Connecting Women: Why This is Our First Priority

I’ve written about this before, but this is a topic so near to me that I think uncovering and unpacking the layers is relevant, important, and necessary. When I go back to what it is I do, connecting women and holding space for women is the common theme. So, why is that so important?

Connecting to Sustainability

Years ago, I identified that my goal is to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. This was a beautiful moment because it allowed me openness to opportunities that had just been created and were now available to me. I was able to declare Sustainable Urban Development as my minor at Portland State. I was able to travel to Italy on a Sustainability Study Abroad. I was able to co-author a book on Sustainability. Because my bucket job explorations in sustainability didn’t lead to a paid gig, I kept unpacking what sustainability meant for me.

The Triple Bottom Line is the common definition I use. It’s easy to understand, wrap our heads around, and generally gets the point across. I’ve called it the Three Es, until this new definition. It means that you balance three things equally instead of just one.

In business, the norm is to balance the books. You know if a company is making a profit, or not. You balance the profit books, the economic books. In the Triple Bottom Line definition, you add two books: people (equity) and planet/place (environment). With how we’ve measured environmental success, this piece is easy to measure. We know if we are polluting the environment more than cleaning it up. We know if we are cutting down more trees than planting. We know if our food is contaminated, or not. We know if our water is contaminated, or not.

Connecting people

But people, that’s where things get messy. Because people are messy. We bring all of our junk, or baggage, to the table – no matter what the table is – work, family, volunteering. If we had a bad day at work, it’s often hard to hide it from our families. If family life is stressful, it affects our concentration at work. We are a society that likes easy things, so we don’t deal with the people aspect because it is hard.

And, the hard thing is exactly what we need to deal with. If we want our society to be a better place tomorrow than it is today, we have to tackle the hard thing. I want society to be a better place. I want my son to grow up with kindness, compassion, and opportunity within a setting of health, wellness, wealth, and awesome choices. I want the next generation to have even better opportunities. If we collectively want that, and I think we do, then we have to work together to figure out people.

Connecting with Women

I am focusing on women for many reasons. I am a women. I was raised by a women, who served our family as a single mother using social services, until she remarried. I have sisters. One sister is the mother of a special needs child. One sister was killed by her boyfriend. That is, one sister was a victim of domestic violence.

I watch all the women in my circle: gay, straight, single, parents, black, hispanic, white – and they all have spaces where they need support. Many women I see are not the sole breadwinners of their families, and that directly affects choices they make. Some women face exclusions that I, as a white women, cannot relate to, and it’s unfair and unnecessary.

So, I see a need for us, women, to come together like we never have before. I see a need for us to cross race, political, and economic lines and see the potential in each of us. I see space for us to thrive together.

When women support each other in joy, we do amazing things. We love. We share. We are kind. We show up with compassion. We gift, and we support. I want to create a society that honors the feminine to bring these necessary things back into our world, massively. Join me. Let’s connect.

Dress Codes as Privilege

A few days ago…

I’m putting on my gifted black skirt. I’m eyeing my favorite black shoes. I put on a shirt I bought, new, a few years ago, buttoned and collared. I grab my trusty black and purple argyle vest out of my closet. I am privileged to have this opportunity. I am dressing for an important meeting. I am dressing to impress.

I bought these clothes, the ones purchased, at mid-level stores, affordable to my budget. None of these clothes came direct from a thrift store. The gifted skirt was from my sister, and sports the name Calvin Klein. I am wearing the embodiment of privilege.

I sillily consider this my school marm outfit. There is something 1880s about the shoes, that I adore. Even though this outfit doesn’t say “power suit”, it is a power outfit for me. Even though the skirt is now too large, and my shirt needs a good iron to it. None of it would be considered, probably, in fashion for the current trends.

But, I sit in the embodiment of privilege. I have many clothes to choose from in my closet. I have a range of colors and styles. I have dresses and more button up shirts. I have skirts, some from thrift stores, but they always get compliments. I have a range of shoes, and even one pair of knee-high boots. All this choice screams privilege.

I am white. My husband and I are college educated. We live a middle class life, even if it’s not as squarely middle class as we’d prefer. We own our home. We own multiple cars. Privilege. Privilege. Privilege.

I am so aware of my privilege, I am actually shocked when others aren’t aware of theirs. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up economically privileged. Maybe it’s because I didn’t feel as if life was handed to me on a silver platter. Maybe it’s because I’m fairly intuitive, and I can feel the pain others have gone through and I know suffering occurs in our world, sometimes, often, needlessly. So, I am actually even angry when others exert their privilege and they disguise it for the greater good.

Where expressing privilege is a problem

I was sharing this topic with a friend, today. She shared another way we have to be aware of how we dress. She recently began volunteering for a group that provides food and toiletries to homeless women. She was told, very explicitly to be aware of her privilege and hide it when volunteering. She had to dress down, jeans and a t-shirt. She had to remove jewelry, even her wedding ring. She had to appear plain and nonthreatening so as not to incite unnecessary jealousy from those she was sent to serve.

Part of my calling is to raise awareness of how others live in this world. By raising our awareness, we can take better stock of where we are individually to justify where we want to be collectively. And, when we are a part of groups that sit in a corner of privilege within a place that suffers, and then we ask attendees to showcase their privilege, we create a space that is NOT inclusive of all those we hope to attract and serve.

Are you aware of your privilege and when you might ask others to showcase theirs, whether they want to or not?

More perspectives

The Unspoken Messages of Dress Codes: Uncovering Bias and Power

You Call It Professionalism; I Call It Oppression in a Three-Piece Suit “In office environments especially, standards of professionalism are the law of the land – and they reinforce social hierarchies that value white maleness above all.”

And, “Dress codes make room to turn a lot of “isms” into policies – especially since typical standards of professional dress are, at the core, racist, sexist, classist, and xenophobic.”

Dress Codes: Myth versus Fact

Ladies, Take Off Your Makeup

March 2011, driving to the UP, sporting a rocking red drugstore lipstick. It pretty much only looks this awesome when you put it on.

Last month, in my educational newsletter to my fellow oilers, I talked about the importance of spring cleaning, and I related it to the chemicals on our face. Women are exposed to a range of 150 and 500 chemicals, daily. Most of which we do not know the direct effects. A risk averse person might suggest that the average women is a chemical concoction away from disaster.

Societal norms, aside, maybe it’s time for women to take off their make up?

Societal norms, considered, what does it say when we wear make up every day? Men don’t, in our modern age. If we are going to a play, a night out on the town, both genders are generally expected to dress up a little, comb their hair, brush their teeth – societal hygienic and grooming standards. But, aside from a blip into metrosexuality (isn’t it all beards now?), only a woman is required to cover her face, in a painted on mask, to be considered put together.

Let’s take a pause. I actually love wearing make up. I enjoy the whole process. I equate it to art. I think it’s fascinating the shapes we highlight and create and the colors we play with, with paint for our skin. I even find that a powdered foundation keeps my oily skin feeling fresh, all day. Me and make up? Love it. (The more research-intensive part is finding toxic-free varieties.)

What I would like to link together, though, is this requirement that women put a mask on to look their best. It’s a direct implication that women do not look their best without new skin, new eyes, new cheeks, and new lips. Men can simply walk out of their house, and they are applauded for buttoning their shirts or not sagging in their pants. The expectation is different for women.

What does that continue to say about our society? Yesterday was Equal Pay Day for Women. Yesterday marks the day that white women begin to earn as much as their male counterparts in the workforce. If you add other aspects, such as being black, or Hispanic, their day is not yet here. What does it say, about our society?

It continues to reinforce the message that women cannot and will not be enough. It says that we don’t look the part, and we don’t deserve to play the part.

Clarification, I don’t choose to believe this. I feel that if we succumb to this victim mentality we allow the oppressors to win. And, I will not allow the oppressors to win. Everyone deserves a fair shake at this game called Life. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, no matter what their skin or gender, or choice of make up. Instead of being a victim, I will, however, kindly challenge these micro-oppressions.

Women are not required to wear make up to look their best. Women are not required to wear a dress, or a pant suit, to be presentable. We, this generation and beyond, are shaking the old beliefs and creating our own, because the old beliefs, the old suit, it just doesn’t fit anymore.

I believe our job is to shake those suits that don’t fit anymore. Our job is to challenge these micro-oppressions when they are, again, layered as norms. Our job is to say, “No, that really isn’t how it is and couldn’t we consider it a different way.”

And, today, I’m saying that about make up. Not only is it generally quite toxic to our skin, it can mask who we really are. If we are to truly show up and change this world, we need to show up as we really are. So, please, take off your make up, and change the world.

More to consider

Men like women to wear less makeup? No, they don’t

Make up at work – from the abstract, “Although many women find pleasure in wearing makeup, the authors conclude that the institutional constraints imposed by the workplace effectively limit the possibilities for resistance.”

We Need to Stop Making Assumptions About Why Women Wear Make-Up — Here’s Why – “At some point – probably high school – I believed that learning how to ‘put my face together’ felt like a necessary right of passage because I am a woman.”