Monthly Archives: October 2016

Being Female – Michelle Obama’s Speech and Trump’s Words

I couldn’t watch Michelle Obama’s speech. You know, the one that’s all over Facebook and in the news. The one she gave in New Hampshire last week, in which she talked about Trump’s horrible comments about how he relates to women. In which she talks about what it’s like being female in our culture.

You see, I started to watch the video with my husband, but I asked him to stop it. After a few minutes, it struck a nerve. It brought up too many memories of similar circumstances in my own life, of being female and being objectified. It was, honestly, too painful for me to finish watching.

When I was 13, a stranger, a man at least 10 years older than me, led me into a secluded part of a park and forced himself on me. I ran away before anything truly terrible happened, but I was scared and ashamed as if somehow I was responsible for his actions. That was the first time, but sadly not the last time, that a man made unwanted advances at me or that I felt ashamed of what had happened to me.

As an adult, I have been the object of crass comments and lewd stares. Once, while I was running on a Saturday morning, dressed in tights and a t-shirt, a stranger yelled, “Work that pussy!” as I ran by him. Another time, I was called to HR to discuss my job, and the employee questioning me stared at my chest for most of the time I was in his office.

I’m not alone in experiencing this behavior. Every woman, every single woman I’ve spoken to, has a similar story. Or she has many stories. It’s commonplace enough to make you think it’s part of the collective female narrative. This is what to expect if you are a girl or woman. This is a rite of passage for being female. A man is going to try to kiss you or touch you when you haven’t consented to it. A man is going to say something to you that relegates you to body parts for his enjoyment. You will feel shame for being female.

 

After the uproar over Trump’s horrible words, many said, “Let’s get back to the real issues.” Well, I call bullshit on that.

Treating women like objects that can be manhandled and dominated, acting as if women are only breasts and vaginas that exist for a man’s pleasure, these are real issues. This behavior and thinking affects girls and women in the educational system. It affects women in the workforce. It affects women in domestic relationships. It affects our laws and institutional practices. So, I cannot imagine an issue more important or real.

This kind of behavior and thinking is insidious. It whispers under its breath that, “Girls, you aren’t equal, and you don’t control your own bodies.”

 

When females are devalued by words and actions, it impacts all of us – men, women – and our society. It doesn’t just influence how men view women. It influences how women view themselves.

So let’s not brush over what Trump said. He spoke his truth. And, unfortunately, that truth is shared by many others. Those in political power. Those working at our offices. Those praying at our churches. Those strangers you run into on the street.

Well, this is my truth. I am not a pussy. I am not tits. I am not your plaything or your property. I am scientist and an educator and a runner and a writer and a parent and a spouse. I work. I raise kids. I volunteer at the school library. I pay taxes. I vote. This is being female. This is who I am.

Feed Your Soul from 5 to 9 (And Not from 9 to 5)

The other day I was talking with my husband about my job. Like any job, mine can be a source of frustration. There are several cons that keep me wondering if I should stay. Like, I don’t see myself growing professionally in the position I’m currently in or even having the possibility of growing beyond the position I’m currently in. I don’t see myself making more money. I don’t feel like the job feeds my soul or nurtures my passions although it involves writing and science (2 facets of my life that I love).

So I told my husband exactly what I’ve been thinking. “I might start looking for another job next year, because this job doesn’t feed my soul.”

The other day, I told my husband, “I might look for another job, because this job doesn’t feed my soul.” He said, "Keep your job. Feed your soul elsewhere."

Image courtesy of Flickr user Anthony Easton

Do You Love What You Do?

This kind of thinking – that you should do what you love and do work that matters – is relatively new in the collective consciousness. It is born of the self-improvement movement that implores us to pursue our passion. It is born of Steve Jobs who said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” It is born of sites like Live Your Legend, which maintains, “doing work you love is a fundamental human right.”

This kind of thinking has seeped into my own mindset. So I tell my husband, “I might start looking for another job next year, because this job doesn’t feed my soul.”

And my husband turns to me and says, “Keep your job, and feed your soul outside of work time.”

He wasn’t being dismissive of my desire to do meaningful work or love what I do. He was reminding me that my current job, for all it’s not so great parts, is a pretty good gig. It allows me enormous flexibility and freedom. It’s not a full time job, and it doesn’t have regularly scheduled hours. So, in effect, it provides me lots of time, time every single day, to pursue my interests (or run errands or take a nap or do nothing at all).

No, the job itself may not feed my soul, but it provides the opportunity for me to feed my soul. My soul gets fed from 5 to 9 rather than from 9 to 5. And that’s okay.

Your Job Can Have Meaning Without Feeding Your Soul.

What Steve Jobs and Live Your Legend and a million other sources fail to recognize is that every job is meaningful, whether you love it or not. (By the way, I’m not knocking Live Your Legend. I’m actually a fan and subscribe to their newsletter.)

Doing what you’re passionate about doesn’t have to pay you a salary. Doing what you’re passionate about simply means you do it, because you want to or need to in order to stay sane, be happy, and move through life.

Unless you’re a weapons dealer or a warlord, your work has real meaning. No matter what you do. Cleaning toilets is meaningful if it helps feed your family. Bookkeeping is meaningful if you find it fulfilling. Processing and copyediting manuscripts (my “day” job) is meaningful. It’s meaningful, because it affords me the luxury of being home every day with hours to write or run or take a nap (all of which I am passionate about).

Maybe promoting the idea that we all ought to follow our passion in our professional lives is a little short sighted. Honestly, isn’t it enough simply to find time every day to do what you love? If you can do that in your work, then great. But, if you can’t, then that’s okay, too.

Keep doing what you love. Keep feeding your soul, even if it’s from 5 to 9 and not 9 to 5..