Binders full of women

Do you remember that phrase?

People in the U.S. probably do.

But just in case your history is foggy, it was a phrase used in a debate on October 16, 2012 by Mitt Romney when responding to a question on how he sought to create a gender-balanced cabinet. It was not so much about whether or not he did try to recruit women. It became about the objectifying women to “figures” that could be put into binders.

Perhaps that had an effect on his prospects for election. I’m not sure. He didn’t win. For a variety of reasons. President Obama had been doing a good job, and the economy had turned around since 2008. So there were myriad reasons Mitt Romney did not succeed.

And yet: 4 years after that, we elected a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.

Trump ugly face
Photo credit link

Shocking, really.

I know and realize that Hillary made a lot of mistakes in her campaign. I also believe that her “like-ability” was in question, and I believe that a lot of misogyny, both real and internalized, affected her odds of election. As I have already written, all candidates running for office are deeply flawed.

However, there are a record number of women running for office in 2018 who have been galvanized by the obvious misogyny of the current administration. Our sense of decency and fairness has been violated. Some might say “binders full of women” are stepping forward.

The recent result of the Supreme Court appointment of Justice Kavanaugh just rubbed salt into the wound for so many of us. I hope that voters keep in mind the flawed nature of our power structure as they go to the polls on Tuesday. Electing different people sends a message to our misogynist President and the party that still supports him.

I understand that some people do not plan to vote at all on Tuesday. I have already talked with an individual who believes the 2-party system is broken so he does not plan to vote. I feel very sad about that. And I believe this is the reason we have ended up with the leadership we have right now.

Rock the Vote
Link to Rock the Vote

Please make a plan to vote on Tuesday, if you have not already voted absentee, or in early voting as some states allow. I am not going to tell you how to cast your vote. That is up to you. But when 40% or more of the country is not voting, it is much easier to ignore “we the people.”

That is a dangerous state for our democracy. Even if you think some candidates are flawed, show up and be counted. We need you. All of you. Do not drop out of your duty as a citizen.

Stepping down off my soapbox now.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Edginess

I write this reflection with a feeling of edginess in my body, and unresolved tension in my throat and my heart related to recent political events.

The confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh feels like yet another assault on women. I realize that the circumstances surrounding the testimony of Professor Ford had some unconfirmed facts. But it haunts me to know that our political and legal systems have added to the most important court in our nation someone who’s character I would deem unfit for this appointment.

My question now involves what my role will be in the next election, and in future political activities. I know that until we have a shift in power, and more women and others who are underrepresented in this process, we will continue to fall short of the ideals of this nation.

Years ago I was very active in electoral politics. I volunteered with campaigns, managed a winning city council campaign, and I engaged in phone calling and door-to-door voter outreach. This is despite my introvert preference to do the “quieter” types of activism, that do not involve meeting large numbers of new people.

Kavanaugh confirmed.JPG
Photo credit link – BT News

In an earlier era of my life, I felt a sense of urgency in my activities. While I still feel urgency in some ways, my activism may take another form this time around. I went back to my master’s thesis on “Mythical Condensation in Electoral Politics” completed in 2006 to review some of the ideas I had then about what is happening today.

Much of it still rings true, particularly on the polarizing effects of our political discourse today:

I argue that political candidate success is a function of mythic condensation or voter consumerism rather than issue positions or leadership competence.

Yes. Today, more than ever these concepts apply to the political realm. Back in those days I used discourse analysis and drew from the disciplines of linguistics, social psychology, media studies and political science to make my argument.

The 40-page document took a great deal of effort for me to “birth” at the time. But I look back fondly at having the privilege to think and write that analysis. Myth and metaphor continue to be relevant in how we construct our political truths. We use cognitive frames to interpret the world while conveniently ignoring facts.

Neuroscience explains how our choice of language shapes our beliefs. And myths “naturalize” what is historical artifact. Rhetoric and imagery appeal to our emotions, while realities are constructed of symbolism in which polarities seem to thrive.

For now, my question of what I will do in this final month before the next election remains unresolved. The edginess remains.

 

 

That scared little boy

The next time you see a man belittling a woman or talking down to her, ask yourself what experiences might have shaped that man as a little boy.

Ask yourself whether his scared self was seeking attention and love from a mother or father figure. Imagine whether he might still be reacting in fear and a need to belong when he engages in this habitual behavior. While it is not an excuse, it may help us exercise compassion.

Perhaps his father taught him that his worth was derived from being superior to women. Perhaps his religion taught him that women are inferior beings in need of protection and discipline. He may have learned that vulnerability was weakness so he wanted to be sure never to show that to even his partner. Perhaps the patriarchy reinforces all of these messages.

In fact, it does.

Our fundamental sense of belonging is shaped when we are young children. Around age 7 or so once we have passed through stages of attachment, exploration, identity and competence, we develop an awareness of others. We develop a need for belonging. When we experience early “wounds” at any stage of our psycho-social development, they may later manifest themselves in our relationships, until we are able to become aware and heal them.

scared little boy
Photo credit link

In reading some of Harville Hendrix’s work on relationships, I have come to have greater compassion for dysfunctional behaviors I observe in myself and others. I realize that there are certain patterns we develop to self-protect, and to preserve our identities.

Men who are secure and comfortable with their masculinity have no need to put down powerful women. They celebrate strong women, and they are fine with sharing power. Indeed, they may be relieved at not having to be solely responsible for all important decisions. They can embrace more collaboration and shared leadership.

Women who are secure and comfortable with their own femininity and power can ask for what they want. They know that they are worthy of respect. They take care of themselves. They ask for help when it is needed. They receive and accept help graciously. They believe their desires can be honored rather than repressed.

I am starting to understand that my spiritual journey is a process of learning to trust in my wholeness. I also realize this runs counter to our culture, that nudges us toward buying and consuming one more thing, or many more things. We all seek a sense of belonging and fulfillment in our daily lives. And people are trying to “sell” that to us all the time.

At the root, we must accept ourselves as we are. We must embrace the light and the dark, realize they comprise beauty and complexity. We are part of a divine mystery. It is that unfolding to who we really are in our present moment that is holy. That does not mean we do not work toward improvement. It simply means our worthiness is not conditioned on being anything other than what we are now.

If that scared little boy or girl within us still seeks approval from others or feels unworthy, then we have work to do. For when we truly love ourselves and then may love others fully, we forgive ourselves and others. We accept that we are doing the best we can, and then we can begin to fulfill our true potential.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Values mini-manifesto

Hi Readers,

I received some excellent feedback from a few people who received my draft consulting values “manifesto” so this is actually a revised version of the draft. Thank you to all who commented on the Core Values write-up I posted on Friday. I am refining that as I go to hone in on those particular areas of practice where I can add the most value.

Let journalism thrive!

Consulting Values mini-manifesto

  1. Diversity drives innovation. Period. We have been shown this again and again in the research. There are countless examples of this in business, design, education, customer service, engineering, etc. See the book The Medici Effect if you want to learn more about this principle. Diversity can broadly include gender, age, culture, discipline, expertise, interests, skills, strengths, orientation, and many other dimensions. Your team is enhanced by how inclusive you can be about bringing full engagement of your diverse players.
  2. Women are leaders. This is true in families, communities, business, nonprofits, government and all sectors. One problem is that we have widely associated leadership with a lot of “masculine” qualities. We do not always see the value of collaboration, influencing, building genuine connections and flexibility in thinking. I believe that women already have most of these skills already, and they are skills that can be coached and developed. We have undervalued the skills of half our workforce in encouraging women “act like men” in their leadership styles. Instead we must develop confidence and assurance in our own voices and our own ways of getting work done. Leadership is going to look different than the models we have seen. And that is a GOOD thing! We need that now, more than ever. 
  3. Teams are made of individuals with far more talent than we typically use or optimize in their current work roles. While that is a challenge, we can build in better ways to tap that talent, help design workplaces and teams that fully utilize our strengths while maximizing the overall productivity of the team. There is an art to doing this, and there are mindsets which allow us to fully utilize talents. When we think someone is too “junior” to have an impact, we miss the freshness in perspective that person can bring to the work. When we think that we or someone else is too “senior” to have something to learn, we sell ourselves short. This principle is based on the “growth mindset” pioneered by Carol Dweck. It is also based on years and years of research I have done in my own workplaces, witnessing growth of so many people, when given the right conditions and encouragement. I aim to help you maximize the wealth you already have, which already exists within your team.

This is intended to describe the values I bring to my consulting work. Of course I am adding more detail to the consulting “program” and practices I intend to offer. I have time to work that out before I actually will start marketing my time and effort in these areas. But it helps me to write and focus in the places where I feel most passionate and committed. I think the above areas describe that well for now.

Cheers & have a great week! As always, I am happy to receive your comments and feedback.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wanted: women’s voices

I had a blast on the 4th of July holiday catching up on my personal development “input sources” and reading more materials that fascinate me.

I began the day giving a ride to downtown Minneapolis for my hubby and his friend, who were running the Red, White & Boom 5k. They rocked it, despite hot and soupy weather. After that, while hubby was taking a well-deserved nap, I used time to listen to the Gallup “Called to Coach” podcast and a few others.

It was interesting to hear more in depth about the Gallup Strengths profiles. I have done many exercises with my team using this tool, to figure out how we can merge our strengths together to be a more effective team. My own brand of strengths includes Intellection, Input, Relator, Developer and Empathy. Those terms may seem a little strange if you are not familiar with their tool, but I highly recommend the assessment if you have not yet taken it.

women's voices
Photo credit link – Metal female voices fest XI – 2013

The downside of this particular listen-fest was the fact that I noticed that ALL the voices I heard on the podcast were men. ALL of them. 100% of them… I mean, after listening to the 5 themes and interviews, I would have thought at least ONE of them would feature a woman. Maybe just 20%. I realize there are less women in positions of leadership than there are men. Even the U.S. Congress has roughly 20% women in its ranks.

I realize it was content from 2014-2015. Perhaps their more recent content is more balanced, and I should give them the benefit of the doubt? Is it THAT hard to make an effort to find a few women to speak on their show? I find myself disappointed but at the same time more committed to working on helping to increase the voices of women in leadership.

I respect many of the mentors I have had that are men throughout my career and my life. But I crave more women’s voices and wisdom to be included in resources for personal development. What happens when you ignore half of your potential demographics? They may disengage and tune out.

Biases and stereotypes can get in the way of people making good decisions. When I am making important choices, I want a team of people with different life experiences to weigh in, since my customers are diverse as well. I have seen how creativity is generated from diverse teams committed to a common vision.

Maybe it starts with me… I should consider that. Wisdom comes from many cultures, genders and experiences. Today I am giving thanks to WordPress for allowing more of us to have a platform, to my husband and to Chris Guillebeau for encouraging me to start writing.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Getting ugly

Yesterday I read a piece in the Guardian by Barbara Kingsolver entitled “#MeToo isn’t enough. Now women need to get ugly

It was a thought-provoking piece and I am still mulling it over today, in light of world news, and in light of experiences I have had in my life and career.

“Patriarchy persists because power does not willingly cede its clout; and also, frankly, because women are widely complicit in the assumption that we’re separate and not quite equal.”

She explains how we are so embedded within the patriarchy that sometimes it is difficult to perceive it. I have heard patriarchy likened to being a fish in water, but not knowing what “water” is – it is the stuff we swim around in every day. We do not know what it is because we have never been without it for any length of time. Patriarchy is like water: it envelopes our lives in such a way that it becomes our reality.

But fortunately humans are not fish. And our breathing is not dependent on the existence of the patriarchy, though it may seem like our livelihoods indeed depend on it for many.

I realize part of my aversion to corporate life these days reflects partly an exhaustion with a patriarchal system that does not value work based on merit. It privileges the contributions of one gender over another. It does not value people and their multiplicity of contributions, the range of what they could bring to the table when given an opportunity.

I am fortunate to work in a company that places a high value on employees as people, and usually lives up to that tenet of our mission. But looking at a wall of inductees to its highest scientific honor society, counting the ~70 people’s faces and realizing that just 10% of them our women, I sigh and wonder.

There are so many barriers to women attempting to enter realms of work like science, engineering, politics, higher management. Some of these barriers are internal: we lack  confidence or we are not sure we have the competence to enter. We erect higher standards for ourselves than men have to try these positions, and worry more about making mistakes.

The socialization of women and girls has evolved a bit in the 4+ decades since I was born. The availability of sports teams and competitive opportunities has allowed more of us to challenge ourselves and take leadership in new areas. And yet when we lack critical mass, we must work much harder to build professional alliances and networks.

getting ugly

The “old boys club” is very much a reality in many of the corporate environments where we work. My own experience has shown me that men who mentor and sponsor us at work can be professional and appropriate in their behavior. But patriarchy functions subtly here as well.

My boss treats me a bit like a daughter figure – I can tell he is proud of me and my achievements. He wants me to “brag” more and to make sure others know about my accomplishments.  He allows me to make my own mistakes and learn from my experiences. But he has also been protective of me in a way that may be different from how he has treated his male proteges. Whether that is an aspect of personality or of systemic bias, it is impossible to really separate out. We swim in patriarchy so clear vision is obscured.

This morning I will return to a project group of mostly men (25% women) to work on a design project for technology that needs an upgrade. I found myself wanting to share more of my creativity yesterday during the “ideation” phase of our human-centered design process. But I found myself holding back. I was not sure why. The group is unfamiliar to me, and that is a barrier sometimes.

It does no good to blame the patriarchy when we struggle to get our ideas out, when there are also internal barriers as well. But it does help to understand the context of why women are less confident putting themselves out there. Kingsolver notes: “It’s really not possible to overreact to uncountable, consecutive days of being humiliated by men who say our experience isn’t real…” 

Exactly. This type of rape culture makes working “outside our comfort zone” a regular and daily occurrence. Is it any wonder that taking risks in business or engineering feels so dangerous? While many of us learn to live and even thrive in these environments, we also realize women are disproportionately attacked and thus we remain on guard for more of waking hours.

I am contemplating the the notion of getting ugly as Kingsolver recommends. I definitely think we need to dispense with making ourselves pretty and “acceptable” and comfortable for men. It simply does not serve anyone, ourselves or the wider world, to neglect the gifts and talents of half the world’s population.

Men have been ugly to women privately in ways that are now becoming public. And it has caused some seismic shifts in the way women realize how non-personal and cultural all of that behavior has been. I agree that we must never tolerate this behavior, and if that makes me ugly, I am fine with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desires

Were you taught from a young age that desires are dangerous?

I think many of us who grew up in a Judeo-Christian background probably absorbed this lesson early in life. Those of us who have struggled with food issues or with other addictions may stop trusting our desires, since they seem to lead down a path that is destructive.

desire
Photo credit link 

Last summer I started working my way through a book by Danielle LaPorte’s book called The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. She sets out a process to examine 5 major areas of life, Livelihood & Lifestyle, Body & Wellness, Creativity & Learning, Relationships & Society, and Essence & Spirituality.

Since I opted to put the process away in August in order to focus on planning details for my wedding in September, I thought January would be a good time to return to it, and complete the process since I have some big goals this year. Reading back through my responses from the summer, not a lot has changed.

But one thing that stood out to me was my response to the prompt “Pleasure feels:” At risk of being a bit vulnerable here, I wrote down the words: amazing, forbidden, dangerous, excessive, tempting, all-encompassing, elusive, desirable, moving, shared, exciting and peaceful.

I recalled the time I had read Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. Menu item number 3 was Desire. She explains that our true desires and yearnings are what lead us to our soul’s purpose. Martha Beck is a genius, by the way. If you are ever facing major career shifts or changes in your life, pick up one of her books (the other I really loved was Finding Your North Star but I will read anything with Martha’s name on the cover).

Prior to desire, she focuses on stillness and truth. If you cannot get truthful with yourself, then you cannot reveal your true desires. I still struggle with this, but I am learning. Many of us have spent years repressing our desires, so we sometimes do not even know how to recognize or voice them. We are out of practice in detecting them.

We think: maybe that desire for chocolate cake is bad and wrong. In fact, the chocolate cake is most probably a “mask” for a true desire, which is to take loving care of ourselves, and indulge in some pleasure.

In August of 2016 I decided that my “desire” for a glass of wine as soon as I got home each night was something I wanted to change. It really was less of a desire and more of a habit, and since our brains like to stay efficient, habits can be hard to change. But the first thing I noticed when I took first a 10-day hiatus was that my anxieties and doubts came up. Yup. Alcohol serves a purpose. It dulls out those feelings.

wine glasses
Photo credit link

What I realized is that I was using wine to space out situations I did not want to confront. I also used it as “social lubricant” for work dinners I attended, and other events where I knew I would interact with groups larger than my comfort level (about 4). I realized that I was buffering my discomfort in these situations, and that it was unnecessary.

But I had to come up with a story for why I would decline the wine. It turned out to be this, and it is totally true: alcohol messes with my sleep. Since sleep is precious to me, it just is not worth it. That turned out to be a justification that my coworkers could accept, and regardless of whether they were accepting about it, I was committed.

Since then I have found that I get more sound sleep, I have less cravings for sugar, and I am able to experience “unclouded” feelings. Sometimes that sucks! I have to admit it, our buffers dull difficult emotions. But now that I know I can handle difficult emotions, that they are temporary vibrations in my body, I do not reach for wine. In 2017, I had a drink on probably 5 occasions, usually for a special event and planned ahead of time. I am not an alcoholic and I do not count days of sobriety.

But I have the confidence that this choice, far from dampening my desires, has done more to clarify what I desire long-term than anything else. So it is worth it, and I am grateful I realized how much better my life is without it. The clarity that has come from realizing I have a desire for more creativity and self-expression has led to much more satisfaction with the kinds of work I choose to do. It is right and it is good to take pleasure in that, not a sin.

Cheers, amigos! Toasting you with my glass of La Croix sparkling water. I hope you fulfill your desires for 2018.

 

 

Beatriz at dinner

I am about to write a movie review. I have not yet done this, so why not? It’s a Friday post and Fridays are for fun.

Actually the movie is fairly serious, and it explores the relationships between different cultures, classes, and the nature of healing. I watched it once on my way to Mexico this week and three days later on the way back, because I was fascinated by the Latina archetype and also the male “planet rape” archetype.

I encourage you to see this movie. It was released at Sundance and premiered in the U.S. on June 9, 2017. In November it won acclaim from the National Board of Review as a Top Ten Independent Film. It is a shorter film, only about 83 minutes, and most of it takes place on one day of Beatriz’ life.

Beatriz

Salma Hayek is of course brilliant in the role, though I kept on seeing her as “Frida Kahlo” in my mind. No harm of course. Frida was also an “old soul.” Her thesis in the movie is that “the earth is very sick and it needs old souls to help her heal.” I cannot argue with that as an apt metaphor for the kind of environmental disaster we are courting now.

I do not want to give you any spoilers, but John Lithgow plays an excellent greedy and voracious business man. He is a little reminiscent of Trump, narcissistic and self-aggrandizing. But there is a more nuanced look at what may have been pain in his past, which Beatriz can access in her very unique way. In a visceral way, this film demonstrates to us that greed is a cancer. It is a cancer that is destroying the planet.

The film was beautiful visually and the characters each played very convincingly in their roles. I am glad there are films like this being made. Though it will probably make a quiet splash, as a movie lacking in violence and sex, I hope it makes an impact. Our psyches need to be touched and healed by such films. It is how we will eventually heal the planet, by waking up to all the ways in which we have abused it.

Namaste, amigos y amigas! Enjoy your weekend!