Two Sets of Rules – A Women’s World

I’m a runner, which we’ve already talked about.  A recreational runner, and I like to run outside not on a treadmill unless I have few options or I need a break from our crap weather.  I run early in the morning, usually in the dark. 
When my husband and I first met we talked about running because it is a shared interest and I remember telling him ‘we live in very different worlds.’  He seemed surprised by that initially, but seconds after my words hit his brain he nodded in acknowledgement.  You see, for a man to run in the dark is very different than for a woman to run in the dark.  We need to make different choices and take different precautions because the likelihood that we could experience some sort of assault is high compared to that of a man.  I bet if you asked a woman there are a ton of things we do to protect ourselves that men don’t ever need to think of…but maybe they should?  Becoming aware of the rules that women have to live by should broaden your understanding and empathy for them, and who can’t use more of that? 
I guarantee that if you understand a woman’s world better it will help you in multiple ways, and if you have a team with women on it, then it will help you lead them. 
Our daughter and her boyfriend were at a shooting range with my husband recently and the Instructor told her to ‘make that gun her bitch’.  She was offended, I was offended.  Sometimes it physically makes me hurt to hear stuff like that…what did he mean?  Take control of it, be in command, or don’t let it be the boss of you?  And did he have another option to say the same thing?  Considering there is over 1,025,109 words in the English language, my answer is yes.

So, he is irresponsible with his language, she’s offended and likely feels bad that he used that language with her.  I have had experiences when men use language like that with me and I have to tell you that I often think ‘what is it about me that makes him think its okay to call down my gender’?   And then I consider saying something, and sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t because I know that his willingness to use my gender as a weapon means that he is not likely to be open to hearing its offensive or apologizing.
I know that our society and culture accept the language we use to degrade or judge women in generalities.  I know that we are part of our own problem.  I know that we accept things because we get tired of fighting it and we don’t want to be seen as ‘not being able to take a joke’.  But it’s not really a joke, is it? 
The references to female dogs, the comments about our menstrual cycle, the focus on our bodies and our looks, it’s everywhere.  Let’s face facts, if we didn’t menstruate, we couldn’t procreate and wouldn’t that mean our civilization would be extinct?  Does it mess us up sometimes?  You bet.  And I do believe that testosterone has been known to instigate some messes of its own.  You bet.
We as women, are wired differently than men.  We face different issues in the work place, the grocery store and the mechanic shop.  In my lifetime my Grandmothers did not have the right to vote or even wear pants.  And by that measurement we have come a fair distance from segregation or minimization.  But there is more work to be done.  What if we embrace our differences and figure out how to use them for good?
Chauvinism is alive and well, I recently met with two women in power positions, and I asked them if they face chauvinism.  Both said yes almost immediately, both had recent examples, both said it’s nearly constant. 
All leaders really need to like people; people of all kinds, genders, shapes, intellects and gifts.  If you are a man, and you have a team that has women members I encourage you to become aware of ‘women’s world’ issues.  To spend some time listening to the language, the covert messaging and the organizational view of women on your team, it will help you see them more clearly and lead them more effectively.  And if you are a woman leading women, please like us as people, please judge us fairly and please don’t use our own gender against us.  Please don’t give us more breaks because we’re women and don’t give us less either.  Please lead us as our individuality and gender demand.  Please be an example of good. 
Maybe men get tired of hearing about these issues from women, maybe they feel attacked by feminism.  I apologize if that’s the case, feminism is and has always been about equality.  A true feminist will want true equality in the work place and the home for women and for men.  A true feminist will not minimize the job delineation between men and women no matter what that looks like as long as each partner and parent feel equal and valued.  A true feminist will not call down her gender or use her own gender traits to manipulate, escape or elevate. 
I believe it is important for men to try and grasp the challenges women have to face, I believe it is equally important for women to grasp the challenges facing the men in our lives, ones we equally will never feel the full brunt of.  Expanding your knowledge will help you become more aware, more awareness should mean more empathy, more empathy means a higher emotional quotient and a higher emotional quotient translates into a more centred, balanced and available leader. 

I challenge you to pay attention.  I challenge you to remove the degrading language from your vocabulary.  I challenge you to stop using our menstruation as a weapon.  I challenge you to see assertion instead of aggression when possible.  I challenge you to stand up and clean up the world around you and I challenge you to protect your mothers, your partners, your sisters and your daughters.  I challenge you to teach your sons how to value a woman and all her hormones.  I challenge you to not be silent when you hear or witness degradation or language that hurts.  I challenge you to be better.  
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