Amplifying Voices – Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace

I love how many amazing podcasts are out there right now. I subscribe to more than I can reasonably listen to, but they give me access to so many fantastic ideas and perspectives.

Recently, a friend recommended Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace, and it is fantastic. I still sometimes question my experiences or perspectives, or wonder if I was reading too much into occurrences. It is incredibly validating to find out that my experiences are in many ways, universal. (Also a bit depressing, but we have to be able to talk about it to work on making it better.)

The hosts Jeannie Yandel and Eula Scott Bynoe use their platform in such an effective way, talking to wide variety of guests. I started with the episode on “The reason why so many IRL Michael Scotts are bosses”, but wherever you begin, I think you’ll find some very interesting listening material.

Welcome to the New Year

I had such good intentions of posting before the year ended. 

And it’s been far too long since I last posted, due to a combination of travel, holidays, a random dental emergency, and illness. I really wanted to write something as a wrap up to my first year of blogging, and yet, just didn’t manage it.

But I’m also a big proponent of the “pick yourself up and dust yourself off” path of life, so although I didn’t meet my goal, I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this blog will continue to be something of a therapeutic lifeline for me. Writing is how I best process the world and my place in it, and I think I’m going to need to do a lot of processing this year. We’re only a few days into 2020 and the headlines are already in horrific territory. The uncertainty of everything feels like it continues to climb, and I think most of us would agree it’s already at a pretty unbearable level.

There’s so many new things I would like to try this year, and yet there are moments where it feels pointless. When part of the world is literally on fire, and we have a president attempting to start yet another endless war to distract from his own incompetence, it’s hard to feel like my little creative pursuits make much difference.

But when I think about how little time we all have in the grand scheme of things, and how little control we have over so much, it reminds me that my creativity is everything. Each of us have the capability to either take from the world or add to it. My corner may be small, my impact may be mostly on myself. But that’s ok. I’m still making a choice about who I am, and how I interact with the world around me. I’m choosing creativity, and kindness, and allyship. I hope you do too.

Happy New Year. Let’s do this.

Sunday Reflection – Success is a Spectrum

I’m not tech savvy enough to know exactly how computer algorithms work, but I do know my phone (and hence Google) pay a great deal of attention to every link I click. So I’ve started to see a number of recommended articles surrounding workplace culture and personal development. Which fits. I don’t love that I’m being stalked by a tech company, but in this case, they are at least somewhat accurate, and I do occasionally get some good recommendations out of it.

However, this past week the algorithm failed greatly when it suggested an article called “Why Most People Will Never Be Successful“. I’ve linked it here, because I try to be open about my sources, but I honestly don’t recommend it.

It essentially breaks down to, “I have a very narrow definition of success, everyone needs to be exactly this same way in their own lives, and if you waste time on anything not deemed hugely important by others, it’s your own fault for not having everything you want”.

I probably don’t have to specify the author’s demographics here. You already know.

At one point, I was tempted to write a line by line reason for why this article was so off the mark, but then I realized this gives it too much importance.

So some blowhard thinks he’s got special insight into success. So it just happens to fit with the way he lives his life. There’s a million more like him. Our society as a whole has a very narrow definition of what success is. It’s a extremely biased definition, that ignores real world challenges and difficulties for those not born at the pinnacle of privilege.

It’s frustrating, and yet it’s also tiresome to go ranting and raving about the obvious inanities of trying to define something as nebulous as success for the billions of humans in existence.

So for today, as one of those humans, who is trying, day by day, to dismantle all of the internal insecurities foisted on me by the culture in which I live, I just want to say this.

I believe that our success is up to us. I believe that you, and I, have inherent value that is completely separate from what we produce. I believe that a person being a good friend puts more value in the world than someone inventing an app that makes millions. I believe that others will always try to bring you down because they’re scared of their own inability to measure up. And I believe that there will come a day where we learn to drown out those voices and just enjoy being who we are, without tearing ourselves apart over who we one day could be.

What do you believe about success?

Hiring for Diversity

I imagine that most women are familiar with the feeling of reading an article, whether it be on women in the workplace, or women in sports, or women in media, and just having an immediate feeling of exhaustion. 

Bone-deep, weary, how-long-do-we-have-to-keep-hearing-this-same-BS exhaustion.

Here we go again...

Last month, at a computer graphics conference, two white men sat down to talk about the lack of women in the video game industry. They plaintively discussed how very hard it is to find qualified women, and how much it distresses them to have so few women on their team. They even talked about how they put out job announcements with “heavily feminised wording”, and yet it still didn’t work! 

Side note – I would really love to see their interpretation of feminised wording. Because of course, all women are exactly the same and want the exact same thing, and we are just like a video game character, where if you select the right dialogue options, you will get exactly what you want from us!

Next, reportedly, they mentioned how a different group at the conference expressed a desire for 50/50 representation within a couple of years, and how it was so very “interesting that they set themselves such harsh challenges, instead of letting it more naturally grow”. 

Yes…so interesting that a company would set goals rather than rely on something naturally correcting itself. Because women patiently waiting for our patriarchal societies to self-correct for equity has proven to work so very well in the past, and we have never, ever had to fight for what we wanted.

Don't mind me, just patiently waiting for the patriarchy to go away all by itself!

Both men did acknowledge that the problem runs deeper that job announcements, and solutions must be implemented at a deeper level. At which point they apparently decided that the answer was education, and better diversity in schools. “And then, hopefully, in a few years we’ll start seeing the results from that.”

So close…and yet, so far. 

I’m using snark because otherwise I’d be banging my head on my desk, and that’s a much more difficult way to write.

I just can’t believe we’re almost to 2020, and we still have to put up with this kind of “dialogue”.

But we do. So let’s talk about hiring for diversity.

Every time the conversation turns to improving representation within organizations, a contingent of people, usually primarily white men, will cry foul. The popular argument is that you should just “hire the best person for the job”.

There are certain phrases in our culture which are immediate signs of someone’s understanding of institutional inequities, and “best person for the job” is a huge one. As soon as I see or hear that phrase, I know I’m dealing with someone who thinks that white men are dominant in the workplace because they just “happen” to be naturally better at everything (hence why it’s usually white men saying this – who wouldn’t want to believe they’re just naturally superior). 

“Hire the best person” is on the same plane as wanting something to “naturally” correct itself. It completely dismisses bias, systems built to exclude, lack of opportunities, and straight up harassment. These issues are present everywhere, and are absolutely present in education as well, hence the ridiculousness of relying on schools to correct the problems of industry.

It takes so much more to build representation. It takes work.

"Hey, I used female words in the posting! What more can I do!?"

Who makes the rules

The men in the interview above talked about how they couldn’t ask for women specifically because of hiring laws. This is a very common response to accusations of discriminatory hiring practices. A stepping back, a brushing of hands, a “what can I do” kind of attitude.

It’s a good reminder that many of these laws, well-intentioned or otherwise, are still in service of the status quo. It’s the kind of attitude that claims that colorblindness is a good strategy, that no kind of assumption ever kicks in when seeing the name on an application, that the people conducting the interviews are completely and utterly devoid of bias.

I should note here that even with these anti-discrimination laws in existence, they vary greatly depending on location, and there are still a number of very vulnerable groups that are often unprotected, including LGBTQ, disabled, and fat individuals.

But whenever someone talks about following the law, it’s important to ask – Who made the law?

"It's just all so baffling! They should be applying in droves!"

Last year, there was a really interesting interview with Stephen Colbert. Like the games industry, the late night talk show realm is highly dominated by straight white men. And like the games industry, many of these white male hosts talk about how much they want a diverse writers’ room, and how hard it is to get it.

Jay Leno was recently questioned about the fact that he had zero female writers when he left the air, and responded, “I hire them based on material,” Leno said. “People just come up and give me the jokes and I read them and I decide whether to hire ’em or not.… One guy was so handicapped he couldn’t leave his house, but he wrote good jokes so it didn’t matter to me. A lot of times, I got a few female writers out of it.”

It’s the good ole “what are ya gonna do” argument, the “hire the best person” practice. And it’s trash.

Contrast this to Colbert’s discovery, when he actually committed to hiring women writers.

We would say, you know, it’s very important, we want writers of color, we want women, and you would get 150 packets and there would be eight women. And we’re like, ‘God, that’s so frustrating.’ Until I said, ‘No, only women’—then I got 87 women. And I thought, ‘Where were these people before?’ And that was sort of the realization of my naiveté, that it’s not enough to say you want it, you have to go to the not-ordinary step.”

Colorblind doesn’t work. Genderblind doesn’t work. Every part of the process, from who has the connections, to who gets taken more seriously, to who gets the interview, to who is hired, is all tainted. And it has to be consciously dismantled. The “non-ordinary” step.

Listening to the right people

I think what mostly makes me want to headdesk myself after reading the game conference dialogue is that both men talk in theoreticals about why women aren’t applying, and yet not once does either one of them mention actually talking to women about it. They talk in broad terms about industry and education, but they’re not talking to the people who are most affected. They mention adding “feminised” language, but they don’t mention who’s writing these announcements, who’s reviewing applications, who’s conducting interviews. 

This reminds me of all the times we see conference panels on gender that are entirely made up of men

At no point do they talk about the rampant sexual harassment and discrimination that infuses the games industry. They don’t talk about the fact that women developers are harassed online much more than men. They don’t discuss the crunch culture of the industry, how workers are being driven to extremes of mental health to keep up with corporate goals. They don’t talk about how women leave STEM education paths due to a variety of cultural, social, and economic factors. They don’t even remotely acknowledge how these factors are enhanced for women working through intersectional oppressions, whether it be based on race or disability or gender expression.

But if you had a diverse panel of all women on the stage? They could tell you a great deal about all of these things.

So why are we talking like there’s no way to know what’s going on?

"How in the world will I ever find out why women don't want to work for me?!"

Just making excuses

Shortly before I left my job, there was a great deal of talk about improving the equity of the organization. It was great talk and I loved hearing it, until I realized there was very little to back it up.

This was highlighted when a special high level management position was designated to be focused on diversity. And they hired a white woman.

Now, I am a white woman. And I like to think that some of us are capable of understanding a great deal about oppression and bias. 

That being said, we cannot be truly intersectional when it comes to gender and race. Sorry if that’s disappointing to hear, but that’s part of what white women have to come to acknowledge. We can support women of color, we can make space for them, we can ally with them, we absolutely cannot be intersectional in the same way that they can.

And if you are hiring someone to be in charge of diversity for your organization, it should not be someone white. Not now.

When questioned, the director who made the hiring decision said that the diversity manager was hired because they “couldn’t find anyone who wasn’t white”. 

Look, I know I live in a very white state, but this is just a completely asinine response.

It’s an excuse, just like saying you’re following the law, or hiring the “best person”. You can find qualified and talented people in all arenas of life.

You just have to put in the work.

"Look, I know you have excellent skills and graduated top of your class, but I don't know if you quite fit with our office vibe."

In the end, it all comes back to the same thing.

Do these people bemoaning lack of representation truly want to create change, and make life better for people of all backgrounds?

Or are they actually comfortable in the status quo, and with the privilege they enjoy, and just see the benefit in sounding aware?

This is why I wrote about ethics last time, because these are things that every person has to answer for themselves. We all make the choices that lets us look at ourselves in the mirror, and if someone doesn’t truly believe equity matters for all of us, nothing I say will change that.

But what I’m really done with are the people who are half-assing this entire process. Talking the talk, and yet walking the path that just keeps reinforcing the status quo.

If you truly want more women on your team, hire more women. If you want more people color, hire more people of color. Stop passing the buck, stop waiting for “natural” progress, stop relying on systems outside of your own to create the fixes.

Do the work. Or stop talking.

 

Amplifying Voices – Katie Hill

One of the extremely frustrating things about being a woman in this world is how often we’re expected to apologize when we’re actually the victim. Such as what’s currently happening with California Congresswoman Katie Hill.

Here we have a woman apologizing, and resigning, when she was the victim of revenge porn. When conservatives, resentful of her win, happily jumped on using non-consensual, private pictures of her to create a scandal.

Let’s be clear. There is nothing scandalous about a naked photo of a human being. But there is absolutely something horrific about spreading and using such pictures to punish women.

The only ones who should be ashamed are the men who took, released, and shared the pictures. They’re filth and should be embarrassed by their behavior. I know they won’t be, because they’re misogynistic creeps, but they should be.

Male politicians can and will do any number of inappropriate things, especially sexually, and there is no outcry. No trouble.

However Hill is female, and young, and had an impact. So she had to be taken down.

But to give Hill credit, although she is going, she left with some beautifully scathing remarks.

I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching. I’m leaving, but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence, and remain in board rooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and worst of all, in the Oval Office.

Hill is bright and capable, and I know she’ll land on her feet. She’s probably going to need a lot of therapy, but she can do it.

In the meantime, we need to start acknowledging the real criminals when it comes to revenge porn – the ones who release the photos. I will never shame a woman for having a photo taken. But I will absolutely refuse to respect any man who sinks to such a level. They’re the ones who should be resigning, making embarrassed speeches, and feeling like they can’t leave their apartments. The double standard is exhausting, and it needs to end.

And to anyone who is shocked by her pictures, but not by his behavior, you need to ask yourself why. Because it’s not a pretty answer.

Sunday Reflection – Breaking the Illusion

I was scrolling on Twitter today (a bad habit, I know), and came across a few threads being written by artists. They were talking about how there tends to be this myth in art that using references (such as painting over photos, etc) is a form of “cheating”, and that “real” artists supposedly draw only from memory.

For more details on this myth, Arnie Fenner does a much better explanation of the issue and how it may have originated in his post Cheating.

These artists on Twitter were pointing out that reference use is actually really common, really helpful in creating art, and in fact, for some artists with disabilities, is a necessity.

And I suddenly felt incredibly sad. Because I remembered something.

When I was a teenager, I played around with drawing a little bit. I love all kinds of arts and crafts, and love learning to do new things. So I was practicing drawing, but doing it from reference – looking at other sketches, of flowers and plants, and trying to recreate them.

But somehow, without knowing it, I had internalized this idiotic message. I couldn’t even tell you where it came from or how I picked it up. But I completely dismissed what I did as “ok, but not real.” I didn’t keep doing it. I didn’t believe myself capable of the “real” thing, i.e. drawing from memory alone. Which I’m not, but turns out most people aren’t. It’s all an illusion.

I think what makes me sad is to realize that no matter how old I get, there’s always going to be more illusions I need to break through. More feelings of my own inadequacy that only come about because someone, somewhere, decided they needed to feel superior, and the way to do that was promote a false ideal.

Anyway, I’m going to go do some art now.

 

Amplifying Voices – Jessica Valenti: The Niceness Trap

One of the most common criticisms when women engage with politics or activism is not a critique of their message or platform, but a critique of tone or word choice. How many times have we heard things like, “I like what she’s saying, I just don’t like how she’s saying it.” How many articles have we seen debating a woman’s likeability when she enters the political sphere?

Even a 16 year old climate activist is getting hate online, because people claim she’s “too angry”. Not to mention the tone policing that happens for women of color who push back against oppression.

Which is why I love this short but sweet article by Jessica Valenti on The Niceness Trap for women. It’s taken a long time, but we’re starting to get to an era where women have more agency to push back against the constant social pressure to be nice all the time. There are so many things that are more important that niceness. Our survival, for one.

And sure, our new unwillingness to put “nice” first will be uncomfortable for a lot of people. But growth doesn’t happen without discomfort. Whether they like it or not, times are changing.

The Ethical Consideration

“Why choose to be good every day, if there is no guaranteed reward we can count on, now or in the afterlife? I argue that we choose to be good because of our bonds with other people and our innate desire to treat them with dignity. Simply put, we are not in this alone.”

– Chidi Anagonye, ‘The Good Place’ 2×12

I’ve been working on the next piece in my series regarding power differentials in the workplace. I wanted to write something more positive, more proactive, that talks about steps we can all take to fight imbalances. And yet, I keep getting stuck. It’s not that I don’t have ideas about what can be done. I probably have too many. It’s not that sometimes I think the best solution might just be dismantling the entire system, although that’s also true. 

The problem, I’m discovering, is ethics. 

Because I don’t think we can talk about disrupting systems and how to improve them without acknowledging the fact that we all have a moral choice to make.

Eleanor: “Oh, so now I’m supposed to be nice and make friends and treat her with mutual respect?”
Chidi: “Yeah!”
Eleanor: “That’s exactly what she wants me to do, Chidi, wake up!”
Chidi: “That’s what everyone wants everyone to do.”

– ‘The Good Place’ 1×3

**At this point, I should make a disclaimer that I have a tendency to use morals and ethics somewhat interchangeably. By definition, in way oversimplified terms, ethics are supposed to be more driven by an external source, and morals by an internal. I’ve found articles online where the authors argue that we shouldn’t even use either term in the workplace, because people can get stuck on the word instead of focus on the discussion.

But I think this highlights part of the issue of not discussing these ideas at work. If we’re so scared of an individual word that we have to tapdance around it, we’re not really talking about it.

Personally, my ethics and morals are so interconnected and interlinked, that for me, talking about one is talking about both. This may not be the case for everyone.

There’s also the tendency in our culture to conflate morality with religion. I’m personally agnostic, so have never had an issue with understanding morality to be a separate entity. I still believe in being a good person, regardless. But I know there are those who struggle deeply with the idea that someone would do good things or try to behave with kindness towards others without the influence of religion. 

Anyway, my point is I’m going to talk about being ethical, and moral, and I’m doing it without any religious affiliation.

End disclaimer.**

Eleanor: “All those ethics lessons paid off. Whoever said philosophy was stupid?”
Chidi: “You did, many times, as recently as this morning.”

– ‘The Good Place’ 2×11

Shortly after I became a manager, I had to attend a number of required trainings. One of these was Ethics. Although some of the trainings so far had been tedious (I’m looking at you Contracts), I was looking forward to Ethics. I was managing in an office that worked in social services, I’d witnessed many ethically gray behaviors in my previous time as an employee, and I wanted to get advice from an expert on how to approach ethical quandaries as a supervisor.

The class was a complete waste of time. It was such a basic, preliminary discussion of ethics, including the oft-overused “people are icebergs, and much is hidden” metaphor. My main thought leaving the class was that if the organization thought I needed this level of education on ethics, they should never have hired me to be a manager in the first place. 

But then it wasn’t actually about the ethics, was it? Realistically, who can cover a topic so deep and complicated in one half-day training. And like all trainings, there was no follow up, no mentoring, no debriefing. It was another check on a list, so if I ever got in trouble, the agency could dust off its hands, and shrug. “She took Ethics”, they’d say. “She knew what she did was wrong.”

I don’t think my experience was unusual. I don’t think many companies or agencies have regular talks about ethics. I don’t think most employees get any support in dealing with ethical quandaries. I definitely don’t think executives put ethics first in their decision making. I think that’s a problem.

“Ha! How do you like them ethics? I just ethics’d you in the face, Chidi!”

– Eleanor Shellstrop, ‘The Good Place’ 1×7

One of my favorite TV shows of the moment is The Good Place. For those who haven’t seen it, essentially it’s about four people navigating the afterlife. There’s many twists and turns, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but one of my reasons for loving the show so much is that there’s a lot of discussion about what it is to be a good person. There’s no religious component, no faith is determined to be right or wrong, it’s all based on individual behaviors and actions.

What is especially refreshing is seeing people talk about what it means to be good. What it means to have principles and adhere to them in the most challenging of times. What it means to sometimes compromise those principles for something bigger than yourself. And above all, how we will all fail, over and over again, and yet have the opportunity to decide to try again anyway.

And the amazing thing about seeing these discussions play out via a sitcom is that it shows how we shouldn’t be scared to talk about these things. That there’s nothing to be defensive about. That all of us are continuously learning and none of us have all the answers.

That no matter where we are, at home or at work, what we do and the choices we make have impacts.

Eleanor: “But everything I do blows up in my face…”
Michael: “…Come on, you know how this works. You fail and then you try something else. You fail again, and again, and you fail a thousand times, and you keep trying, because maybe the 1001st idea might work.”

– ‘The Good Place’ 4×2

So what do these rambling thoughts on ethics have to do with inequities of power?

I still plan to write a post about what we can do as individuals to work against inequitable systems. There’s always something we can do, however small.

But the first step is a conscious moral choice. A choice about what you believe and what you feel is worth fighting for.

Here’s the thing. I can’t determine what the right ethical choice is for you. I have beliefs. I believe that we have an ethical responsibility to stand up for the oppressed. That those of us with privilege have a moral obligation to acknowledge our advantages, and use them to lift up those who are marginalized. I believe that we should speak up even if it makes others uncomfortable. I believe that we should fight back against racist and sexist and other oppressive systems, including in our own businesses and workplaces and even families.

Yet all of us come from different backgrounds and different experiences. All of us are in different stages of our journey. In such an overwhelming and challenging world, I can’t fault someone who wants to care for themselves first. I can’t judge someone who needs to check out for a time. I can’t blame someone who has suffered from these systems from deciding they’ve had enough.

However, as a caution, just remember that if you’re thinking you don’t need to make a choice, you’ve already made one. There is no neutrality when it comes to human dignity.

But the very best part about being a human, about choosing to be a good person, to care for others, to live up to your inner code, and value doing the right thing?

It’s never too late to start.

“…But I think we have one move left: We can try.”

– Eleanor Shellstrop, ‘The Good Place’ 3×4

 

“I mean, what do you have to lose by treating people with kindness and respect?”

– Chidi Anagonye, ‘The Good Place’ 4×2

Sunday Reflection – What Makes Us Happy

There have been a lot of heavy moments recently. Well, to be honest, over the last few years. We all want to make an impact and fight for something better, and sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s still ok to play and laugh and find a way to focus on the small delights, to be in the moment.

And I think most of us know at this point that happiness isn’t a constant state or a feeling that can be forced into being, but rather occasional moments where we get to tap into something deeper and just feel…good.

So here are a few of my current small delights.

Nature

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. There’s something about leaving the heat of summer, while still getting beautiful weather (mostly), seeing the flocks of migrating geese flying overhead, and most of all, watching the natural beauty of green fading into vibrant oranges and reds. This is the tree right outside my window, and in the shining sun, the leaves look like stained glass. Seeing this makes me happy.

A Community of Creativity

When you begin to embark on creative pursuits, you start to notice two kinds of people. Those who want to gatekeep, who think that writing or painting or dancing need to be done in a very strict and particular way to be legitimate. And then there are those who say, let’s throw these doors open, and welcome all who want to come in.

I want to be a door open kind of woman. And I like that I have friends who think the same way too. Today a friend posted the below online, and it was a reminder that I needed. Because it’s taken me time to get here, but I can call myself a writer. Because I write. It doesn’t matter if I get paid or not. It doesn’t matter how many views I get. I’m a writer.

Knowing that I can create, and that I have friends who support me unconditionally in doing so, makes me happy.

Other People’s Creativity

Confession – I’ve watched Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse three times in the last month. Partly because I’m a huge geek, and it’s a great superhero story with a great lead character, but in truth, it’s just such a beautiful movie. I just love looking at it. I love the thought that goes into each frame.

The below clip has over 9 million views on YouTube, and I’m not surprised. Each moment – Miles building himself up for the jump, the glass breaking due to his tension, and most of all, that breath-holding moment where the camera flips and you see him rise into his new life as he falls – it just blows me away.

It took hundreds of people working together to make this art. It’s amazing. And it makes me happy.

What moments make you happy? What are your small delights?

Amplifying Voices – Greta Thunberg

There is lot of complaining that happens when it comes to our world’s youth. Whether it be criticizing their use of technology, the idea that they prioritize different values than their parents, or even their eating habits, there’s always something for the older generations to pick on.

And yet, when you think of who has been in power, who has had the time and resources to act, and who has chosen not to (because it might cut into profits), the irritation seems rather misplaced.

This is not the usual generational change that we’re talking about. Today’s younger generations are inheriting a world that has the potential to literally end.

So today, in honor of the worldwide Climate Strike, I wanted to highlight Greta Thunberg for a few minutes. Because when I hear people complain about youth, I think of children like her. I think of how the current school-age generations are having to speak out against guns and climate change, because we have left them no other choice. Because their very survival depends on it.

So let’s not criticize them. Let’s help them.

Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap