Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Strong Women

Dear Sugar, the advice column, is back. Only now it is a most excellent Podcast by the two Sugars, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. If you've never read Dear Sugar, it's not your typical advice column. You'll find no Miss Manners here, as Sugar deals with everything from sexuality to drug addiction to family dynamics. At the core of most of Sugar's advice is that it's okay to be your true self, whatever that may be. It really resonates. I read the column for a few years, then Sugar was revealed to be Cheryl Strayed, who had just released her book Wild, and a collection of Dear Sugar columns, called Tiny Beautiful Things. Dear Sugar went on hiatus while Cheryl promoted her books and the Wild movie.

I was excited to learn Dear Sugar was back, and subscribed to the podcasts. (I finally found something I can do with that 50 minute commute!) The second Podcast episode  deals with a letter from a woman who suffered extreme emotional degradation at the hands of the man she loved, and she questions if all men are like that, and if there are any men out there who really respect and love women. The Sugars discuss feminism and how deeply ingrained in our culture it is for men to degrade women as a means of controlling them.

Last week I was talking to a man who I know, not personally but in a professional manner. Although I'm not going to disclose the nature of the conversation, I will say that it was not my boss, or a client or anyone close to me. During our discussion, there came a point where he actually was making a case for me to NOT go for the thing I wanted to go for, and his justification was that I already had a pretty good thing to begin with, and I should just be grateful for what I had and not have higher ambitions.  (I know this would make more sense if I actually told you the details, but you'll just have to trust me).

He was telling me what men have been telling women for decades, if not centuries. You're lucky you have this much! You're lucky we gave this to you. You don't deserve more.

I wasn't going to just sit back and listen to that load of codswallop, so I called him on it. He said he didn't mean it that way, and the truth was, he didn't really mean to say that I didn't deserve more. And that is what is so frightening. Pushing women down, "keeping them in their place," is so ingrained in our culture that men often don't recognize it in their own behavior. It's how they were raised.  Boys are taught that women are the weaker sex. Male body parts are used to describe bold, confident behavior. Female body parts are used to describe weakness and cowardice.


It is common knowledge that women are paid less than men for the same work, across all disciplines. It's still happening today, despite being known. Women are still portrayed in movies as being only concerned with relationships and their worth determined by their appearance or the status of the man they are with.

Well, it's time for that to change. Now. With our generation. If there's anything true about GenY, it's that we aren't afraid to speak our minds.

I started writing this post a few months ago, but never finished because I couldn't find this article that I had read about this subject, and I really wanted to reference it in this blog. Then, finally, one of my friends shared the article. It's called 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn and is written by Soraya Chemaly.  The author definitely better articulates what I am trying to say.

            "We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance."

It's time for that to change. Ladies, don't be afraid to take charge of your own conversations, and lives. Speak up, teach your daughters to speak up. Teach your sons to respect women as equals and listen to women's voices. Because we deserve it. We do deserve more.