They say this conversation is about me (it being about “women” and me being one) but they’ve made it into something that’s not.
They define “women” in ways with which I don’t identify. They emphasize and argue for things I don’t care about. Then they ignore or even disrespect the things that I do.
This “women’s” fight is not my fight. Quit bringing me into it. Do not assign this to me.
1.) Watch your language.
“Women.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Don’t use “women” when you mean “people” or “parents.” And don’t use “women” in place of “moms.”
Quit pretending that it’s a.) all of us and b.) only us.
Example 1.) At an event for “Women in Tech” as part of Chicago Techweek, the largest tech conference in the Midwest, there was a panel of women, ages early twenties to early forties, talking about gender. One of the older panelists said:
“To attract more women to technology, companies need better work-life balance. Because women have families.”
Oh. “Women” have families? Men don’t have families? All of these “women’s” families don’t have husbands or dads?
“Women” don’t have families. Parents do.
Suggesting that “tending to a family” is still “the woman’s problem” – that it’s forefront of all women’s minds and something only women worry about – is counterproductive. You’re reaffirming a stereotype while excluding people within the group. (You think I should automatically care about this fight of yours (“for my own gender”) because of… kids I don’t have?)
Example 2.) When Tesla announced their new SUV, Model X, they described it as a vehicle “for women:” third row seating, ease of getting kids in and out of car seats, and more cargo space.
“Women” do not need that. The word you’re looking for there is moms. Those two are not synonymous.
If you keep defining “women” in a way that doesn’t pertain to me, you can’t exactly expect me to identify with or support the rest of what you say on “our” behalf.
2.) Watch your six.
Don’t assume all women have your back. If you want us there, you have to make the fight right for us – meaning, acknowledge what we actually care about.
In the very least, don’t go around positioning our actual priorities as the “enemy.”
Here’s an articulation of my reality, shared by the youngest panelist at the aforementioned Tech Week event, in response to the moderator asking “what advice would you give your male allies in helping women?” Paraphrased:
“Yeah, ‘allies’ is definitely the right word. Because they already are. I work with almost all men; I never really think of myself as being a ‘woman’ or being the ‘only woman in the room,’ and frankly I don’t think they do, either. And I’d like to get to a point where we aren’t having conversations like these anymore.”
Yeah. That’s my world, too.
You want me in on your fight, incorporate my perspective. Honor what I care about. Hint: it’s not the kids I don’t have, and it’s definitely not yours. It’s not about work-life balance for me (as a woman) any more than it is for guys my age. It’s about the work itself, the work culture, and my colleagues.
On that note, to be explicit: quit being dicks to the guys. Many of them are our friends – “male allies” for real; far more our comrades than you are. It would behoove you to recognize that, if forced to choose sides, we are going to choose them over you.
Why? Because they help me with the things I actually care about, while you’re just sitting here wasting my time.
3.) Watch your step.
Be surgical. If it’s no longer an issue somewhere, stop making it an issue. Stop bringing gender up where we’ve succeeded in making it go unnoticed.
I really appreciated the underlying icy tone and implication when that young panelist said “I’d like to get to a point where we aren’t having conversations like these anymore.” It wasn’t “maybe someday we won’t need to.” It was: “maybe someday we’ll finally realize that.” Yes, sister.
If your own “teammates” are rolling their eyes and sighing, take a hint.
Once upon a time it was important to call these things out at all levels, but now we have to be careful that we’re calling attention to them in the right way and in the right places.
It’s not that there’s not still a place for these discussions – I too see plenty of instances of both subtle (even “well-intended”) sexism as well as the not-so-subtle slights. Both are worth addressing. But areas of peace previously conquered are a waste of time.
Just like throwing around “women” and expecting all women to automatically care.
I’m not telling you what to say or do – you do you, ladies. All I’m saying is leave me out of it. Your fight’s got nothing to do with mine. So dontchu put that on me, Ricky Bobby.