Friday, December 18, 2015

Listen Up, Men -- My Mini Manifesto on the Whole "Lean In and Women's Issues" Issue

I suppose it is inevitable, as public debate and attention circle around the endless and inconclusive questions of "whether women can have it all" and "how women can achieve work life balance," and the glib exhortations to women to "lean in" and "break the glass ceiling", that I find I have developed a very strong, fierce, and furious reaction to all of this humdrum.  I am starting to hate all of these things because I believe we are focusing on the wrong issues.

Let me just say directly and bluntly, that I am a feminist, and that every single person on this planet should be a feminist.  Please - let's not kid ourselves or be deluded or sidetracked by anyone who dares to make this a pejorative term.  Don't let the second-wave or third-wave modifiers obscure what this word really means.  At its core, being a feminist means holding the belief that women are and should be treated as intellectual equals and social equals to men.  Period.

And while I'm at it, why don't we call the glass ceiling what it is?  The term "glass ceiling" makes the whole phenomenon sound so pretty - so sparkly and innocent.  We need to call a spade a spade, people.  The glass ceiling is nothing more than hardwired prejudice, unconscious bias and latent sexism.  (Of course there are holdouts which remain bastions of male superiority and wear the reek of the good old boys' clubs staunchly, where the bias is conscious and sexism is blatant -- though in this day and age, I would like to think that many companies and workplaces are trying, or at least pretending to try, to address the issues of equality in the workplace.)

Now, I actually do not disagree with the concept of "Lean In," but I think it only addresses part of the issue.  Some women may be guilty of opting out too early or not trying hard enough, but I am starting to think that more than anything else, it is the confidence that many women (many more women than men, anyway) lack.  For whatever reason, whether it be nature or nurture, or both, men tend to appear more confident than women. Women are terrible at self-promotion.. and tend to be more self-effacing, and humble, and less blustery.  And unfortunately, our brains (both men's and women's) seem to be hard wired to value confidence over competence.  Read this article.

A few weeks ago, my work place announced (by women, for women) that they were starting a blog for women by women, to address women's issues and concerns, for women to share their concerns, issues, worries, challenges, etc. 

I was so immediately turned off by this concept that I could barely contain my disgust.  Why?

As this author points out, women's groups are often (not always, but more often than not) preaching to the choir.  The more that we make work life balance a woman's issue, the more we marginalize these issues and make them both a woman's prerogative and problem.  Until then, women's rights in the workplace will remain a burden that often, women alone are trying to solve - how does that make sense? WHERE ARE THE MEN??!  Let's get them involved.  Let's not exclude them from the conversation.  Let's not allow them off the hook.

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