I saw the meme below on Facebook some time ago and it made me chuckle. And then I thought, is this really funny? Why would I automatically find it funny? Could have been the person who posted it or could have been the context.
I believe the concept behind this meme, strongly.
Here in the United States, I think that we women are placed in a socially constructed box where we are held to a different standard. While I practiced law, this different standard was applied to me in a variety of ways. I don’t play games well. If I don’t like someone, they usually know it. I don’t always package things diplomatically, preferring a direct approach to an emotional one.
These preferences often meant that I found myself not quite comfortable with my male or female colleagues. They probably didn’t know quite what to do with me. Also, the fact that I didn’t much care about their opinions didn’t resonate well, especially since I doubt they missed my lack of care.
The women who challenge the patriarchy, in whatever way that makes sense, are labeled. Rather than assertive, we are called aggressive. Rather than a leader, we are called a bitch. Rather than evaluating us on the merits of our talents or our experiences, our clothing and appearance are picked apart.
I’ve experienced this.
I’ve also experienced discrimination from other women who made different choices than I did. When I was focused on pumping breast milk while litigating after my boys were born, it was the female judges (some of the them) who were harder on me than the male judges. I lived this and I had to advocate for myself, my children, my choices.
I know other women who did this, who paved the way for women like me who came afterwards. I know women who I felt were my sisters in arms, women who worked harder and longer and smarter. Women who put up with slurs and being treated differently to rise to the top.
These experiences are not restricted to the legal field. Women are treated differently everywhere. Women make the choices that are right for themselves in terms of how to challenge whatever system they choose to participate in. I respect the various choices I’ve seen made and followed.
What I do not respect are the women who behave like mean girls, who bully others to get their way, and use disrespectful personal attacks to get their way. Using these tactics to harm others, to get what they want, that’s not honorable or admirable.
The meme above doesn’t apply to people who behave badly, who do not do what’s right, who don’t build some bridges, who make no effort to understand another’s position. The meme above applies to women who do speak out, speak up, lean in, present the reasonable arguments, the facts, and simply do it better. We women are better when we support each other and don’t tear each other down.
We all need to do better, especially those who have been placed in positions of leadership.