Lucky me! Invited to speak at a local women’s networking group because last year there was standing room only, and who am I to say no to my adorning fans, of which no-less-than half I am related to?
Here’s how it goes: the Board presents the topic, and I’m supposed to run with it. Share my two cents, then open the discussion with the people in attendance to share, if they want, their two cents on the designated topic.
WHAT IS A TOPIC OF DISCUSSION FOR WORKING WOMEN?
The board members were kind enough to ask my opinion about what we should talk about and BINGO!! I had just come from a terrific writing group, where the writers around the table responded to this prompt:
You are a teenager or young adult, write about “One time at work.”
After ten minutes writing on the topic, we took turns reading our work aloud. Every one of the nine writers, women aged 35-75, wrote about a time they were sexually harassed, albeit discreetly or grossly, at work, and how we never saw it coming.
This was before pussy grabbing was officially endorsed by the President of the United States.
The stories were dark, funny, frightening, pathetic, innately infuriating, and surprisingly reassuring to learn each of us was not alone. It had happened to all of us early in our careers, spanning decades and nationwide, from country farms to inner cities. Sexism in the workplace sure doesn’t discriminate.
I pitched this idea. One board member immediately said, can you make it funny?
Sure can, I assured her. Frustratingly funny, like fuckthisshit funny.
The other board member crossed her arms high on her chest, and shook her head like a toddler refusing strained peas.
“No, too political. We shouldn’t be political. No way.”
I did not climb across the table and throat punch her; I am not a violent person.
The smooth, calmer board member prevailed, reassuring her distressed colleague of course we wouldn’t do that, and I excused myself and went to the bar.
Here’s the kicker: the guest that very night was a physician speaking about heart disease. A cardiac surgeon giving stats as heart disease as the number one killer of women; diagnosis and treatment, signs and symptoms, prevention tips, and here’s where it rang all too true (paraphrasing):
“Unfortunately, women are not used as case studies or research subjects evaluated for pharmaceuticals or treatment for heart disease. Men are the only subjects used, so we really don’t know.”
Huh? Is this doc getting political, or just citing her experience and research?
The reality is politics are discriminatory towards women, always have been, and in today’s anti-female political climate, politics dictate research destined to keep women unstudied, underrepresented, underpaid, and unrecognized.
And we can’t take that quietly.
We have to tell our stories, because nobody else will. They’re our stories, and if they overlap with politics or occurred because of politics, then that’s life. Literally.
We must continue uncomfortable conversations that build bridges, open minds, and expose truths with raw honesty, compassion, and maybe some laughter at the absurdity of what is.
# # #
Come hear what they don’t want me to say
I’m speaking at Newtown Working Women’s Forum in Sandy Hook, CT Wednesday, May 17th on the topic of Bad Bosses, and leading a discussion afterwards. Big laughs and big thinks promised. Tickets available here.
I did something similar with the topic How to Age Gracefully, and well, you can imagine that took a bit of a detour. You can watch that video here, if you’d like. Or don’t. I don’t care. Maybe a little, but not too much.
Lauren Rader says
Great post. And I read all the way through 😉
Susan Bonifant says
The challenge is that when we want to talk politics, we often can’t get past the fury (our own or another’s) to even express the opinion, much less find common ground. So I like to concentrate on approach as much as content. Remaining silent isn’t an option, but worse than anything, is when people don’t talk because they feel there’s no point.
It’s an interesting challenge, but I like working on things I know can be fixed.
Thank you for this post, I am your new fan!