Tag Archives: equality

This Documentary is Awesome. Makers: Women Who Make America

What a wonderful series. How have I not seen this until now?  I made it through all three episodes available on PBS.org this weekend, and was blown away.  I’ve always considered myself something of a feminist, so I was embarrassed to find out from a TV documentary just how woefully ignorant I am of the women’s movement in the United States.

The series first aired beginning in February of 2013 and covers from WWII through the present.  It is absolutely fascinating and well made.  It also made me very, very angry to see just how nasty a fight women have had so far.  For example, I didn’t realize that until are recently as my own childhood, there were essentially no laws on the books protecting women (or anyone else, for that matter) from domestic violence and rape.  In the 1970s, there wasn’t even a term for domestic violence.  Heartbreaking.  I’m glad we’ve come so far, but oh, boy do we still have a very long way to go to achieve equality.

What I found most interesting is how cyclical the fight has been: a push for rights, achieving those rights when enough support is achieved, and then the backlash.  Two steps forward and one step back.  Women going to work in WWII, gaining recognition and respect, then being fired and pushed back into the role of housewives in the 1950s.  Getting the ERA through congress and most of the states, and then women leading the fight against it in the last few states and getting the whole thing shot down.  And on and on.  To the current day, where sexism is still rampant at home and around the world (if you don’t believe me, check out the global Everyday Sexism Project or ask any woman who has ever done Cosplay at a con), and many countries in the developing world still treat women as property or worse.

If you’re interested, the series is free to watch online on PBS:


And since I now feel the urge to do more research into this history, I’ll post anything else interesting that I find.

Have you seen it already?  What did you think?

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Filed under Equality, Opinion pieces

Book Review: Lean In

Ok, I finally did it.  I got around to reading Lean In.  And I’m not afraid to admit it.  I liked it.  I think it could have been about half as long and made all the same points, but I say that about pretty much all nonfiction books I read.  I appreciate how many personal anecdotes Sheryl Sandberg chose to include – things many of us wouldn’t tell our friends about, let alone the public.  Most of all, I really identified with many of her experiences.

As a woman in two male-dominated professions (the military and engineering), I am used to a lot of the things she talked about – frequently being the only woman in the room, often being the most senior woman in the room, dealing with bosses who, while supportive, have never even thought about things like where someone can pump breast milk.

I definitely agree with her about women needing to support each other more.  We are often our own worst enemies.  The phrase “mommy war” shouldn’t even exist, except perhaps in a forms such as “the mommy war against drunk driving” or “the mommy war on poor health.”  It certainly shouldn’t be a war we fight amongst ourselves if we ever hope to make any progress.

As a working-outside-the-home mother with a working-inside-the-home/grad student spouse, I appreciate how well she addresses the need for marriages to be true partnerships.  I also liked her point that there need to be two approaches for things to really change: women need to be respected in the workplace, and men need to be respected for the work they do at home.  Her two-pronged approach to obstacles women face is good, too.  In a nutshell, we need to work on squashing that inner voice of self-doubt to be as (outwardly at least) confident as men, and we need workplaces that can fully support and encourage both genders to succeed.

The only thing that really bothered me was her discussion of choices.  Not everyone can choose to hire a nanny.  Not everyone can have one parent in grad school and one working, or one at home and one working.  She talks about this at length, and acknowledges that not everyone is fortunate enough to have all these choices, but she does it in a detached way that shows how far removed she is from understanding what it’s like to really not have a choice.

She has never not been able to afford the very best care and schools for her kids.  She can’t personally fathom being in the situation of childcare costing more than one of the parents can make working full time, putting them in the unbelievable situation where both parents can’t afford to work because it’s cheaper for one to stay home.  I’m glad she talks about it at all, but it stands out as the section of the book where she’s not speaking from personal experience.  And, I’ll admit, I haven’t been there either.  I’m not rich, I’ll never be able to hire a nanny or send my kid to a fancy school, but good daycare is definitely within my reach.  Affordable and flexible daycare is probably one of the biggest things holding us back from equality in the workplace.

A lot of the book was sort of moot for me, too.  Women in the military always lean in.  By definition, we have to.  So I guess while the book had me nodding my head a lot in agreement, most of it was just acknowledging things I already knew or had never had a choice about.  We always sit at the table.  If we have to be at a meeting, we darned well better be participating.  Taking the hard jobs is a requirement, not an option.  We take charge of ourselves, our jobs, our people, and our equipment, and it’s just what we do – what we are all trained to do, men and women alike, from day one.

The book was very well researched and documented, which I appreciated.  I always like seeing so many footnotes, and so much acknowledgement of the many professionals and researchers who contributed to a book like this.  She makes her points and backs them up.  She gives advice that is, for the post part, useful and practical.  And she ‘puts her money where her mouth is’ with LeanIn.org.

Overall, I would recommend reading the book to both men and women – especially men.  It would be very eye-opening for a lot of my male bosses and coworkers, that’s for sure.  But, as with all advice books, take it all with a grain of salt.  Not all advice works for all people.  The book made me think, though, which is why I can recommend it.  I like stuff that makes me pause and reflect, and to draw parallels with some of my own experiences – and even my mistakes.

Have you read it?  What did you think?  Which parts did you think were useful, and what did you think was unhelpful or out-of-touch?

1 Comment

March 1, 2014 · 8:06 am

Busting that Stereotype, Cracking that Ceiling, and Proving Those Jerks Wrong.

One of my favorite t-shirts – from http://www.offworlddesigns.com

This is for every girl or woman who had to grow up hearing any of these.  A little motivation for a gray February day.

“Girls aren’t good at math and science.”

We are.  We may not always be encouraged to be, but we are.  I’m encouraging you now.  Surround yourself with others who will encourage you.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or aren’t good at something if you haven’t tried at least a dozen different approaches to get better in your weaker areas.  Find a tutor, or a book that explains it better, or work with a friend.  You’d be amazed how much a fresh perspective and a little support can do to make you realize that math and science are fun – and not that hard if you’re not constantly told you can’t.

“Oh, don’t you look pretty in that outfit.”

You do – but that’s not all you are.  You have substance, you have worth, you have brains.  You are more than the fashion of the moment, a doll, an object, or your external appearance.

“Why are you playing with a boy’s toy?  Don’t you want a dolly?”

Variety is the spice of life.  Choice is important.  Figure out what you like, and don’t let others dictate what you enjoy.  You don’t have to pick pink sparkly things – but if you do, it should be because you were allowed a choice and decided for yourself what your tastes are.  There’s nothing wrong with pink, sparkles, ruffles, dolls, rainbows, kittens, or bows – but they shouldn’t be crammed down anyone’s throat as the only way to go or the only acceptable things for girls to play or decorate with.

“Oh, you’re such a sweet little princess”

Being a princess isn’t actually very glamorous in real life.  They have schedules, keepers, public appearances, and not a whole lot of freedom.  A real-life princess is scrutinized in the press, never gets any privacy, and has the whole world notice if she gets a gray hair or dares wear the same outfit twice.  Their ‘subjects’ often question why they are even still around – it’s rough to have a bunch of people say you aren’t necessary, or even that you’re a burden.  They’re also usually extremely well-educated, politically savvy, and highly accomplished women in their own rights, not fluff-headed cartoon characters full of sweetness and light.

“That’s such an un-feminine thing to say or do.”

Who gets to define that?  Feminine according to what standard?  None of it makes any sense and there’s no consistency.  Women should cook at home, but men get to be great chefs?  How does it even make sense that one is ‘feminine’ while the other is ‘masculine’?  Women should be in trim shape, but not so fit as to be muscular?  Skirted garments are for women in one culture, but for men in others?  You should dress ‘pretty’ but not ‘sexy’ and have to know where that moving-target fine line is at all times?  These ‘rules’ change from decade to decade and culture to culture.  So don’t bother chasing an ever-changing impossible ‘standard.’  Be yourself and find things to do that you enjoy and are willing to work hard at.

“You’re not skinny/pretty/stylish enough.”

Be healthy.  Be confident.  Take care of yourself.  None of the rest of it matters.

“You’re too bossy/b*tchy/pushy”

If you were a boy or man, you’d be described as ‘confident’ instead.  Or a ‘good leader,’ or ‘persuasive.’  It’s another double standard.  Be yourself, and stand up for yourself.  Stay tactful, but don’t be afraid to push back.  And never, ever be afraid to say ‘no.’  It’s a very powerful word.

“You’re such a feminist.”

Definition of feminism according to Merriam-Webster: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  How did that ever become an insult?  Why is it ‘ the other f-word?’  What is so awful about wanting equal rights and opportunities?  Feminist doesn’t equal misandrist.  There’s nothing in the definition about hating men, thinking women are better than men, wanting to take anything away from men.  What is so horribly threatening about people wanting to be equal?

“You’ll never find a husband doing (insert whatever they think you’re doing wrong)”

A husband is a life partner.  Partner.  As in equal.  Not someone who will take pity on you or somehow be talked or tricked into attaching himself to you for life.  If you aren’t yourself when finding a spouse or partner, you’re basing the whole relationship on a lie.  It’s not fair to either of you.  Be the best self you can be – and remember that being someone you are not won’t find you a compatible partner, it will find you misery.

“Girls/women can’t do (insert pretty much anything here).”

So there’s a bunch of stuff that an entire half of the world’s population can’t do?  Women can’t fight a war?  It’s been done at least part of the time for most of recorded history.  Win a Nobel Prize?  Many times over.  Finish an Iron Man?  Check.  Climb Everest?  Done.  Discover a new element?  Yes.  Reach the North Pole?  Yep.  Win Iditarod?  Done.  Engineer, CEO, film director, doctor, physicist, astronaut, ship captain, general, inventor, you name it, it’s pretty darned likely a woman has done it.  Probably lots of women, many of them against incredible odds and extra barriers.  So don’t tell me a woman or girl can’t do something.  When you say that, what I hear is actually, “I personally don’t think you should for some reason, but I’ll say ‘girls’ or ‘women’ to generalize so I don’t sound quite as much like a jerk.”  When you tell a girl she can’t, you’re probably doing it for a selfish or ignorant reason, or out of long habit you don’t feel like breaking.  Don’t you dare ever tell a little girl she can’t do something.  It takes a pretty soulless schmuck to squash the dreams of a child.

Yeah, ok, so I’m feeling a little punchy on this topic today.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go back to work on trying to follow my own advice 🙂

Has anyone ever told you that you can’t do something?  How did you respond?  What do you wish someone had told you that you could achieve when you were little?


Filed under Geek crafts, Opinion pieces