“We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.” – Margaret Atwood
“When a nation’s men become too effeminate, we start looking for a more masculine leader to guide us.”
That’s the start of a discussion that stuck in my mind for 3 days straight.
I’m talking to the CEO of a company about leadership. He’s trying to figure out what the hell was going on both in politics as well as in his own business.
While I listen to his reasoning it becomes clear that he’s only talking with other men about this. Men who share his views and probably his experiences as well.
Reaching an agreement is all well and good when you include disperate views on the matter to form a consensus. Not when all you’re doing is looking for things that confirm your views on the world. Also known as confirmation bias.
That’s why I decide to go against him and question the things he’s saying. I want to understand more fully where these views are coming from.
During our discussion it becomes clear that he’s ingrained with the views that a woman should act in a certain way and men in another. That’s just the nature of things for him.
Ok, so why does it seem to bother him to that degree?
When I probe further I find out that he’s in a relationship with a very strong and domineering woman.
I can only speculate why the relationship is what it is.
But from what I gather she can’t seem to rely on him to be steer the ship and “be a man” since he doesn’t push back and often avoids confrontation. Confrontation and argumentation being something that’s valued in her culture.
Meanwhile, he wishes she could be more “feminine” and less confrontational because he hasn’t had that experience with women growing up.
I grew up with a household full of women. Mom, sister, grandma, countless aunts, and only one uncle. They are strong women. Women with values, opinions, and leadership skills.
My mom was a working single mom. Grandma was retired and would babysit me when I couldn’t go to kindergarten or school.
For me it’s natural that women can do the same things men can. Sure, I get asked to get pickle jar open pretty often, but then again they ask the same of my sister too.
We’re pretty much opposites by the way. My sister’s kind of a “tomboy” (liked the rough-and-tumble) and I’ve got plenty of “typically feminine” interests.
I think that’s why it bothers me so much when a person in a position of power holds these views.
On a seperate occasion while going through applications the CEO says something that continues the theme.
“She looks like a good candidate. I just wonder if she’s going to be manageable.”
Not once did I hear him say the same thing about a male candidate. It’s like he just doesn’t know how to handle typically male traits when they’re present in a woman.
And this is something that I find all too often when working with men.
This is the mentality women are facing. And you seldom get to hear them unless you’re a man. Specifically a white male, who’s had moderate success (so that you aren’t a threat), and are a part of their, also my, “club”.
Now, more and more men are coming around and have grown up with a world view different from this. They’re no longer the vast minority. And with time this issue is most likely going to take care of itself.
To be perfectly blunt, the people holding on to these antiquated views are going to die.
I’d like to think of myself as an egalitarian but perhaps I’d be of better service being a feminist.
Because right now the world is operating on far less creative potential than we should be.
When men aren’t standing along side women then half the world’s population is being neglected. Women’s work is worth equal to, not 74%, of men’s.
The same thing goes when people say “all lives matter”. Well, they do. But right now our focus needs to be on the black lives that are systematically being extinguished because of the views and prejudices we hold.
I’ll be perfectly honest and say that if I meet a person of another ethnicity than white I’m more prone to feel uneasy.
Why? I come from a city that’s got a big population of immigrants. I had some experiences with people bullying me and being excluded at school. Then again, being white I had major advantages in other fields.
Knowing that people are just people and that I have these prejudices helps me to not act on them. They can’t thrive when they’re dragged into the light.
But they’re still there, and hopefully they’ll die with me.
So, what about women?
While doing away with male and female traits isn’t going to solve it, doing away with our narrow views on what men, women, and people in general stereotypically should be, will.
The problem isn’t doesn’t lie in the people, the problem lies in the system.
While we need to look at problems on a micro level we solve them on a macro level.
Systematically. One step at a time.
I can only speak in generalities. Since I don’t experience the same prejudices women face, I don’t have a clear cut answer for how to deal with them either.
But understanding where people are coming from can help us to navigate the world.
Perhaps, if we’re honest about our fears and prejudices first then others will be honest about theirs.
I’d like to hear how you would approach this?
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Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!