Happy International Women’s Day. Let’s celebrate the Men.Mar 08, 2019
While nursing a glass of red at a post work VC event, my eyes scanned the room and it was quite clear that the numbers spoke for themselves, likely a 3:1 or maybe even 4:1, men: women ratio.
It’s only been in recent years that I’ve become comfortable in such a scene. Men intimidated me and I thought that was pretty normal. In fact, I dropped grade 9 Physics because of my male teacher who came across pretty strong in his masculinity and I was having none of it.
I soon came to realize that in fact, many women were comfortable around men (or at least appeared to be) and there was something else I realized. Women who were comfortable around men actually demonstrated masculine traits themselves-leadership, assertiveness, independence, and risk takers.
That’s never going to be me I thought to myself. Why? Because I’m way too soft, shy, sensitive, and feminine. I’m not cut out to be leader and that’s ok.
Why didn’t I ever think of feminine leadership as a thing?
Well, needless to say that I’m so grateful for all the leaps and bounds that women have made in raising their voices and paving the way for other women to step into their light more easily. When I look around and hear how women are supporting each other, I think to myself, “there’s never been a better time to be a woman than now and how lucky am I?”.
Except for this empty feeling in the pit of my stomach that’s been there for quite some time now and I can’t seem to get rid of it. Blame it on my feminine traits of empathy, compassion, and nurturance that somehow stir up feelings that I sometimes feel guilty for having.
Going back to last night. A nice gentleman, father of two teenage boys, started striking up a convo with me about his start up. I, being very much the unconventional conversationalist (i.e. notorious for talking about non business related topics at business networking events), inevitably found myself in midst of a conversation that was starting to unsettle me. It was triggering that feeling in the pit of my stomach.
He voiced his disappointment at how few women were in the room. He then proceeded to discuss the negative role that men play in creating challenges for women in the workforce and that men needed to be held accountable for their actions. Continuing on with his explanations, I could tell he was being extremely conscious about his choice of words to make sure he didn’t offend me in any way. And then he threw out statements like “Men are stupid. They just don’t think”. I stopped him. My stomach was now in a crazy state of discomfort.
Look at how the tables have turned. I was once intimated by men and now it was the opposite.
And not just intimidation but a sense of, dare I say, fear?
Fear of messing up. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of being blamed. Fear of insulting. Fear of being shamed.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt through life experiences and my trainings in positive psychology is that compassion and empathy create lasting, sustainable changes and not criticism. It’s a hard concept for many to wrap their heads around especially women who’ve been the target of injustice and abuse. They’re angry and rightfully so. But if we want to get messy with deeply rooted issues such as patriarchy, it takes compassion and empathy, letting go of ego and holding back from shaming to build a unity and collaboration that’ll serve all of us. I believe that’s possible.
The world really does need more feminine. It’s so clear.
So I said to this man, I agree with you – you need to be held accountable as do all of us but don’t beat yourself up. It’s not going to serve any of us. Instead, action the changes. Be an amazing role model to your boys. Show up vulnerably. And most of all, please don’t be scared of women. I get that recent movements have made you gun shy and alienated you, but demonstrate courage by speaking up about this discomfort.
On International Women’s Day as the vibes are high, I’d like to remind you that shifts happen in unity. I’d love to celebrate Womanhood in full force and invite our men alongside for this party, for this paradigm shift. Let’s celebrate the Men who are showing up and doing the hard work too. They belong with us.