Response Crafting


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Dear “women in tech” event organizers: you’re doing it wrong.

I recently attended a “female founders pitch fest,” where each (female) founder had 3 minutes to describe her startup to a panel of (female) venture capitalists, who then had 4 minutes for feedback and Q&A. I don’t much like “women’s” events, despite occasionally going to them. And this is part of the reason why:

Most of the startups pitching had one founder. A few had 2 or 3. All of them, though, were women – except for one dude, co-founding a startup with a woman.

When it was this team’s turn to pitch, only the woman was allowed to speak. When it came to questions, only she was allowed to answer. The guy was permitted to do nothing but stand there in silence. (The one time he did try to say something, gently offering clarification, the event moderator quickly cut him off.)

Guys, if you refuse to let dudes speak at your “women in tech” and “female founders” events, you’re doing it wrong.

Your progress shouldn’t depend on handicapping those you think have the upper hand.

What value does your progress have if you won it by tying others’ hands? Worse, what’s the logic in silencing your own team mates because you saw them as “the opponent?”

Do you think women can’t make it unless we muzzle the men?

Well, we can. Women can take on unrestrained (read: real) opponents and we can let the men on our team play as well. We can win by playing fair.

I’d sooner play for real in “the boy’s game” and risk going home empty-handed – would even rather not play at all – than win what you’ve made into a Harrison Bergeron trophy.

Some may point out that women have been silenced historically. Fine. But you can honor this and still treat others as you want to be treated, to show all genders respect, to win more honestly than others did. What happened to all that “male allies” talk? Didn’t we want them on our team?

Get it together, “women in tech” events.

Oh, and serve something other than rosé and rice crackers. That is also not really helping.*

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actual rose and “rice crackers” from the event

*If you’re going to serve women nothing but pink wine and “health foods” at your own “pro-women” events, you don’t exactly have room to be surprised or offended when companies try to be more “female-friendly” by handing out nail files as “female swag” or sponsoring #hackahairdryer campaigns.


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Six ways we’ve got “Millennials” wrong

I don’t use the “M word” a lot. It’s a gross oversimplification whose connotations can be more detrimental than value-add. Like “feminist” or “vegetarian” or “sagittarius.”

But if we’re all going to insist on talking about Millennials, especially if we all think we want to target them as a group with our products, it’s probably worth understanding how we talk about them.

In short: Millennials didn’t create themselves in a vacuum.

The generation was created like every generation before: through context. 

Think about the era in which Millennials’ parents grew up. Baby Boomers enjoyed a pretty glorious era of American history – the world was our oyster, and we were the masters of the universe. Manufacturing was up; consumerism was up; everyone was building up a Pleasantville lifestyle. The message they heard was: work hard, and you’ll be rewarded. And for the most part, that held true. For a while.

But by the time the Millennials came along, a lot of that no longer held true. The start was really jobs: careers were no longer with one company; the world turned out to be a somewhat more fickle oyster.

If you wanted the American Dream, it seemed, you had to get it yourself.

1.) What work isn’t: Millennials don’t expect to work one job for 40 years. Because nobody can anymore.

Millennials didn’t grow up in the same world as Baby Boomers, in the decades following World War II, and they weren’t imprinted with everything that came with that era.

They didn’t grow up where a pretty simple formula promised stability and security, where parents worked the same jobs at the same companies for forty years.

Instead, Millennials grew up with parents who were laid off from them.

Millennials didn’t see their parents get steady promotions and consistent 3% annual raises. They didn’t grow up with a new family car in the driveway every few years or an easy, timelined upgrade to a bigger house.

Instead, Millennials watched their parents come home heavy-hearted after getting laid off – often more than once. They watched, peering between the staircase banister railings late at night, as their parents sat at the kitchen table and talked about finances – not which new car to buy next or when, but how they would pay the mortgage, whether to take out a second one, when they’d have to dip into the 401k, or whether they could afford to send the kids to college (more often than not, as these kids would later learn: they couldn’t. But to keep up with the workforce and changing economy, Millennials knew that, unlike their parents generation, theirs would still have to go.)

Millennials grew up already knowing not to expect to retire from their first job out of college. They also knew not to rely on their company to “take care of them.” They saw firsthand that the world doesn’t work that way anymore.

So world the Millennials grew up in was framed by two goals:

  1. Figure out a new formula.
  2. Stay as financially unattached as possible. Because nothing is ever a sure thing.

2.) What work is: Millennials developed an understanding of either a.) making their own way or b.) having no way at all.

This is where you get two primary groups of Millennials.

Some of them are sloughing away, working long weeks (far longer than the 40-hour standard of previous generations.) Piecing things together, trying, experimenting, putting themselves out there. And yeah, expecting something.

And then there are others, of course, who are still living in their parents’ basement. Not all of them, but some. (And I think we’re all okay admitting: there are more of these in Millennials than previous generations.)

The world is a much scarier place than what previous generations inherited. 

Millennials understand that success doesn’t come with an easy, prescribed formula. It’s no longer a matter of “keeping your head down” and doing as told. (They saw how that worked out for their parents.) So it’s either a matter of scrounging and fighting and carving one’s own path. Or, frankly, forfeiting.

3.) Finances: Student loans.

Student loans. Baby Boomers, overall, didn’t go to college. If they did, it was done more affordably. Student loan debt wasn’t a reality for them, and it certainly wasn’t a generation-wide epidemic.

On top of that, Baby Boomers enjoyed an expanding economy. They had the formula, the nation was raring to go, and business was booming.

Things have changed, now:

The workforce is largely expected to have a college degree.

But Baby Boomers have largely found themselves not in a position to buy one for their kids. And so the Millennials are filling in that gap on their own. So they enter adulthood – 18 years old – with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars already over their heads.

Only to find that, as mentioned, employment isn’t guaranteed.

4.) Consumerism: why Millennials don’t spend like the Baby Boomers.

First, Millennials don’t have the money (see “student loans.”)

But more importantly, Millennials don’t buy into the beliefs that previous generations were sold on. They don’t “believe in” the value of “lifestyle assets” like cars and mortgages, partly because a.) they’ve seen them deteriorate and partly because b.) the messaging that “American values” were upheld through these objects wasn’t pushed as hard on younger generations as it was on the post-war ones, in a nation that was eager to manufacture and banner our pride.

A word on technology: A “love of technology” isn’t about Millennials. It’s about human nature and our response to technical evolutions. Millennials are not any different than previous generations. Smarts phones are today what TV was during the 50s and 60s, and if the Baby Boomers had had smart phones as teenagers (or had been able to carry their TV around in their pockets), they would’ve been all over that as well.

5.) Why Millennials aren’t buying homes.

Of course Millennials don’t want mortgages.

First: They graduated into a housing crisis. Who would actually still “believe” this asset while coming into adulthood the same time it was falling apart?

Second, though: Millennials effectively already have mortgages. They’re called “student loans,” running up balances into the hundreds of thousands for many people in their 20’s.

Bonus: Millennials didn’t “entitle” themselves.

Every time I hear someone from an older generation scoff at the way Millennials grew up “getting gold stars and ribbons for everything,” I want to point out: well, and which generation was handing them out?

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Ways men in tech are unintentionally the sexiest

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My friend recently shared an article with me titled “Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist.”

I was pretty busy at work when I got it, so I only skimmed the title and initially misread it as “Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally The Sexiest.

And I was all “bummer! I was totally gonna write that article!” Because I was.

But a few minutes later, when I had a chance to actually read it, I realized what it actually said and my disappointment turned to… uh, whatisword? Combination of “a.) continual boredom with the ‘sexist’ conversation and… b.) renewed interest in having the ‘sexiest’ one.” Something like that.

Regarding part a.) I recently wrote that I am “so bored of the ‘gender’ conversation.” Afterwards, a friend (who’s a rah-eal kickass woman in tech) told me that the conversation is actually not boring. That we as women are not set. And that we are not ready to drop it. So I want to talk to her more and will suspend further judgment and until I hear her take.

But regarding part b.) Oh, it is on. 

I am so going to write that article.

First, a disclaimer:

I realize that it will do very little whatsoever to reconcile the original one. On sexism. At worst, in fact, my article is hypocritical and doesn’t play by the rules. (Men can’t get away with this anymore, right?)

But whatever. Because two things:

1.) Let’s call it: taking back the word “sexy.” 

Our original article author claimed that the word “sexy” was… sexist.

Somehow.

In her esteem, “describing software or algorithms as ‘sexy,’ ‘hot,’ etc.,” is an issue. Because “by sexualizing something that does not need to be sexualized, you’re creating a college-frat-boy type environment, as well as implicitly conflating quality with sexual attractiveness. If I work with you, I want to know that you’re enough of an adult to be able to appreciate something (or someone) without wanting to fornicate with it.”

Wait, did I miss something? We can’t use “sexy” now? It’s “sexist?” Even for objects?

I find things sexy. I think other women do, too. And sometimes I even say that inanimate objects are sexy and I mean it, I think, in exactly the same way that these guys do – not because I want to “fornicate” with it (I doubt they do, either), but because “sexy” has become a euphemism for attractive; desirable.

And Google backs me by the way, recognizing the informal definition of “sexy” as synonymous with “exciting, appealing, stimulating, interesting, intriguing, slick, red-hot.” You gonna take it up with them, too, article-writer??

Let’s keep “sexy.”

I do know that we are talking about people here. Not objects. And I’m saying people are sexy which, if it’s bad to say about things, it’s probably a definite no-no when it comes to people. So again, this isn’t playing by the rules. But whatever, because cue the second thing:

2.) Does saying it do harm? It’s hypocritical, sure, so I guess it might harm the argument over there on the other side (again, men can’t write this about women, so my doing so “isn’t fair.”) But am I harming the men? I’m no expert, but Imma go out on a limb here and say: I doubt it. I don’t think these guys in tech lead lives of constant objectification, so I don’t think my saying this demeans them as either individuals or a demographic. (But dear male tech community: if I have offended you, please write me. I’d be very interested to hear your take.)

Second, a heartfelt clarification:

When I say “tech,” I mean software and I mean hardware. I mean both engineers and developers. Of all kinds. And I also mean other professions who work in tech – bankers, investors, managers, suppliers, etc. Because they’re all amazing. And I got enough love for them all.

Aiight. Let’s hit it.

Here we go!

1. They make things happen.

They are creators. Inventors. Things manifest by their very hands. They bring things to life.

Any of these read “sexy” to you? If they don’t do it for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of organizers and guardians and “protectors of process” out there for you. And I guess that can be sexy too. In its own way.

2. They are “definite optimists.”

Peter Thiel, in his book Zero to One, calls out four types of perspectives. The “definite optimist has a concrete plan for the future and strongly believes in that future being better than today.” Partner material? I’d say so.

Their work is rooted in reality. But they believe in creating good.

(In contrast, “the indefinite optimist is bullish on the future but lacks any design and plan for how to make such a future possible. The definite pessimist has a specific vision for the future but believes that future to be bleak. The indefinite pessimist has a bearish view on the future but no idea what to do about it.”)

3. And if they’re creating change, that also means they’re okay with change.

They don’t hold on to things, don’t try to contain and prevent things from evolving, don’t pride themselves on best practices long expired from previous decades, and don’t spend their lives reliving old things.

Which, most importantly, means they don’t panic or break down when change inevitably happens.

Panicking or coming unhinged is never, ever sexy. Anybody who suggests otherwise has no idea what they’re saying.

4. They’re smart.

Given the first three, this may go without saying. But still.

I’d like to imagine this one’s objective. I’m not really into unintelligent people. I don’t think most people are. Maybe some people are, but for the rest of us, this one’s pretty clear.

5. They’re honest.

If engineers or developers lie, people find out. People might even die as a result. So the ones I know have minimal tolerance for lies – being lied to or lying to others. These aren’t people to even fabricate, exaggerate, or flower.

They dislike the very concept of misrepresenting or wasting anything, from what they’re doing to how long it might take.

6. They’re humble.

It’s pretty much a by-law. Dudes in tech are, as a lot, a bit self-deprecating. They mostly downplay or underestimate their own competence, often erring on the side of speaking confidently about less than they really know.

There’s a reason, after all, that the title of both articles – the original, and mine here – specify that these dudes are doing all of the things we’re accusing them of only “unintentionally.”

7. This also means that they play well with others.

They like collaboration, leveraging what others have done before them, and communicating closely to build it “right” rather than simply “their way.”

Two extra-special considerations:

1. Of course. We gotta talk money. We can’t talk about guys being sexy without talking about money. Amirite?

This one comes as a special delivery, straight from me to my oh-so-beloved female peers out there who – in a totally un-sexist and modern, feminist way –  actually still evaluate potential husbands, on date like 1 or 2, by their earning power.

These super un-sexist and modern women want a guy who earns a lot – at least six digits, usually, though sometimes I’ve heard the magic number is something like “$115K,” I guess just to make sure he clears it. To get there, they go for those cliched job titles and dismiss the – what “unsexy” (?) – ones. Like engineers, who apparently don’t stack up.

But apparently these super modern women don’t do their research, even on these metrics they care so much about. Otherwise they would likely know that 9 of the 10 highest paid degrees are – guess what! – all in engineering.

2. But aren’t they all dweeby?

You don’t get out much, do you?

That’s really too bad, because many men in tech do.

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That’s it, really.

In closing: they’re pretty much the best.


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I’m so bored of the “women’s” conversation.

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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.


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The keeping of a self

Keeping, first, as in tending, maintaining, managing. They way in which one keeps a garden or keeps house.

But also keeping as in holding on to; maintaining possession of. The keeping of a self by way of defending our ownership of it.

Some people exist inside – inside of rooms; inside themselves.

There are those of us who stay inside in winter, inside for bits and pieces of our summers, inside at dawn and wait til dusk, who build our lives deliberately and then uphold these things in darkness. There is a difference from one season to the next – staying inside due to preference and staying inside despite it – one is done deliberately; the other in defense.

Some of us do not go out.

We’ve got neighbors speculating on our whereabouts and asking where we’re headed – where we’ve been. Scrutinizing our comings and goings; making assessments of our life.

The more polite ones do so amongst themselves – whispering in the corridors, looking down on us from drawn-back curtains as they watch us cross the street, ignoring their own kettle whistling from the stovetop; their baby crying in their lap. Utterly and deliriously oblivious to their own lives, so preoccupied are they with others’. 

There are also true aggressors among them. There are some people who rage against the lack of knowledge, who cannot simply sit with the unknown, cannot respect the discrepancy between what is their space. And what is others’. Who feel entitled to knowing the nuances… and become angry – accusatory; hateful –  when they are withheld.

These are two sorts of harm we do to one another: the first, to push away. The other one, though? To pull, tug, paw at, draw near… to violate personal boundaries and space; to insist or demand more than is deserved; more than what was granted. To poke around in other people’s lives, pick through whatever scraps of insight they can find – that they feel entitled to – and then cast judgment.

And this really comes as questions, accusations… it’s the obsessive preoccupation with sifting through the few elements of a person’s life you have access to, scrutinizing the details, and saddling judgment… rather than dedicating our attention to where it belongs: on our own lives.

It’s this latter group that’s dangerous; that instills a sense of fear. They boast a bloated sense of entitlement – they think their neighbor’s life is their life – that they are somehow entitled to it; have rights to consume its details – and become angry and despondent when their victims don’t agree and instead go about their day in silence and in shadows.

We argue that people “shouldn’t have to” live like this – protecting themselves against intrusion. And I agree.

There are two sides here – the doing and the judging. And there are two levels of comfort – comfort with your life… and then somehow making peace with those who busy themselves with judging it. The comfort in doing things that make you happy – leaving the house in the daylight – and then somehow simply being okay with being pawed at by people who are too bored with their own existence to make peace, in return, with you simply living yours.

But this is not always how these sort of things go. It’s not enough to simply arm yourself against it – to “accept” that the intrusions of others in your space is “normal” – permitted and okay.

It’s sort of like women when it comes to the risk of rape.

Whenever we talk about rape prevention, we make it the responsibility of potential victims. Women are told not to go out alone after dark – or not to be out at all. Short of satirical responses we have seen only recently, directing the conversation at men, the discussion never addresses them.

And sure, there have been movements – “Take Back the Night” and others – when women have boldly, vocally made their way back into public, sometimes in “slutty,” showy attire, as means of protest and display. But this doesn’t mean that individual women, when singled out from their groups on dark nights later on, don’t still get raped.

Being comfortable in one’s own skin and parading that confidence does not prevent harm from happening.

It’s the same with sexual assault – “an attack on a victim’s right to bodily integrity, to self-determination and self-expression. It’s annihilatory, silencing.”

A 22-year old male recounted his first week of college, driving by two attractive women: “They looked at me, but they didn’t even deign to smile back. In a rage, I… splashed my Starbucks latte all over them. I felt a feeling [of] spiteful satisfaction as I saw it stain their jeans. How dare those girls snub me in such a fashion! How dare they insult me so!… Those girls deserved to be dumped in boiling water for the crime of not giving me the attention and adoration I so rightfully deserve!”

Yes. The attention and adoration that he felt he so “rightfully” deserved. But didn’t. The fact is that he did not have any right to these women or their attention.

There are softer, more subtle attacks – ways to be aggressive toward a person’s right to self-determination in general. “Slut-shaming,” harassment, bullying… not only the grabbing at bodies, but the grabbing at the details of other people’s lives.

In all scenarios, the attackers are not made to stop. Instead, they are permitted to carry on, while the potential victims must brace themselves against their inquiries and attacks. And so, those who go about our own lives are simply left to defend ourselves against the surveillance, scrutiny, and scorn of others – and yes, sometimes this means tucking into silence. And it has nothing to do with our security with ourselves – nothing to do with our own comfort with our bodies, our lifestyles, or our decisions. And it has everything to do with the constant risk on the other side.

In Argentina during the ‘dirty war’ from 1976 to 1983, the military junta was said to ‘disappear’ people. They disappeared dissidents, activists, left-wingers, Jews, both men and women. Those to be disappeared were, if at all possible, taken secretly, so that even the people who loved them might not know their fate. Fifteen thousand to thirty thousand Argentines were thus eradicated.

People stopped talking to their neighbors and their friends, silenced by the fear that anything, anyone, might betray them. 

Their existence grew ever thinner as they tried to protect themselves against nonexistence. And in protecting themselves against disappearance, they also protected themselves into it. 

Silence has concentric circles. First come the internal inhibitions, self-doubts, repressions, confusions and shame that make it difficult to impossible to speak, along with the fear of being punished or ostracized for doing so… Surrounding this circle are the forces who do so, whether by humiliating or bullying or outright aggression. Shaming. Throwing out insults, such as “disgusting.”

Shame on those of us who simply live our lives? No. Shame on you for shaming.

For those who face this, confinement is always waiting to envelope us. 

A word to those who shame or insult: we are not entitled to our neighbors or their lives, and you cannot ever fully understand them.

And we should not strive to write meaning into them – our interpretations will always fall short at best; our arm’s length judgement cheapen at worst.

“There is so much we don’t know, and to write truthfully about a life, your own or your mother’s or your neighbor’s, an event, a crisis, another culture is to engage repeatedly with those patches of darkness, those nights of history, those places of unknowing. They tell us that there are limits to knowledge, that there are essential mysteries, starting with the notion that we will never know just what someone thought or felt or did in the absence of exact information.” – Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

“Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactive, stifling. it is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish.” – Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation”

To interpret is to impoverish. Indeed. And for both the owner of the story and the interpreter alike.

Especially when we seek not only to understand or interpret, but seek to claim; lay stake over; demand insight into. The world’s events are not ours to consume; to inscribe our own meaning to. And neither are our neighbor’s. To do so strips away the meaning of those to whom these events belong.

They are their stories to own. And to tell. Not yours.

And, in turn, it cheapens even the existence of the judger…

“It struck me at once what quality went to form a Man of Achievement… I mean Negative Capacity, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” – John Keats

Great men are great because they dedicate their attention to building lives that hold their attention. They don’t busy themselves with other people’s business, and they don’t spend their lives obsessing over people.

Similarly, as a wise and kind woman I know once told me, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Indeed.

Great men do not spend their lives preoccupied with other people. No, this is the hobby and preoccupation of choice only for those whose lives – and mindsets – are small.

And if we want greatness, we have to live in peace with others, and the inevitable ambiguity of others’ lives. This is the appropriate way to exist with things that are not ours and are not offered. We manage only our own stories. And we let others manage theirs.

Caring for someone means respecting their being, their life, their space.

We often have a perverse perception of “love” and the things we think we love… museums love artists the way that taxidermists love deer, and something of that desire to secure, to stabilize, to render certain and definite the open-ended, nebulous, and adventurous work of artists.

And, similarly, we do this to people in our real lives – reading “love” or the adoration of another being as the act of categorizing, controlling; to strip away their mystery and sit them up in a way that works for us. Some of us believe that “love” – or even “friendship” – means exercising control and making demands on one another.

This is not love. We do not own one another.

On going outside

Yes, in short: we should all feel secure in our lives; feel okay going about our day. If for no other reason than the fact that it is a basic right – but also that the shell of a home is a prison of sorts, as much as a protection, a casing of familiarity and continuity that can vanish outside.

Virginia Woolf’s created protagonist Orlando, a character who was permitted the ability to exist for centuries, transitioning from one gender to another. Orlando, it has been said, “embodies Woolf’s ideal of absolute freedom to roam, in consciousness, identity, romance and place.” The freedom to roam… without, it should be said, someone trailing her or inquiring about her whereabouts; when she came and went, and why.

“To spin the web and not be caught in it, to create the world, to create your own life, to rule your fate, to name the grandmothers as well as the fathers, to draw nets and not just straight lines, to be a maker as well as a cleaner, to be able to sign and not be silenced, to take down the veil and appear: all these are the banners on the laundry line I hang out.” – Rebecca Solnit

Indeed. This is the lifestyle to which we all might aspire – not only for ourselves, but for others: Not only the comfort to live our own lives, and the respect to let others live theirs. Un-accosted; un-confronted; un-attacked.

Yes, what a lofty aspiration for us all!

Perhaps we might all aspire toward both the keeping of – and keeping to – our own selves.

Ana Teresa Fernández, Telaraña / Untitled

Ana Teresa Fernández, Telaraña / Untitled

“For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others… Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless.” – Virginia Woolf


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Our generation needs to learn to move on

When the world seems as though it’s “falling apart,” it’s very likely that what’s actually failing is not the physics of the world, but the way you’ve built it up around you – the structure and the “normal” we’ve tried so hard to create, when too contradictory to the way to things should be, it crumbles.

When things fail, there are countless reasons. But there are only two appropriate responses: evaluate the fallout to prevent it in your next effort, or take it as a sign and move on. The least appropriate response, just to be clear, is to sulk and mourn over the loss.
Our economy, our market – and, incidentally, our ways of interacting with them and defining ourselves in relation to them – have changed. Old standards that we took for granted have been replaced with new norms, and while some of us have successfully adjusted, the unfortunate reality is that many of us are lying awake at night, clutching the tattered remnants old dreams to our chests and lamenting the fact that we don’t have our own houses and a couples of little wailing mouths to feed like our parents did “by now.”

The fact is, somewhere along the line, we created that norm. As a society, we defined, sought and defended something that has only been “normal” for a few generations.

Life – and the meaning of it – goes deeper than the white picket fence, and it can’t be summarized in the simplicity (and, quite frankly, shallowness) of “The American Dream.”

Life is more that that. It’s about success, sure, and building relationships and lifestyles, making love and doing good work. But it’s also about being awake for it all – about looking around every day and being engaged enough to notice changes in our world – and the world now available to our generation – in order to identify what’s not working and opportunities for what may.

And when things don’t go right – including those “things” that we once held sacred – we need to roll with it.

So when your college degree doesn’t land you on the “right” career path (which may or may not have been your father’s) or you can’t save enough for a down payment or you find yourself baby-less at 32, you need to deal with that, accept it as part of our new reality, and adapt.

Be creative. Be innovative. Be your own generation rather than a replication of what worked before.


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There Is No Gender Gap

That’s right, I said it.

 
I have read countless books marketed towards the professional woman, warning her to watch out for sexism and salary inequalities. I have read tons of the research concerning this argument. I took gender theory classes in college. Two months into my very first job, I discovered that a male peer hired on the same day and similarly lacked experience was being paid 10% more. 
 
And even after all of that, I still assert that there is no real gender gap. 
 
Yes, women may be paid $.75 for every man’s dollar (a discrepancy that, as a former senior colleague informed me (however jokingly), is because maternity leave requires an absence for a fourth of the year, therefore justifying that we surrender a fourth of our pay.)
 
As much fun as that theory is, I think the reality is: women ask for this difference in salary. 
Or rather, don’t ask for it to be eradicated.
 
Now, before we get up in arms with one another, let’s consider some key points:
 
Get Hungry For It
In articles and books that discuss the 75% pay debacle, many go on to later admit that most women don’t appreciate money like they do other things, meaning that when they’re asked what drives them, fewer women than men answered “wealth.” (As a rule, I actually reject most stereotypes. I particularly do not identify with this one, being a woman who expects to be compensated for the value she offers. That aside, this may very well be true for most women.) So, let me ask you: are you hungry?
 
Ask and You Shall Receive
When women don’t put the same value on money, they don’t fight for it – but men do. I frequently read research stating things like “women say they feared to negotiate when offered their first position… even women who are firmly entrenched and recognized for their achievements continue to take new positions without negotiating.”(1) Ladies, listen up: accepting a job offer is like buying a car. The sticker price is never the “real” price at which the dealership is willing to sell the car; the salary a company offers is never what they’re willing to pay you.
 
Fake It Until You Make It / Act The Part
I am an advocate for being conscientious about your appearance. You may not want to judge a book by its cover, but everyone does. That’s why first impressions have so much weight. When you’re going to work, what you wear sends signals to those around you on how they should perceive you – and, incidentally, how they should treat you.
 
I am endlessly surprised by the number of women (of all ages) who stride into work wearing short skirts, sky-high heels, fluorescent nails, blue eye shadow… the list goes on. If we do not take ourselves seriously, nobody else will. If you expect to be paid six digits, present yourself as someone worthy of that salary. If you’d wear it to a club or on the couch when you’re hung-over, don’t wear it to the office. (And this isn’t sexist: if men rolled into the office on a Monday morning with their top three buttons undone, bright red shoes, or jean shorts, they’d probably be making 25% less too!)
 
In Short: Wake Up!
If the gender gap is alive and well, it is because we as a whole have fed it. Women apparently tend to be more complacent than men. Some of us also don’t take ourselves as seriously as our male counterparts do. Just like many of you, I have been subjected to lower wages and being addressed as “sweetheart” in the workplace – but I refuse to accept this as the standard of my career progression. I know I’m worth more. 


I’m not saying you won’t have to work twice as hard as your male colleague at least once in your career – we all probably will. But if you see yourself as making 100% of his salary, and present yourself that way, I do not believe that there’s a reason it won’t be a reality.
 
 
(1) – “Be Your Own Mentor” -Wellington