Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Can Be Vanna!

I’m not the best barometer for sexism, probably because I have a number of shortcomings as a feminist. For example, I don’t have a problem with being “appreciated” for my physical features. This is partly due to the fact that, being in my mid-40s, I’ll take any compliment I can get, and also because, in the past, before I was married, I was known to acknowledge attractive male specimens.

So, if there’s a scale for feminism, with 1 being “you are an embarrassment to your gender” and 10 being “I refuse to even acknowledge that men and women have different body parts,” I’m a solid 5, or maybe a 6. My feminist beliefs include:

  • Equal pay for equal work.
  • Equal opportunities.*
  • Equal respect and consideration. 
  • All women should have the choice to do with their lives and bodies what they please.
  • Mom doesn’t stay home and raise the kids because she’s the woman. If she stays home and raises the kids, it’s because she wants to. 
  • Women around the world shouldn't be abused, bought and sold, subject to genital mutilation, or worse. Of course, no human being should be victimized in such unspeakable ways.
  • History needs to acknowledge the contributions of women.
  • Every woman is beautiful, and Barbie dolls shouldn’t be the standard we aspire to.
  • No little girl should be told that she can’t do something "because she is just a girl."

Frankly, I would hope all women agree with those points.

On the other hand, I have some feelings that radical feminists (a broad term for which not all of these apply) might be displeased with, including:

  • *Equal opportunity based on qualifications—don’t give me a job just because I’m a woman and you have to meet your quota (particularly true in the STEM fields). Give me a job because I deserve it. 
  • A man complimenting you on your appearance is not despicable (unless he’s creepy and leering at you lasciviously; and/or he’s your boss or coworker and he acknowledges your legs and not your job performance).
  • You can’t hate men for being men. 
  • You can wear skirts and dresses and still believe in women’s rights.
  • I’m not offended when God is referred to as “He.” 
  • Women are no more superior to men then men are to women.
  • Giving little girls dolls and dressing them in pink is not anti-feminist, as long as we’re also giving them Lincoln Logs and letting them wear whatever they want to when they’re old enough to dress themselves.

The point of all this is to say that I’m not one to quickly cry sexism at every perceived gender slight; therefore, when I say I was recently the victim of sexist behavior, I mean it.

Last week I attended a creativity and innovation workshop in which we formed teams and had to come up with a product or service, create a logo and prototype, and ultimately present to the rest of the group in a one-minute elevator pitch. I should add that I was one of only 3 women in a room filled with men, and the only woman on my team.

Appropriately, the category is "Around the House"
When it came time to present our idea—which I had proposed in the first place—one of my teammates strongly suggested, more than once, that I should be part of the presentation because “you’re a woman in a room full of men and you’ll get their attention.” To add insult to injury he then said, “You can be Vanna.”

Whew. For a minute there I thought he was going to actually encourage me to speak. Thankfully all he wanted was for me to hold the poster board and smile.

I’ve been asked how I reacted to this Neanderthal (who was in his 50s), and I’m ashamed to say I responded with nothing more than a “Ha.” Yes, I blew it. After the fact I thought of a number of appropriate comebacks, including:

  • Too bad I didn’t wear my stilettos and a shorter skirt today. 
  • After I play Vanna, can I get you a cool beverage and fawn over you?
  • What decade is this? 
  • No wonder more women don’t go into STEM careers if it’s filled with assholes like you. 

Women, I’d love to hear of your encounters with sexism, and men, I’d be interested to know if you think I’m overreacting, or if the guy really blew it. I should add that I don’t think he meant to offend; the problem is that he didn’t “think,” period. And that behavior is so ingrained in some men that they don’t even recognize that it’s wrong.

Share your stories, and suggest even better comebacks so if when it happens again, I won’t let the guy off the hook so easily.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Chin Up: A Change is Coming!

It's been three days since Villanova's big win in the NCAA Basketball Championship. I watched most of the games this season and while I still can't figure out what qualifies as a foul and when it earns a foul shot or just possession, I'm really starting to enjoy the sport. Especially when they're nail biters, which seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Although to be fair, I bite my nails a lot, regardless of the situation.

I bring up the basketball game for two reasons:
  1. It provided me with a day off (and another one tomorrow!) and the opportunity to write a well-overdue blog post.
  2. Ian told us before the Oklahoma game that he would enroll at Villanova if they won the championship. 
Should I hold him to it?
Some of you are aware that a wrinkle/wrench has been thrown into what was going to be a fairly easy decision where college is concerned. Along with Villanova, Ian was accepted into William & Mary's Joint Degree Programme (that's how they spell it in the U.K.) with the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews is situated on the coast, with beaches and a popular golf course (an understatement for anyone who knows golf). People also have cool accents and there are lots of pubs. And MacPherson is Scottish. The school is pretty damn good, too, and he'd earn a BA, International Honors, from both universities. And did I mention that this programme only enrolls about 20 students per year? 

His acceptance letter included a handwritten note from the director: "Your passion for economics and travel make you a natural for our programme. Join us." 

Well, damn. Didn't see that coming. Seriously. Ian didn't either. It's like when he made the Silvertones as a freshman. "Wait, what? Are you sure?" 

This is one of those situations where the advice you receive completely depends on the individual. Those who have put kids through college and incurred student loans say "Villanova." Those like my sister who believe "the best" opportunity is always worth paying for say "Scotland." We're saying, let's go talk to the folks at W & M, crunch the numbers, make a pro/con list, and then decide on Villanova. Obviously the kid can't go wrong either way, and this is a hell of a nice "problem" to have. It's just that I'd really like a shore house some day. 

I didn't start this post with the goal of bragging about my son's opportunities. My objective was to brag about what an awesome young man he's become.

Some of you have known me long enough (we really only have to go back a few short years) to remember when I was forever frustrated by this kid. Smart. Yes. Hard working. No. Funny. Yes. Willing to share that personality in performance, writing, or on late night talk shows? No. Ambitious? No. Easy-going? Yes. Passionate about FIFA? Yes. Passionate about anything else? No.

I went crazy with his attitude, which was best summed up in his own words: "If it's not fun, why should I do it?" Dude, you're talking to a woman who feels guilty if she's having fun instead of working. If I hadn't given birth to him, I'd wonder if he's adopted. 

Recognizing that many most parents, at one time or another (or daily) want to wring their teenager's neck for their crappy attitude, I will say this: It will pass. The kid who commits to nothing but video games will find his or her passion. And it just might involve developing video games, which I happen to know makes for a pretty good living. May I recommend Villanova's Computer Engineering program?

I know Rob and I are lucky. We've watched Ian's transformation take place. He still loves FIFA, but he's also passionate about economics and societal issues. He recommends to me books he's read and enjoyed for school. He and Rob watch "Meet the Press" together (yes, it's for a class, but it's a class he really enjoys even though he wouldn't label it "fun."). He's working harder than ever and challenging himself academically when most seniors have written off the last few months of their high school education. His sense of humor continues to light up a room, and he's still willing to play Bananagrams when begged asked. Our teenage son seems to like us, and the feeling is mutual.

Now before you accuse me of patting myself on the back for having a great kid, let me say that Rob and I really had nothing to do with it. It just happened. Or more likely, his girlfriend Brooke is primarily responsible for his maturing. After all, it still takes five requests from Mom before Ian does what's requested, whereas Brooke sees immediate results.

This leads me to just one suggestion: If your teen's evolution is taking longer than you'd like, consider finding a nice boy or girl to help move things along. If he or she has big brown eyes, that's a bonus.

Good luck!