My very brief talk (I shared my 10 minutes with another person) was about my work with Rocktown Rallies, the refugee advocacy group that I helped start back in the fall. After my 3 minutes in the spotlight, I fortunately was able to kick back and listen. Of course the organizers were right - the experience of deliberately respecting space for women is a cool thing. And it is also way too rare.
I am an almost 40-year-old Ph.D. holder in Women & Gender Studies, and yet still I am plagued by worries about authority and legitimacy. All too frequently I find myself slipping into gendered norms of behavior, and that frustrates me. I try to mother my girl child with messages of gender empowerment, and I simultaneously struggle with my personal feelings of profound disempowerment. My only comfort (and simultaneous gigantic disappointment) is that I'm not alone in these feelings. Women of all walks of life feel the same way. Too many of us smart, capable visionaries spend much of our time feeling boxed in, silenced, and invisible.
Sidebar: Open a new browser window and type the phrase "where are the women?" You'll get a list of articles with themes that look something like:
- Where are the women in STEM?
- Where are the women in finance?
- Where are the women in art?
- Where are the women in tech?
- Where are the women in sports?
Last night's presentations certainly reminded me of the frustration of living in a masculinist world. But they simultaneously served as nice reminders that women are very much present, and doing awesome stuff. We are surrounded by women who are brave and creative and innovative and assertive. Not only do I think it's extremely important to give such women props, I think it's also good to be confessional and admit that I very much want to be like them. While I feel like I have some of those traits some of the time, my successes certainly haven't come without struggle, second-guessing, and doubts. For every brave thing I've done in my life, there are dozens of other opportunities, plans, and projects that I wanted to pursue and talked myself out of doing.
We're all on a journey, and we make choices as we travel together. For the girls and women out there, I encourage you to be courageous, strong, and fabulous. Doing so may be scary, or feel selfish, or open you up to criticism. Repeat after me, and holler an enthusiastic: "SO WHAT!" For the boys and men out there, I encourage you to look at the girls and women in your lives and to be supportive, understanding, and fabulous as well. Doing so may be scary, or feel discombobulating, or open you up to criticism. Go ahead and add your voice to the "SO WHAT!" chorus!
Men and women... more alike than different, and all deserving of equal regard. Why limit our collective potential because of some silly ol' gender norms? Personally, I'm tired of pushing myself to the backburner. To quote Big Hero 6, I know that I need to "woman up." I need to resolve my resentments, to ignore my excuses, and to stop my belly-achin'. I have dreams, and it's time to start acting on them. If you need me, I'll be laying the groundwork for my next 3 minutes in the spotlight. I hope you'll come shine with me. I can hardly wait to kick back and listen while you share your awesomeness.