ledbetter.

What can we do? 

Instead of discussing more actions that women can take to address pay equity, what if we use this one day to host a panel of candidates for public office, elected officials, CEO's, and other community leaders who are proactively working with businesses and employers on policies that will help further the cause?

What if we use this one day to highlight businesses and employers that are taking (and have taken) steps to create a more equal workplace and the positive changes those steps have brought about? 

What if we invite employers to a panel discussion that asks if they are leaning in to their full potential? Are they recognizing the "true value" of their female employees? 

I Will Never Understand This Bizarre Fear of Public Breastfeeding.

Get over it, already. 

At what point will the collective citizenry stop acting like a bunch of twelve-year old boys whenever a mother needs to breastfeed her child in public?  "Oh noes! Boobies!" Seriously? 

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

A British mother was basically shoved into a room apart from everyone else for feeding her 6-week-old baby at (here's the kicker) a hospital

British mother Gemma Murphy claims that when she went for a routine blood test to St. Cross Hospital in Rugby with her 6-week-old baby last December, the nurse there who took her blood “looked at me in disgust” and “said we couldn’t breastfeed there. I asked why and she said I might offend the other patients.” She was then hustled into a private room, leaving her “speechless” that a health facility would be so flummoxed by a nursing mother. 

Note to everyone: Breasts are not for you. Their entire purpose and reason for existence is to nourish a child. That's it. If you are "offended" by a mother doing exactly what it is she is supposed to do with her breasts, you are the one with the problem. 

Further, women aren't breastfeeding in public to make some sort of political statement (although that too, does happen), they are doing it because that is what they physically need to do. 

Aside from the fact that there is exactly zilch wrong with a woman feeding her baby anyplace she damn well pleases, breast-feeding, for both baby and mother, is a physical need that — especially in the first few weeks — can’t always simply wait for a more convenient time. You can’t just hold it in indefinitely until you’re in the optimum location. It hurts. You start leaking all over your shirt. Oh, yeah, and your baby is howling. You need to know that.

Modern motherhood in the United States is already a crappy and penalizing experience for women as it is. It's time for everyone to grow up. 


I'm Not Alone In Thinking That Men, Too, Must Lean In

This. This. A thousand times, this. 

My overall thoughts of Sheryl Sandberg's call to women in Lean In, are summarized nicely by Charles Clymer:

The premise of the lean in movement is that no matter how bad the misogyny they face, women should hang in there and not give up. While this may be a helpful philosophy for some, it ignores the harsh truth that the vast bulk of the problem has nothing to do with how much women are willing to endure, but how much institutions — and the men who run them — force them to endure.

Preach. I can't tell you how many arguments I've been in where I've stated that women can "lean in" until they are blue in the face, but it won't make a dent in the institutional barriers that they face. There needs to be a call to action to the men

Women have earned more bachelor's degrees than men every year since 1982, more master's degrees since 1987, and more doctorates since 2006. The gap in bachelor's degrees is especially startling: 56.7% of 2013 graduates are women, a margin of 13.2%. Were it an election, this would constitute a landslide victory.

Yet women still make up only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 18.2% of the U.S. House of Representatives, 20% of the Senate, 27.4% of college presidents, 19.5% of law partners and 30.4% of active physicians. And then there's the gap in earnings. Are we really to believe that the reason women are dramatically underrepresented in every industry is because they're not trying hard enough? Or not leaning in enough?

Noting the very real potential of being gaslighted into oblivion, Clymer says he doesn't blame Sandberg for avoiding criticism of her male peers, and that "Sandberg does what she can: empowering women while simultaneously keeping the topic in our national discourse." But men have been observers of the Lean In revolution for too long and it's time to step up. 

All this is to say that Americans need to spend a little less time criticizing women for doing too little and a lot more time holding men accountable. It's okay to encourage women to stick with it and to lean in, but the bulk of this conversation needs to focus on getting men to "dig deep" and ask the hard questions of themselves. We need to challenge all men — regardless of their self-identified progressive values — to advocate for women where it really counts: in front of other men.

Do I think women need men to fight for them? No. But women do need us to stand beside them, especially in spaces where few or no women are present to stand. From every water cooler conversation at work, to every night out with the guys, substantial challenges to our cultural sexism have enormous potential in men brave enough to speak up in predominantly male spaces.

Right. On. 


Dad: I’m Going To Keep Calling My Daughter Bossy

Knowing the difference between being a leader and being a bully.

Dave Lesser is not about to stop calling his little girl "bossy." While #BanBossy "is catchy and makes a great hashtag," he describes the call to arms to ban the word as "arbitrary."

[I]is “bossy” used that often to criticize girls and women? Is the word ever used to describe anyone over the age of 11? It’s just so G-Rated! If an adult is bossy, there are much better words to call them. (I don’t think they should be banned, either.) If a girl can’t be called bossy, should she be called pushy instead? Of course not, because the message is the same. So how many words are we going to need to ban before this campaign comes to an end?

As I noted in my previous post, I agree that at times this entire campaign seems arbitrary and that it really isn't the word itself that is the problem, but the sentiment and emotion behind it. Lesser is doing exactly what I think all parents should be doing and that is teaching his son and daughter that harmful behavior (whether it can be called "bossy" or not) is unacceptable. 

Being a leader means caring for and empathizing with those you are leading. Being bossy, being a bully, is easier because you only have yourself to think about. In fact, you don’t really have to think at all. You just act for your own immediate self-gratification. As a child, this behavior is understandable, but it is not something that deserves encouragement.

Even if the "Ban Bossy" campaign is somewhat arbitrary, it is still starting a national conversation about words and the hidden meanings behind them, and that is always a good thing. 


​You Don't Need to Ban 'Bossy' — You Need to Take Away Its Power

The last article on the #BanBossy Campaign, for today at least. 

[U]ltimately, 'Ban Bossy' is censorship with the best intentions, and what I think it disguises is the deeper, more insidious problems about gender in this country that can't be fixed with the nix of a word. Historically, words change when attitudes change....

Certainly, regardless of whether you think a ban is useful or pointless, having this conversation about bossy is a good thing, because it forces us to keep acknowledging that words have power, and to examine how we use them, and recognize the impact they can have over a lifetime. It draws attention to the bad rap women get when they attempt to lead. (Alas, I suppose 'Retire Bossy' isn't quite so snappy, nor is 'Please Use Bossy Correctly and Unilaterally.') But language reflects values and attitudes, and those are what must change here.


Another Take on the #BanBossy Campaign

This article does an even better job of articulating my thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's new "Ban Bossy" campaign. The author points out:

The problem here isn't the word bossy, it's the way the word is applied in a gendered context...the solution isn't to stop calling people bossy. The solution is to work towards removing that negative and gendered connotation from the word.

My thoughts exactly. If we don't change the fact that the same behavior, praised in little boys, is criticized in little girls, a new word will just replace "bossy" and we will still be in the same boat.  


The Men Who Help Fight Back Against Everyday Sexism

Speak up, guys. It matters. 

As someone who reads dozens of articles at day (at least) about sexism and other gender issues, every so often I just get completely burnt out. It's exhausting having to constantly call others out for sexist remarks and behavior. To constantly be that woman. I often feel like I am just preaching to the choir and at this point, to be quite honest, everyone expects me to respond in sexism as I see it.

That being said, I cannot stress enough how big a difference even the slightest bit of support makes when it comes from one of my male peers. It matters a lot. It's one thing for men to roll their eyes and laugh off another one of my feminist rants, but it is quite different when they are called out for the very same behavior by one of their male peers. I have no doubt that they will think twice before committing the sexist act in question again.

The fact is that battling gender inequality isn't about men v women. It's about people against prejudice. And we need everybody on our side. For some men, hearing feminist arguments from their male peers can be an incredibly powerful way of getting the message across – so we need those allies out there spreading the word. We are fighting for a cultural shift in our normalised attitudes and behaviours towards women, and that change can't realistically be achieved without half the population on board. This is not a women's issue, but a human rights issue.

So guys, the next time one of your friends makes that god-awful sexist joke, call them out on it and make sure you do it in front of other men and women. It may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it matters.