I’ve always been that girl with more guy friends than girls. I just didn’t fit in any category – I was always too heavy, too simple, too innocent, too ambitious, too much. In general, I had a hard time relating to most girls. Plus, let’s be real – there’s a reason the movie is called “mean girls”. It was just easier to be friends with guys, occasionally fall in love with my best guy friend, and then get severely friend zoned LOL.
Anyway, I digress.
Now as a young woman having worked in corporate America for a number of years – I’ve experienced a lot of the intricacies that come with the gender norms our society has defined. I should note… I am, for all intents and purposes, a TRADITIONAL feminist. You won’t find me at a women’s march because I personally feel the modern feminist these days approach their message with aggression and desire to be SUPERIOR instead of EQUAL to man. Too many times I’ve also seen men be completely emasculated because of a “feminist”. I’m all for girl power, but I’m also a conservative Christian who believes in the roles defined in that context – I respect my husband and let him lead our home, BUT I equally expect him to treat me like a partner and know that my voice matters just as much. We’re a team and we make decisions together. In other words: It is possible to coexist in harmony based on biblical truth, and still be a sassy Latina.
Like many other things, there is a lot of gray area in this topic and a lot of room for opinion, but I think we can all agree that there is still discrimination to some capacity towards all minority groups, including (and especially) women. I’m not talking about equal pay or opportunity. Those things are important, but today I’ll be discussing something that is less political – and more social, because I truly believe in my heart that most problems stem from unresolved social issues. I’d like to address the day-to-day interactions between men and women, and how to maneuver conversations or comments that are sexist or offensive.
I bring this up primarily because I’m currently working in a setting with a lot of men, and I’ve found myself having to coach myself in this area. When I’ve shared my experiences with friends and family, they all seem to relate to my stories and feel so alone in them. Like many other topics I feel strongly about, it hit me that it’s just not being talked about enough – and when it’s being talked about, it’s been done in such a radical annoying way (#metoo) that people either join the senseless yelling or roll their eyes.
My point is: there’s a problem that still needs fixing - but everyone is so busy screaming about it instead of contributing to the solution.
So… why don’t we try another approach, sis? Here are my 5 tips on how to maneuver being a woman in a man's world.
Know when to speak up
I made this the first point because it is the most important thing I’ve learned on this journey. Lean in close because if you walk away with NOTHING else, know this: Not everything someone says to you warrants a reaction. Why do you think we get annoyed with those women that are always complaining about something? You lose your credibility when you run around kicking and shouting at everyone that says something mean to you.
Girl, relaxxxxxx. Breatheeee. Wooosaaaa. Don’t you know that getting a rise out of you is exactly what they want? Pick your battles and know when to speak up. It’s not defeat, it’s strategy – and we know ALL about strategy. We turn into an experienced FBI agent when our friend needs us to Facebook stalk someone, and into attorneys with elaborate arguments when our man comes at us with accusations. This is no different.
Be smart, be strategic, be political. Now to be clear, this doesn’t mean you turn the other cheek all the time. There is a time and a place to stand your ground… which brings me to my next point.
Speak up with purpose
When you feel the need to speak up about something that was said to you or the way you were treated, approach is everything. To best give you an idea of approach, let me share an example with you. In this case, we’re looking at a scenario playing out in a home between a husband and a wife. It’s not based off my marriage, I should be clear, but this is something I feel could commonly occur even today.
“I just don’t understand why you expect me to clean the kitchen or help you pick up. I work like crazy and shouldn’t have to be taking care of house chores, that’s on you.”
“Why is that on me?! Because I’m the woman here?! How about all the times I pick up after you and wait on your hand and foot?! I can’t believe you would say that. And just for the record, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you – and if does not get done I’m going to really get pissed off.”
Yelling. Accusations. Emasculating. Threatening. By the end of it, this woman is not only riling herself up, but her husband probably ignored her screaming because he felt disrespected and annoyed, and she was left feeling defeated, out of control of the situation, and likely ended up doing it herself. Around and around we go.
Here’s a different approach:
“I just don’t understand why you expect me to clean the kitchen or help you picking up. I work like crazy and shouldn’t have to be taking care of house chores, that’s on you.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you live here just as much as I do so you are not ‘helping me’, you are doing your part – and just as you expect me to do my part here, I expect the same.”
This woman is not nagging, she’s not yelling, but she’s standing her ground and bringing the message back to the table: We are equals in this place, and we each contribute to this home.
Same scenario, different approach, different outcome.
Know your worth
The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop having a latte and reading a book, nothing out of the norm for this gal. There was a couple sitting in the booth adjacent to me, and they had been bickering since the moment they blew through the doors. He was clearly really annoyed and frustrated with her, and she looked like she was trying to get a point across but couldn’t manage a word in.
I couldn’t help but notice the way he spoke to her, the words he was using, the way he treated her. And while most people would probably point the dagger at him, it was her that I was judging for allowing herself to be treated that way. She obviously had accepted this as her norm, and he knew that. Now granted, I have no idea what they were arguing about – but that doesn’t really matter in my eyes. Circumstances and actions are no reason to belittle or disrespect anyone, on either front.
I know it’s easy to throw yourself a pity party because “that man was mean to me”, but this all starts with you sister. I’m a firm believer that we allow what we believe about ourselves. If we don’t have any self-respect, how are we to demand respect from others? Know your worth and stand in that truth, especially when you’re dealing with a bulldog.
Be the beaver, not the shark
Did you know that beavers are surprisingly violent animals, but only when provoked? Although to the naked eye they appear to be gentle and cuddly creatures, they have huge razor-sharp teeth that never stop growing and are fiercely territorial.
Most of the time they don’t concern themselves with anyone or anything, because they’re too busy building these really elaborate architectural structures underwater. But come into their territory or make them feel threatened, and they WILL snap back.
I think you see where I’m going with this…
Instead of being known as a deadly predator that attacks unprovoked and everyone is terrified of, be the cute cuddly creature that has a backbone and knows when to defend. Focus on you, keep your hands and feet in your lane, but should someone provoke – be the beaver.
Respect the ripple
This last part is important, because I think women tend to have an all or nothing approach. We’re either not doing anything to stand up for ourselves, or we’re approaching it with outright aggression and hoping that if we yell louder, we will finally be heard.
Consider a large and gorgeous painting. From higher up, it looks like a majestic and unified piece of art. You get closer and come to the realization that the painting is actually made up of a bunch of tiny paint dots and strokes that likely took the artist years to create.
What’s your reaction?
The painting doesn’t lose integrity but quite the opposite… Most people look at this type of art as remarkable. It’s considered revered because so much work, effort, and detail went in making it beautiful. This is no different. Understand that while you may not be able to fix the whole issue, you can change the trajectory of one encounter… and that one encounter is another small paint stroke on this large canvas.
Can you just imagine the ripple effect we would have if we knew when and how to speak up, and never lost sight of what we’re worth?