Jennifer M. Rodriguez - Family and Relationship Coach
Positively Jen

Why This Feminist Refused to March: Topic 1--Women's Rights

Yesterday, millions of people marched for women's rights.  But it wasn't just about women's rights--it was about the rights of minorities, LGBT communities, anti-Trump, anti-Conservative, anti-Republican, and pretty much any other super divisive topic that has been polluting the media waves for the past two years (or longer).

I'm sick of it.

Our social culture is sick, and has been sick for a long time.  And the scary thing is, people are quick to point fingers and play the blame game; but NO ONE IS OFFERING UP REAL SOLUTIONS!  

So, here on my personal blog, let me be a voice for the solution.  This is not a persuasive essay trying to convert you to "the dark side" where the cookies are delicious.  This is not an attempt to collect money, support, or any other kind of validation.  This is not a call to organize a protest that provides an avenue to share my opinions with the rest of  world.

This is an attempt to start conversations about solutions, regardless of where people stand on the issues.  I will be doing a series of blogs about our social culture, so if this strikes a chord with you, please stay tuned for future blogs.

Topic 1: Women's Rights
I have been a woman for 38 years.  I experienced one isolated instance of sexism in the workplace at the age of 37.  I have never experienced unequal pay or felt like I was unfairly passed over for a promotion.  I have no problems working for male or female supervisors or colleagues, and I have never had difficulty speaking to a supervisor or colleague about issues that arise in the workplace.  

To have people march "on my behalf" sends the message that I am not strong enough to stand up for my own rights.  It sends the message that everything I've been doing for 38 years has not been good enough.  It sends the message that I can't fix problems on my own, I need my government to step in and do something about it.  I am not okay with any of these statements.  I did not march because I did not feel a need to march.  I feel like I am perfectly capable of standing up for myself if an issue arises, and I feel like I have done a pretty darn good job of being a woman in this world so far. 

I believe other women when they speak about situations when they have experienced sexism in the workplace, and I believe it does happen.  Just because I have little experience and have not observed it, does not mean it does not exist.  However, after analyzing the stories I have heard, I do believe that these situations have less to do with sexism as a result of being a woman in a man's world, and more to do with HOW to be a woman in a today's world.

Let me explain.  I have no qualms about opening up and talking about difficult subjects with people.  I am not afraid of conflict, and I am not afraid of arguing my point.  When it comes to my beliefs, I have confidence in what I think and know; and I am also humble enough to listen to facts from the other side.  I reserve the right to change my mind at any time on any subject should I encounter evidence that supports a different point of view.  

EVIDENCE IS: facts about a certain topic that are based on primary sources, actual data, and presented with little to no bias.

EVIDENCE IS NOT: opinion based, emotional arguments that are intended to shame me into feeling like I am wrong without a solid fact base.

When I hear stories about women in the workplace who have felt oppressed or like they are unequal members of a team, it is usually because 1) the environment is not conducive to healthy social culture or 2) the woman involved is experiencing a certain degree of unhealthy social skills.

An example of an unhealthy environment: a woman who is working as a cocktail waitress at a gentleman's club will be exposed to more sexist experiences because the environment promotes a "men rule women" attitude.  The patrons of such establishments are most likely unable to engage in healthy social situations in the real world, so they immerse themselves into an environment where they can live out a fantasy role as opposed to realistic role.  If one of the entertainers were to deliver a well thought out and fact based speech about climate change on the stage in her skivvies, it would probably fall on deaf ears--not because she lacks intelligence or because of what she is wearing, but because the men who are listening to her have a pre-conceived idea of her value and role as a fellow human.  That social culture is unhealthy, so why would a woman expect to have anything BUT an unhealthy experience within it?

An example of a woman experiencing unhealthy social skills: Jill works on a team of 10 people to develop a software project.  The team is made up of software programmers, end-user designers, and a male project lead.  Jill is one of the lead end-user designers, and is the main point of contact with the client who has asked for this software program.  When Jill's team brings feedback to the software programmers about changes that should be made, she often experiences frustration because her comments are not considered with as much weight as the comments from the male members of her team.  Sometimes, Jill will suggest a change which is completely ignored, only to have a male teammate suggest the same thing and earn the credit and respect from the rest of the group for his insight.  Is this because Jill is a woman, or is this because Jill is uncomfortable asserting herself in team meetings? If Jill spoke with confidence and avoided phrases such as, "I just feel like we should consider..." or "I'm not sure we are on the right track with..." then perhaps she would be taken more seriously.  Women like Jill often feel like they must soften their tone or words to maintain a sense of femininity, but what that really does is foster a sense of uncertainty and lack of conviction that is perceived by the team (men AND women).  

Women can be feminine and strong at the same time.  My current boss is a strong leader in executive team meetings, and she speaks clearly and confidently with her teammates--all while wearing beautifully feminine dresses with her make up looking picture perfect, and without one hair out of place.  She is respected because of her intelligence and leadership skills regardless of her beauty or fashion sense.  I believe Jill's experience is a result of her lack of development of healthy social skills within the workplace, and this is not the fault of the other employees, the business, or the government.  We all have room to grow and develop personally, so let's not expect men to take us seriously if we are not willing to invest in ourselves by doing the hard personal development work.  

1) Identify and avoid working in environments that promote unhealthy social culture.
2) Self-analyze your personality and challenge some of the unhealthy social and emotional constructs that influence your thoughts and behavior.
3) Build up strong personal boundaries that allow you to filter out influences that are socially unhealthy, and accept influences that are helpful to your personal development goals.
4) Find a group of friends, family, or colleagues that will support  you and hold you accountable to any positive changes you want to make.

I am not the expert, and I recognize that.  These thoughts and opinions are based on my personal experiences, observations, and research.  If you do not agree with me, I would love to find out why--let's have a discussion.  

2 Comments to Why This Feminist Refused to March: Topic 1--Women's Rights:

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Beverly Espino on Sunday, January 22, 2017 5:32 PM
I'm very disappointed in this post because I've personally had conversations about you and your passion for empowering women because of your own personal experiences this March is focusing more on issues that are beyond just females being raped by males it's freedom for people of color people of other religions that you may not like etc. I very much look up to you and have always and really enjoy working with you but this disappoints me so much.
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Jen on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 10:42 AM
Bev, I appreciate your words, and I continue to advocate for women and children just like I always have. However, I want to name what we are fighting against. Sexism is different from sexual harassment, which is different from sexual abuse, which is different from sexual assault (rape). We can't have the same conversations about covert sexism in the workplace that we do about sexual assault. Let me be very clear, I am vehemently opposed to sexual abuse and sexual assault. Those are violent crimes, and I will fight until my dying day to eliminate them from our culture. Sexual harassment is illegal, but not a violent crime, so in my mind, it doesn't require the same level of intensity as we continue to advocate for women. Sexism is not a crime at all, it's just bad behavior. Governments cannot regulate bad behavior, they can only regulate illegal behavior. Therefore, we have to find another way to eradicate sexism, and part of it is building ourselves up so that no one else can bring us down! That requires personal development. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see the men who frequent "gentlemen's clubs" undergo therapy for what is likely a serious mental impairment if they feel the need to visit strip clubs in order to validate their manliness. But all of these things fall under a "personal development" issue instead of a "sexism" issue. I hope you continue to stay tuned in to my blogs and offer your feedback as we continue these conversations and search for ACTIONABLE solutions. Love you!

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