File under: inadvertent benefits to shoe-throwing.
Naomi had one hell of a shoe thrown at her the other day. Which sucks. Ow.
And while I don’t want to even slightly imply that being the object of shoe-throwing is a good thing (it’s not!), an astoundingly fascinating thing happened as a result of this particular shoe.
First of all, Naomi wrote about it. And — in doing so — she wrote about the gender thing. It’s the thing that nobody talks about.
The elephant in the room, if the room is the world of online biggification.
So I’m feeling two things.
Sad that my friend got hit by a shoe.
And relieved that she gave me an opening to write about the thing I have been consciously avoiding writing about (but really, really wanting to) for over a year.
You’ll have to take it in bits and pieces, because that’s how it is in my head. And assume that some — perhaps many — of these pieces are contradictory.
It’s a hard topic. A hard, finely nuanced topic. Both because it’s so strangely taboo, and because I have very mixed feelings about it.
So bear with me.
Conventional wisdom — in the circles I travel in — holds that there aren’t any gender issues. Especially when it comes to glass ceilings.
Not online. Not in the enlightened free-for-all World 2.0 that we hang out in.
And even if they do exist, you just don’t talk about it.
Partly because a lot of us agree with Naomi on this part:
“I don’t talk about women in business, because I don’t like to give the gender issue more airtime than it already gets. I think we’d have a whole lot fewer issues if we spent more time getting on with kicking ass.”
The awkward conversation.
Conversations about this stuff (when they happen, which is hardly ever) usually go like this.
Guy friend: Eh, I don’t see any glass ceilings.
Me: Right. That’s why they’re called glass ceilings. They’re invisible. At least, they are to everyone not getting bruised by banging their heads on them.
And the other conversations.
Of course, there are other circles. I could be going to women’s blogging conferences about women in blogging. We’d definitely be talking about this stuff there.
But I’m not.
So we hang out in the world where this stuff doesn’t get talked about. And frankly, sometimes that is easier than others.
But enough about the elephant. More about what Naomi said.
She said a few things that were so right on that I could hardly stand it. Yes, generalizations. Still very relevant.
One is that we have to stop marginalizing ourselves, hating on ourselves and shooting ourselves in the feet.
Another is that ohmygod we are constantly second-guessing whether or not we’re entitled to feel hurt and upset in any given situation. Right — it’s that sovereignty thing again.
Another is that this can lead us into making faulty decisions about what’s worth reacting to (and how to react to it).
And finally, in Naomi’s experience, male and female clients approach business in a completely different way. Women ask “is this even remotely possible?” and men ask “alright, how are we going to make this work?”
Well, that’s my experience too.
Not that men in business aren’t dealing with fear. Because they are.
I have enough male friends and clients to know that crippling, paralyzing fear does not in any way pass them by.
They suffer massive stuckification just as much and just as deeply as any women I’ve worked with.
And I’ll also note that the type of man who’s going to work with me is pretty comfortable sharing that kind of information, because otherwise he wouldn’t be hiring hippie-ass me and the accompanying duck.
But yeah, their attitude is still almost always different.
When clients explain what they’re working on, more often than not it goes like this:
Client (man): So frankly, I’m terrified. I’ve been in complete inaction for months. I need some concrete strategies to get through this and I think you’re the person who can help me. I’d like some reassurance first and then I want help coming up with a plan.
Client (woman): I don’t know. I was excited about my idea at first, but then my husband said that no one will ever buy it.* So I guess I want to know that I’m not crazy. I am, right?
That’s the difference.
*Aside to all the women whose husbands say stuff like that: Is he one of the Right People for your business? Because if he isn’t, he doesn’t get to decide whether or not people will be interested. Just saying.
What all this means for us.
I don’t know.
I don’t want to get tangled up in the “why” of gender differences, both because that would take twenty-zillion posts, and also because I don’t see the point in reinventing a wheel that people already can’t agree whether it’s square or round.
But guess what?
Marginalization. We can still talk about it — even when we don’t want to.
Even if Naomi is right that a lot of it is us doing it to ourselves and that we need to get the hell over it already.
It doesn’t mean that we have to be mad or stay mad. It doesn’t mean that we have to turn everything into a gender discussion.
But I want to be able to talk about this stuff without being shushed.
I want to be able to talk about it.
I want to be able to talk about why it is that even in places like the yoga world or in Shiva Nata where the vast majority of practitioners are women, the men rise to the top and we never talk about why that is.
About why it is that the women I know wait to get invited to speak on panels or to be approached by a publisher, while the men I know start panels and call people and make things happen.
I want to be able to ask Jonathan Fields (who is smart, sweet, thoughtful and a genuinely good guy), hey how come there aren’t any women in your awesome publishing guide?
Not so much why women aren’t used in examples of successful book marketing campaigns (because yeah, that could be us hiding again), but why is it not even an issue that we’re not there?
Like, why don’t we talk about how weird it is that women don’t show up in this context when so many of us are writing and blogging and biggifying-against-the-tides? I know this is not about any kind of intentional exclusion but still, why don’t we talk about it?
I totally don’t mean to pick on Jonathan — this sort of thing honestly exists all over the place, and his manifesto was the first example to come to mind. And I know I could ask him and I know he’d be cool. I’m positive he wouldn’t mind. But I haven’t yet.
Because I live in this world where we don’t talk about that stuff.
I could be a man, for all you know.
In fact, I pretty much have to be, if you look at my “quick rise to the top”. Don’t tell me you didn’t suspect anything.
Yeah, okay, if you’ve met me at one of my seminars or at a conference, you know that I do a fairly decent impression of a woman, but really, who’s to say? Online you can never know for sure who’s who.
But you know what? As far as I can tell, in terms of fame and fortune in the internet world, there’s not a whole lot to be gained by being a woman blogger (or pretending to be one), whereas being a man? Super useful.
Not for every single man, no. But I have seen men have an easier time of it, in a hundred different ways.
And even if that weren’t even slightly true, a lot of men would probably go ahead and biggify it up anyway. Because of that wonderful self-assured whatever-it-is that makes them think, “Sure I’ll try it — what could go wrong?”
Because they have sovereignty. Or think they do — which in some cases pretty much amounts to the very same thing.
Where am I going with this?
I don’t know. It’s too long and it’s too complicated and it’s too hard.
I guess what I want to say is this:
I am so glad Naomi brought this up. Her post is really good. You should read it. It’s extra-curse-ey and she’s hilarious and she also tells you why you should get our thing while it’s still cheap-as-hell.
And I agree that we treat ourselves like we’re stupid. Like we aren’t deserving of sovereignty.
Like being safe and provided for is something that we’re not even allowed to want.
We spend a lot more time hurting from thrown shoes and agonizing over those shoes and letting our reactions to thrown shoes dictate our decisions.
And if we — ALL OF US, not just the women among us — are going to start thinking big in a mindful way, we’re going to have to pay attention to these stucknesses when they show up. And we’re going to have to start learning how to ask for things.
Because that, for me at least, is where it all starts.
Comment zen for today …
Same as yesterday. We’re all working on our stuff. We’re doing the best we can. We try not to step on each other’s stuff. We’re practicing.