In this clip from Inside Amy Schumer, Schumer comes upon Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Patricia Arquette celebrating Julia’s “Last f***able day.” It’s meant to skewer Hollywood but yeah, it’s a a mirror of our culture at large. Since it’s about all of us let’s toast and chug the melted ice cream, ladies!
For those engaged in the conversation about social change through culture change or political change here’s your answer. Do you want to listen to a bunch of males mutter about what they will think about doing for you if you put them in office or do you want to watch this and share with your friends and heighten awareness of the unspoken belief systems that keep women down.
Art is a way forward!
Yes, we need political change and let’s work for that but also as important, perhaps more important let’s prime the culture for change with smart commentary like this.
OK. I have a question for you wise ones particularly you moms and dads and social media wizards. I’d really like to hear from you teens out there. I have a few resources in mind, but I need your thoughts and inspired suggestions.
We’ll call this a hypothetical.
Say you are a mom of a 16 year old girl. Say your daughter is very bright and beautiful and going to one of the most prestigious gifted high schools in her town. Say she has fallen in with a crowd that thinks the game “F**K, Marry or Kill” is Fun, and thinks that oral sex is not really sex. She is a good student but has had stress around school performance. She has been a girl who has known her value in the world. Her family is loving and caring, but mom is going out of her mind with worry because not only does previously sweet daughter think oral sex is not sex, she and her boyfriend appear to be addicted to sexting and other sexually provocative behavior on various social media, including Facebook and Tumblr.
Mom fears this amounts to a pornography addiction. Mom has intervened stridently with daughter, boyfriend and with boyfriend’s mom – who doesn’t seem to care. Mom and daughter are locked in disagreement. Dad has been asked to intervene.
Where would you point this mom and family to for support? Also, do you know of social media “erasing” and monitoring services that could be useful? I know of a few under development. Thoughts and reax?
Leadership. We talk about it all the time. But what is it?
I’ve worked in places where leadership is measured by office configuration and size of paycheck, by number of phone calls placed and appointments made, by the urgency, authority and volume of voice with which one gives orders, by the minutes one arrives late at a meeting, or by the number of minutes of face time one has with the boss.
You know and I know that none of this is leadership, but sometimes it passes for the real thing when there is lack of an authentic leader.
Oddly, it was a photograph of an event in a far off place that got me to thinking about how we define leadership.
It was a news photo in the Sunday New York Times. Black and white, running over three columns at the top of the page, the photo was of about two dozen women – dressed casually in slacks, skirts and blouses -tossing handfuls of soil on what looked like a mound of dirt and rocks. The caption said: “Women in Dyararnakir, Turkey, performed a task customarily done by men when they threw soil on the grave of Cemse Allak, a stoning victim.” The headline on the article read, “Honor Killings defy Turkish Efforts to End them.”
The women throwing the dirt are members of KAMER, a women’s rights association. The woman in the grave had lain semi-conscious in a hospital for seven months after her skull had been crushed. The man who had made her pregnant lies in a grave of his own. This is the way honor is upheld in a culture that believes that an unmarried pregnant woman, even if brought to that state through rape, has brought shame upon her family and merits a death sentence.
It appears Turkey has been trying to win its way into the European Union, and to do so it has passed human rights legislation that lawmakers hope will squelch the tradition of murdering in the name of “family honor.” As many as 5,000 women and girls are murdered by family members each year in so-called “honor killings” around the world, according to The United Nations Population Fund.
Turkey’s legislation is necessary, but it won’t mean squat without grassroots leadership like that provided by the KAMER women who visited the stoning victim in the hospital, claimed her body, and saw to it that she had a coffin and a burial. They supported her when her family wouldn’t. Research on “honor killings” has shown that females in the family – mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters and cousins are commonly complicit in the violence and support attacks and “honor killings.”
Given Turkey’s cultural context, the actions taken by the women of KAMER is clearly an act of leadership.
Given the “Western” cultural context, what I see in this news story is that time is right for each of us to take personal action to disarm the weapon that enables ancient practices like “honor killings.”
That weapon is gossip.
Women value connection to others more dearly than anything else, research over the past three decades has found. And because of that, gossip hits hard as a stone and fells even the strongest among us.
Women attack each other constantly, covertly and vigorously, indirectly through gossip, slander, shunning and bullying. Still, that isn’t as aggressive as what men do – or is it?
The ways in which women attack – dubbed indirect aggression by psychologists – are devastating to individuals. Women mostly target each other, and in some cultures the attacks are deadly.
Yes, men’s typical aggressive choices – fighting, guns, bombs, weapons of mass destruction – are designed to kill and maim. This kind of aggression is open and endemic. We discuss it and actively take sides on its presence in the world. But woman’s way of attacking indirectly allows us to trivialize, minimize, and hide the way we hurt each other.
Indirect aggression has a profound affect on the status of women in the world. It is the main expression of women’s sexist beliefs about ourselves.
I can almost see the eyes rolling here – NOT another call for political correctness! This is a bit of a mind twister so please bear with me. This is absolutely not political correctness. There is no code of behavior. No checklist of approved attitudes and behaviors. Nor should we consider taking the short cut by imitating men’s worst behaviors.
No. We have to find a new way.
There is instead only the requirement that we be real and respectful and speak our minds, that we learn to let go of our anger and envy, that we refuse to participate in mutual downgrading.
Women are sexist. We are programmed to work against and undervalue ourselves. Indirect aggression is the method we use to keep each other in line and maintain the status quo. And the status quo does not serve our goals. The status quo seeks to keep us less visible.
This is a dirty old secret that was never really a secret and that has finally been thoroughly addressed in Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman by Phyllis Chesler, a groundbreaking feminist psychologist and author. Chesler says that the book took her 21 years to write, and during most of those years other women begged her not to write it.
In the Introduction, Chesler says: “As feminist women, we knew that we were doomed without sisterhood so we proclaimed it, even in its absence. We wanted to will it into existence, verbally, without wrestling it into being.”
Those of you tempted to browse to the next page because of the word “Feminist” – please don’t! This book helps us – it helped me at least – to understand and recognize the attitudes that I have internalized and how they are hobbling my power in the world.
The book is exhaustively researched. Chesler provides evidence from primate and anthropological research, workplace studies, sociological data, original interviews, memoir and more to make the case for woman’s inhumanity to woman. She discusses indirect aggression among girls and teenagers, between mothers and daughters, sisters and best friends, women in the workplace, women in groups, as well as personal examples from the women’s movement.
And yes, Chesler offers examples from research that demonstrate how women’s gossip creates the climate in which “honor killing” of a woman can become inevitable.
Although women in the West are leading the way on many fronts our advancement is hobbled by these dynamics.
“Women in the family face life and death battles, and we transfer those into our worklife,” Chesler says in a telephone interview. “It would be better if women could learn to take things less personally. … keep our eyes on the prize.”
“Women are the chief enforcers of this (aggression),” she says. “Men do not notice it.”
There’s a lot of information in this book, and it’s tempting to make it an intellectual exercise. We shouldn’t let that happen. The bottom line is personal and in our hearts. It takes us beyond rhetoric and thought and to a place where we each, as individuals, can recognize our everyday sexist assumptions about ourselves and other women.
I encourage you to read Chesler’s book to fully experience the passion and clarity of her argument. As Chesler writes, “I no longer share as an article of faith the belief in the power of political-social programming to improve human nature. … I am suggesting that the human spirit has the power to learn from adversity in remarkable ways.”
The spirit does. To push back and expand our personal edge in the world causes discomfort. But it also forces learning. And that learning can bring change around the world.
In Turkey, the change is under way at the legislative front and at the personal front. That Turkey even cares how it looks to the European Union and the “Western” world is the result of the personal work of millions of individuals and, in turn, institutional response to that work, during the past several decades.
Those of us in WorldWIT can help write the headlines of the next decades by taking leadership and fine-tuning our ear and our actions so that we are acting openly and authentically as woman and as individuals.
Each of us can heighten our awareness and then, before you know it, we’ve jointly created a critical mass of consciousness that will take us to the next level. That’s social change.
It is in that spirit that I offer Chesler’s 9 suggestions for how women and daughters can accept, sense and be with ourselves and one another to create a fresh perspective.
1. “Humbly accept that change is a process.”
It can’t be rushed.
2. “Acknowledge, do not deny the truth.”
Women are normally aggressive, oppressed women are angry; be realistic about what to expect from other women.
3. “Become strong.”
Develop a strong sense of self and of your uniqueness.
4. “Become strong enough to take criticism.”
Hear respectfully. Opposing views are not a personal betrayal.
5. “Learn to express your anger: rules of engagement.”
Perhaps here we can learn from men, who comfortably occupy a psychological middle distance from each other.
6. “Learn to ask for what you want: Learn to move on if you don’t get what you want.”
Put it into words and ask for it directly.
7. “Do not gossip. ”
Do not initiate it and do not pass it on.
8. “No woman is perfect: apologize when you’ve made a mistake and then move on.”
If you are the saboteur, cut yourself some slack. If you are slandered or sabotaged, deal with it directly.
9. “Treat women respectfully.”
Cultivate the concept of an honorable opponent.
By the way, the opinions presented in Sally’s World are mine and do not in any way represent those of WorldWIT. I invite your rage and your praise. Email me!
New research in the United Kingdom has found that among women born between 1954 and 1958, college graduates were 50% more likely than non-graduates to remain childless throughout their lives. Studies conducted in the United States and Germany had similar findings.
These trends register as true for my generation of college-educated women, but I am betting that findings might be different for women younger than I am.
I have seen three circles of friends choose motherhood at different phases of their lives. When I was in my early 20s, many of my neighborhood friends from grade school were married and had their first children shortly afterward. When I was in my late 20s and early 30s another circle – these women my college friends – married and had kids a few years into their careers. And finally during my late 30s and early 40s, during the 90s, another circle – this time high-level executive women – decided that to follow their hearts, they would put corporate America behind and have families.
I made a different choice. When I was 13, I decided that I would not marry and that I would not have children. My youthful decision, arrived at so easily, emerged organically from the political, social and economic climate of the time. It was my personal hard line against what I saw as an erosive devaluing of women’s contribution to the world.
Sometimes we doubt the powers of our intentions, our ability to do what we intend to do. But this youthful commitment was something that I accomplished with little difficulty. Throughout my adult life, as time passed, with considerable reflection and equal doses of gladness and sadness, I have stayed that initial course.
At times, I have felt as though my head intended one thing, but my heart expected another. There is a way, I think, that women of my generation, no matter how well-developed our desires, still believe at some gut level that a knight on a white horse will ride in to save us from ourselves.
When I told a client of mine recently that the main reason I didn’t have children was because I had chosen a career over home-making, he said he didn’t believe it. I suspect many people just a squeak younger than me don’t believe it. But it’s true.
The way I perceived things as a teenager, the role of wife and mother was limited, especially financially. I really didn’t like the idea of not having my own source of income. My mother worked hard creating a loving home environment, raising four children and being wife to my energetic, responsible and loving father. Still some inner voice urged her out into the world, and in 1971, like so many women in their 40s at the time, she headed off to do office work. It was a point of, well, umm, discussion in our family’s household, and it met with a little resistance (I love you, Dad!)
But in the end my mother won. She took deep pride in the work she did, the money she earned, and the substantial contribution her income made to the well-being of our family. My mother loved working outside the home. As a result, she was always very supportive of my life choices – no matter how hare-brained they seemed to others – and she always urged me to aim for personal happiness.
At the time I made my youthful decision, there were few visible and positive examples of the myriad ways to be a woman, raise a family and have a career. After watching my mother’s happiness with her work, I took the road most natural to me. It seemed that to have two full-time jobs, and to try to do them both well – was not an option for me.
Since that time, many women have taken creative plunges into unknown seas of work and motherhood. Their powerful excursions – into business, politics, family and community – have opened doors for women and men alike. The most fortunate of us now have full freedom to choose our roles in accordance with our unique desires as individuals rather than by rules of gender and conformity.
For Mother’s Day, I offer them deep gratitude for their courage in finding their own way, clearing the path and making transparent and accessible for all of us what was once invisible: our unique hearts and our unique paths.
Recommended reading for this Mother’s Day: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh; The Price of Motherhood: Why the most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least valued by Anne Crittenden; Bold Women, Big Ideas by Kay Koplovitz; and Toward a New Psychology of Women by Jean baker Miller.
By the way, the opinions presented in Sally’s World are mine and do not in any way represent those of WorldWIT. I invite your rage, your praise and your suggested readings. Email me!
Sally’s World, January 10, 2003
Did you see that TIME Magazine chose three women as their persons of the year? Sharing the honor are Cynthia Cooper of Worldcom, Coleen Rowley of the FBI and Sherron Watkins of Enron.
On its cover TIME dubbed them “The Whisltleblowers.” In the photo, the three women look at the camera straight on, stern-faced, arms crossed, silhouettes dramatically lit, their hair framing their faces like haloes. They look annoyed, a bit like moms who’ve caught their 10-year olds throwing firecrackers at each other in the basement.
The photo portrait of this triumvirate doesn’t exactly fit the formula of what we think of as “out of the box” thinkers, but that is precisely what they are. To think out of the box is to be truly radical. It’s not simply to zig when you see a sign that says “zag,” but to blaze with a light that signals a whole new direction. It’s a risk and it’s a signal of what’s to come.
And in stepping out of the box, what did these three expose? Conflict, pure and simple. The conflict between what their organizations said they were doing and what they were REALLY doing.
I understand why TIME called them whistleblowers, but the term can be seen as, well, negative. It brings to mind other words like snitch and disgruntled. None of these women went to the press. The press went to them when their internal memos were leaked. None of them had an ax to grind. They all loved their jobs and believed in their organizations. As TIME says in its report, they are more like “the truest of the true believers.”
If not whistleblowers, then what to call them? These three “Persons of the Year” wriggled just as uncomfortably with being called heroes or role models.
Here’s a proposal: Let’s call them a harbinger.
And here’s why. Like the first robins of spring, our “Persons of the Year” are a signal of new growth to come in the cultures of our organizations.
If you read the TIME reports about what they did and why they did it, you will see that they were motivated by a desire to help their organizations to succeed and grow.
If this succeed and grow motivation sounds like a “chick” thing to you, well it has for a long time considered to be so. But since these women are a harbinger, it won’t be a “chick” thing for long.
The fact that they stood up could be a sign of an opening in our business organizations of benefit to all of us – men and women and future generations of employees. If we look beyond the headlines and read the subtext, this story is about how people – men and women alike – are driven to connect with each other in mutually enhancing relationships – inside and outside of organization.
It’s an opening that’s been a long time coming and was effectively advanced by Jean Baker Miller in her book, Toward a New Psychology of Women. Penned in 1976 at a time of dramatic change for women, this work is, in my layperson’s opinion, a work of remarkable clarity and brilliance.
Baker-Miller recognized that, socially, women through their activities carry human essentials that are not valued. Of these, the most important woman’s life activity is participating in growth fostering relationships – the process of acting in relationship with another person so that person can develop and grow.
This is the everyday stuff of rising children, and it is often described as nurturing or mothering. But these are gender-based words that negate the fact that all people – men and women alike -want to participate in growth-fostering relationships. Baker-Miller and her colleagues call this mutual psychological development and they say that it is essential to all of life and functioning.
So where do our whistleblowers/harbingers fit into this?
These three were so driven to foster growth within their organizations that they risked the conflict to make the growth happen.
Because women are usually subordinates, they do not actively engage in conflict with their dominants – their bosses. When the conflict is forced underground, it becomes covert, distorted and saturated with “destructive force.” But conflict doesn’t have to be that way, and by it’s nature it is not.
Conflict is actually good for us. Entered into with integrity, respect, confidence and hope, conflict is the source of all growth. “The infant would never grow if it interacted with a mirror image of itself,” Baker-Miller writes. “Growth requires engagement with difference and with people embodying the difference.”
28 years ago in her book, Baker-Miller called on women to reclaim conflict.
That is exactly what the ladies of the harbinger have done.
Their actions show that we have learned at least that much – that some conflict is necessary if we are to grow. Twenty years ago, these three would have had neither the position nor the means to even ponder a conflict. The fact that they stepped forward is a very good sign.
It’s not the end of the road but a beginning. For a long time, many of us have questioned the values of our institutions. We have looked for evolution to a more responsive organization that is more tolerant of authenticity. There’s been a lot of dissatisfaction but few guideposts to the next destination. Many of us have wondered how we have gotten into this mess and how we will get out of it.
“One adopts measures in keeping with his past training–and the very soundness of this training may lead him to adopt the wrong measures. People may be unfitted by being fit in an unfit fitness,” said the noted theorist of rhetoric, Kenneth Burke, who Baker-Miller quotes in her book.
That’s good for a giggle and it’s also true. Our three harbingers have pushed back against the “unfit fitness.”
With a little luck, they have cleared a path and planted a tiny seed for a new type of organization, one that is geared toward engendering authenticity and relationships of mutual growth.
And one that will allow us to have a good, clean fight when we need to.
Sally’s World, October 2002
By SALLY DUROS
I like to walk around in a bookstore and look at the new books and the bestsellers and browse the various sections. I like to see how and where the various types of books are shelved and what the latest trends are in size and design and color.
I’ll often just grab a bunch of books with intriguing titles and sit down. Thumbing through them, I’ll jot down any new catch phrases that I spot in a little notepad I obsessively carry with me at all times. Yes, I am the one who hogs the table at your Borders Books Cafe sipping one cup of coffee for hours, although as a good citizen I do return the books to their shelving section. People who work in bookstores don’t get paid enough to have to pick up after me. I am also hedging a bet with the fates in case some day a bookstore café becomes my place of employment.
This bookstore ritual of mine is one way in which I take the temperature of the times. From these visits, I can tell a lot about our collective mental health, about what is worrying us and about how we intend to fix whatever ails us.
On my last visit, one thing I noticed is that Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men about George Bush and his business associates has for some time now been topping the New York Times Best Sellers Chart for Business Books. The release of Moore’s book was delayed last year around 9/11, and Moore was circulating an angry email at that time charging censorship. Whatever you think of Moore’s politics, he sure knows how to push his thumb into the center of the bruise and maintain pressure with great deliberation and zeal. This one has impeccable timing. Shipping this book as the Enron scandal unfolded was serendipitous genius.
Perhaps because of my somewhat checkered, on and off illustrious career, and perhaps because I am a business writer, I am often drawn to business self-help books. These books are a kind of guilty pleasure. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I actually READ them.
You know the type. There’s usually a man or woman pictured on the red glossy dust jacket, body language denoting power, arms crossed, head tilted in challenge. The title promises to solve your burning career question of the day. You know, something like: “HOW TO AVOID BECOMING THE MAIN COURSE: Power lunching tips from 50
I am happy to report that my latest visit to this section cheered me right up. Usually these books are sold by some kind of game metaphor, or hunting metaphor or crushing-the-beer-can metaphor. You know, “You – snake, Me -crocodile – UGGH!” For a long time, there was a “Be Bad, Break the Rules and Get Ahead” metaphor. And this was especially popular among books geared toward women.
I really dislike these books because they discount the importance of culture, promote image above true values, and urge women to ignore their gut instincts. The 90s gave rise to corporate cultures of corruption and greed where office politics ruled, where so many of the behaviors urged in “Be Bad and Break the Rules” would actually maintain the status quo. I believe we have to hold true to what is right, push back and be heard if we are going to build businesses that are good workplaces for all of us.
I was cheered this last visit to the self help section because although one or two of these titles seem to sell into perpetuity, the wellspring for new books on this theme is drying up. Once again, it is Enron and the ensuing corporate scandals that have slain the “Be Bad” cliché.
All I can say is “Thank You, Sherron Watkins!” The Enron VP didn’t exactly leap, but rather was pushed, into the public spotlight. But still, she did a great favor for all people in business, but especially women. She was Brave and she told the Truth.
To fly so high at Enron, Watkins had to possess political savvy, superior intelligence and a tough gut. She knew what rules to break and what rules to bend. But in the end, what is remarkable is what she didn’t do: She did not remain silent. She spoke up – quietly – in a culture that above all valued glad-handing and backslapping and the rogue mentality (wink! wink!). The CEO and Chairman and top management team at the Crooked E didn’t listen. But the world did.
I also took the time for a second cup of coffee and to read “The Greed Cycle,” an article by John Cassidy in the Sept. 23 New Yorker that talks about how the “shareholder value movement” encouraged our corporations to go crazy. It seems we were so busy building shareholder value that we lost sight of what was valuable in our businesses and what was valuable in our selves.
So “Ta! Ta!” to books with titles that pair “Bad” and “Business.” And so long to business philosophy books that endorse image over substance. Instead I see an upward trend in titles using the words “brave” and “authentic” and gasp! “honest.”
Maybe we will all start learning things worth knowing again. Like how to develop products that meet a real need. How to sell these products to customers. And how to make those customers so happy that we ALL make a profit! Maybe we will get focused
on making an honest living again!
So my visit to the bookstore tells me that we still need time to recover, but I am optimistic. The business bestsellers tell us we are well on our way.
Sally Duros is a writer, editor, producer and communications consultant.