Related Post: A diagram on Republican views on reproductive rights at Jezebel
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Related Post: A diagram on Republican views on reproductive rights at Jezebel
Related Post: A venn diagram on being married and being sexist.
Man, do I hate that question; you will get my most ferocious eye-roll.
I find the answer to “Why can’t we have a men’s leadership group” so painfully obvious, “Because the whole world is your men’s leadership group, you nitwit. Congress? Men’s leadership group. The Supreme Court? Men’s leadership group. The Oscars? Men’s leadership group. Fortune 500 companies? Men’s leadership group. That’s why.”
This week at Role/Reboot, I wrote about a related phenomenon, dubbed by Sociological Images as Men are People, Women are Women. This is the “male default,” where you see “Deodorant” and “Women’s Deodorant,” “Bic Pens” and “Bic Pens for Her,” and other examples of the assumptive category of something genderless being male and the sideline/variation/”specialty” version is for women. In the early debate over this essay, the question was how Women’s Leadership Groups fit into this conversation; aren’t they a form of this exact thing? Yeah, maybe, but also…. not really. Let’s discuss!
This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the advice that women often get (and give!) about approaching workplace situations “like a man.” We think we will be more successful (measured in raises, promotions, respect, etc) if we mimic male peers, and truthfully, research says we probably will. Is that okay? Even referring to traits like ambition, assertiveness, and boldness as “masculine,” is problematic, obviously, but these are traits we actively cultivate in boys and often suppress in girls. Then, decades later, we reward people who exhibit these traits and cluck cluck at people who need to act like them to get recognized for their work. Doesn’t seem exactly fair, eh?
Wouldn’t it be cool if we thought that the traits we cultivate in girls were as valuable (things like organization, neatness, collaboration, creativity)? We might be coaching our male friends to act more like women in job interviews and salary negotiations. Can you imagine?
On a semi-related note, I just finished Their Eyes Were Watching God, as you know, and the critical essay at the end by Mary Helen Washington seems relevant. Many critics wonder why Janie doesn’t speak up for herself during the final trial scene (given that it’s a book about a woman finding her voice). Washington writes:
“Although I, too, am uncomfortable with the absence of Janie’s voice in the courtroom scene, I think that silence reflects Hurston’s discomfort with the model of the male hero who asserts himself through his powerful voice….When Janie says at the end of her story that “talkin’ don’t amount to much” if it’s divorced from experience, she is testifying to the limitations of voice and critiquing the culture that celebrates orality to the exclusion of inner growth.”
Related Post: I read Lean In so you don’t have.
1. GENDER: Dude writes for Quartz about adding a Mr. to his gender-neutral name and suddenly having doors open. Kind of a duh piece, but reassuring nonetheless.
2. BOOKS: Highly useful and equally addictive tool that recommends books based on other things you’ve read.
3. INTERWEBZ: Fun game from MIT where you map all of your email over all time and see how you email the most.
4. MERMAIDS: Excellent NYT essay from the excellent Virginia Sole-Smith on mermaid shows.
5. ART: Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls is awesome in her musical rebuttal to the idiotic Daily Mail who ragged on her for an exposed breast (NSFW).
6. MILLENNIALS: CNN.com comic by Matt Bors about why ripping on millennials is a) old news and b) boring.
Related Post: Sunday 106: Dustin Hoffman, Sex Ed, and Roxane Gay on a race-based VIDA test
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My new piece for Role/Reboot is about gender and the workplace. I work in tech, as you know, and there’s this phenomenon that I call the “treehouse mentality.” It’s basically like the old boy’s club, except replace brandy and cigars with video games and porn. It’s more juvenile, but it’s the same idea.
I kind of get it; for a while, tech has been this secret space of very smart, very nerdy dudes. Because they were so isolated, they were able to create a work environment that suited them perfectly. Now the treehouse is being invaded by girls (though not as fast as we might like) and they’re pointing at all the pictures of boobs on the wall and being all like, “Yo, guys, you’ve got to get rid of this shit.”
On one hand, I understand; their secret space is being invaded. On the other hand, well, it was all theirs for a while, now it’s time to grow up and open the gates.
I was inspired by a great Bob Martin essay on the software company 8th Light’s blog called “There Are Ladies Present.” He writes about trying, and at first failing, to welcome women to the tech industry. He errs on the side of treating them too daintily, which they don’t like, and this essay is his exploration of where the lines fall:
Have we created a locker room environment in the software industry? Has it been male dominated for so long that we’ve turned it into a place where men relax and tell fart and dick jokes amongst themselves to tickle their pre-pubescent personas? When we male programmers are together, do we feel like we’re in a private place where we can drop the rules, pretenses, and manners?
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When I was a kid my favorite part of getting my hair cut was paging through those big coffee table books of crazy hairstyles. Remember when those tiny rubberbanded twists were all the rage? I always wondered, who are these people that waltz around rocking these edgy bowl cuts or mint-green stripes? Welp, turns out, I know one of them! This is Grace, and for the latest edition of my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly?, she will tell us a little about being a hair model.
What’s your actual job title? This isn’t so much a real job as an adult “extracurricular activity” [ed. note: Grace has a "real" job too], but when get hired for things I am either a “demo model” or a “presentation model”. I mostly fall in to the category of “creative cut and color”, which tends to mean asymmetrical or severe looking cuts and colors not commonly or naturally found in human hair.
What would your title be if it described what you actually do? I work on event-based contract for a major salon brand as a hair “demo model.” That means I get my hair cut and colored by creative directors of different salons (basically, the top stylists and colorists, who set the tone for the styles that are “in”).
I think the most accurate descriptor would probably be “living doll”– my head and hair tend to be an experiment ground for whichever instructor is playing around with it that day. They know I’m quite open so I’ve wound up with pretty much every hair cut or color you can imagine. For public events that aren’t just in the salon, there is a makeup artist and wardrobe situation going on too.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted an entry in my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly? but today I’ve got a neat one from my friend Liz. For anyone that ever loved the Alanna quarter, E.L. Konisberg, Animorphs, or Laurie Halse Anderson, she has the coolest gig ever as the content coordinator for two blogs about kid and teen literature.
What would your title be if it actually described what you do? Editorial director of Teenreads.com and Kidsreads.com. Read: Queen of YA and children’s lit
Can you describe a typical day? Because I am the only person who works on these two websites (which host book reviews, editorial features, contests and a blog) I pretty much prioritize whatever I’d like to get done. Usually when I first get into the office, I’ll answer emails (these could be from reviewers looking for their books, the Teenreads.com Teen Board, authors/publishers/publicists about interviews or blog posts or industry news from my boss or from newsletters to which I subscribe). I’ll schedule social media for the two websites for the day, hopefully I found something interesting from the emails to post on Facebook or Twitter.
What’s the state of young adult and children’s literature these days? Oh man. Children’s lit is a little all over the place right now. It’s finally moving past vampires…but not really. The great thing about Young Adult is how everything is really crossover, meaning that the genre boundaries that are seen in adult lit don’t have the same bearing. Lines are always really blurred; you may think you are getting a story about a prep school girl who is finally realizing her life is privileged and isn’t the only thing out there…and then she’s talking to ghosts.
What is getting more popular right now is realistic fiction; this is the really aggressive, social issue-heavy, “life sucks but it’s okay” kind of book, which is actually my favorite. Think Perks of Being a Wallflower. You all definitely need to check out Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan. I did an interview with him a few months ago and he’s just amazing. Another book that was all the rage this year that you MUST read if you have not is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. John Green is a huge in children’s lit; he has an enormous online following who call themselves “nerdfighters.” So is David Levithan who is the author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (among many others) and was the editor of The Hunger Games.
Before I recap some of the big ideas of the last third, it’s probably worth summing up my feelings on this book. They go something like this: Skeptical, but read it anyway. Old news, new language. Big ideas, pithy terms. Fix the system, beat the system at the same time. Dudes, this is for you too. Hoorah!
So what did we learn in the last chapters? Stuff like…
Setting limits = longterm success – While burning yourself out in the short term may earn you quick kudos, you’re setting yourself up for a fall in the long run. If you crash and take your exhaustion to your boss, the last thing you want your boss to say is “Well, why didn’t you take your vacation days?” Self care is step one in being a productive member of any team.
“Intensive mothering” is a new phenomenon – The last few decades have seen the perceived importance of spending large amounts of time with your children culturally elevated to the point of imperative. A “good” mother is always around, 100% focused on the needs of her kids 100% of the time. This all-consuming standard is socially created; parenting has not always been this way and it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Keeping guilt-free time for yourself and your work is setting a good example for your kids; you’re teaching them about balance.
Whoever has the power takes the noun – This is a Gloria Steinem adage that Sandberg borrows to talk about being labeled the “female” COO. The reverse would be someone referring to a “male nurse;” “nurse” is assumed female and “COO” is assumed male. Many women don’t want to be the female XYZ because “no one wants their achievements modified.”
“Is this your thing now?” – If you start speaking up about an issue (gender, racism, homophobia, whatever it may be), suddenly that’s your “thing.” While quietly fitting in may still be the safest path (and in past worlds may have been the only safe path), it’s not a strategy that bodes well for the gender as a whole. So yeah… it’s one of my many “things,” got a problem?
The Bias Blind Spot – If you are overconfident in your own powers of objectivity, you can fail to correct for your biases. And we all have biases. Studies show that people who believe themselves to be the most impartial actually exhibited more bias in hiring and promotion.
Benevolent Sexism (aka Nice Guy Misogyny) – Men who hold positive but outdated views of women tend to view women in the workplace less favorably, promote fewer women, and think that companies with high percentages of women run less smoothly. Benevolent sexism often manifests in admiring but reductionist comments about women, i.e. “Women are good at nurturing, that’s just what they’re best at.” These comments, while technically positive, will ultimately lead to the discrediting, consciously or subconsciously, of female accomplishments that don’t fit a traditional gender model.
Raise the ceiling, raise the floor – While Sandberg’s advice is mostly targeted at professional women on a particular career path, her point is that women in power (in business, in policy, in everything) will lead to better conditions for women everywhere. Forty % of working mothers don’t have any sick leave at all. Families with no paid leave can go into debt taking care of sick kids or elderly parents. Basically, working conditions suck, and diversifying the pool of leaders who form those decisions can only mean good things for everyone.
So there’s that. Hey readers, did anyone think I missed anything big?
Related Post: You get no points if you don’t do the work: women in tech
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My trip through Lean In continues this week with chapters 5 through 8. While I found the first third of the book to be a helpful account of some of the attitudinal prejudices facing women in the workforce (and some reasonable strategies for coping with them), the middle third is not doing it for me. It may be because large swaths of it are about parenting (and I am not a parent), but I also find the advice to be less follow-able. Finding a good husband is not as straight-forward as collecting “kudos” emails from co-workers to share at your performance review, you know?
Sheryl uses these four chapters to discuss the “work life balance” question (the old WLB? Can we call it that?), and spends, in my opinion, an awful lot of time discussing guilt in its various forms and not quite enough time on institutionally sexist policies that reinforce that guilt. For example, I’d love to see a real discussion about how childcare arrangements can be influenced by gendered policies. If you’ve got 3 months paid maternity leave, and your husband has two weeks of all-purpose family leave, well, who do you think is going to take a step back from work for a while? Rather than allowing each family to find the right balance for themselves, these policies put strong economic incentives behind traditional gender roles.
Anyway, there was definitely still some good stuff in there, and I continue to think that if nothing else, Lean In is asking the right questions and starting the right conversations. From Chapters 5 through 8:
So yeah. The whole idea of men leaning in to their families while women lean in at work so everyone is happy seems really great. I just don’t have a husband at the moment, so the advice, while probably good, doesn’t feel especially relevant. Let’s talk in 2025, cool?
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So yesterday, my friend who we’ll call Moira, gchatted me with a question. She’d received an offer for a new job that she was super pumped to take but the money was not what she wanted, and based on her research, it wasn’t comparable to other similar positions. She asked me what to do, and I told her to ask for more, because that’s the best advice anyone has given me in these situations.
I like this conversation because for once, I got to play the helpful mentor role instead of the “shit, how do I ask for a raise???” role, which I have played many times (and published here). I have done this successfully exactly once, and it was hellllla hard, so it felt really good to be able to take my learnings and pass them on.
I share it with you now (with Moira’s permission) because I think it illustrates so many of the common issues that people (especially ladies) face when they go to have this conversation. In general (massive generalities coming…) we want to be liked, we don’t want to rock the boat, we don’t want to be thought pushy or, God forbid, bitchy. Research shows that women who act aggressively at work are actually penalized. In other words, being personally disliked by coworkers doesn’t hurt men professionally, but it does impede women’s career progression.
So, the question remains, how to do it? Here’s one example. Kids, this is as real as it gets, proven by my poor spelling and lack of capitalizations:
Moira: hey :) Happy Monday! How are you?
Moira: Would you happen to have a moment to answer a question?
me: sure, what’s up?
Moira: So, I’m super-excited about this new job
and like, ready to take the offer
but I’ve read so much about women being silly about negotiation
me: ! yes, i know right!
i feel that way too
Moira: that I was trying to figure out if I should put out feelers about the salary offer
before taking it
me: yes, you absolutely should
me: the worst thing that happens
is that they say they can’t do it
but no one is going to take the offer away
it’s really scary :-) but it’s SUCH a good thing to practice doing
me: when i tried, with my first job at this company
they said no, but they offered me a performance review after 3 months, to reevaluate
and i got a small raise at that point, that took me to my initial request
me: but definitely ask for it
they expect you to
is it better to do that by phone or by email?
i think email is easier
Moira: I do, too
me: and then maybe end your email with “feel free to give me a call to discuss further”
or something like that
Moira: Okay. What language did you use to discuss specifics? It sounds like you made a specific counter-proposal
me: I think I said something like “thanks for the offer, blah blah blah, i’m so excited blah blah blah. I’ve reviewed the details of the offer more since we last spoke/emailed…
“Given my skills xyz, I’m looking for something closer to the X-X range. Based on my research, that seems comparable to similar roles available.”
“I’m extremely excited about hte chance to do blah blah blah, and I think I’m a perfect fit for this role”
and then finish with the invitation for a call to further discuss
that is super-helpful
me: also, for what it’s worth, go look up some salaries for analysts or whatever role
Moira: well the thing is I’ve been contacted by several companies
who named ranges up to 20K higher
Moira: i mean, who knows
so aim high
Moira: but that’s where I’m getting my numbers
THE NEXT DAY
Moira: It worked :)
that is amazing
Moira: They upped it by almost 10%
you are AWESOME
thank you so much
me: i am so proud of you and me together
me: so cool!
Asking for the raise in your first negotiation is one piece of what sets you up for financial success down the line. Not only is it good practice, but it literally translates into higher income in your future. Imagine you are offered $40K, and you take it. Another newbie (perchance a dude), gets offered $40K as well. He asks for $50K, they scoff, but offer him $44K. He’s making $4K more than you, simply because he asked! And when your first round of performance reviews roll around, and you both ask for a 10% raise, you now make $44 and he makes $48.4! The gap only widens!
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