This month we have been exploring the various facets of explicit and implicit misogyny in workplace culture.
And so I found it almost comical this past Wednesday, as I sat teaching a session on internalized misogyny in workplace culture to our monthly Leadership Roundtable community, that I should be so actively working to combat my own.
While listening to our community pick through the subtle and not-so-subtle ways hatred of anything feminine or feminine in nature shows up, I was struggling with:
- Feelings of guilt for missing my children’s first day of school drop off
- Feelings of guilt for not feeling guiltier about missing it, because I was simultaneously happy to be facilitating this discussion
- Concern that I might cry somewhere between slide 5 and slide 6
- Concern that as a Black Woman it is very rare that I would cry in public, and what this might signify for the Black Women coming up behind me if I do not learn how to cry in public
- Feelings of Imposter Syndrome because surely if everyone on this call knew what was going on in my head, heart, and body they would see my imperfections and deem me an unworthy teacher and leader
- And so on
- And so on
The most powerful aspect of our dominant cultural norms is the ways in which they can teach you to hate even yourself. If left unchecked, this society of ours likes to sneak attack me with some mixed bag of the following messages on a daily basis:
- You are too Black to be a CEO
- You are too woman and too Black to be a CEO
- Mothers, especially single mothers, should not be CEOs
- If you are a successful CEO you must be a bad mother
- The nonlinear way in which you think and speak is not like a CEO
- …Is that a heart emoji in an email, that is not professional, not normal for a CEO
- Oh and BTW, the reason you are single is because you are too strong, too opinionated, too assertive, too focused, too much like a CEO
I mean, damn, it’s no wonder I was struggling to keep it together during my morning session. And yet, that is just a taste of what internalized misogyny culture does to all of us — women, non-binary people, and men — it convinces us to suppress our humanness.
In exchange, we’ve been taught, you have to always be perfect; you have to always make the right choice (because of course it’s an either/or choice); you have to be BIGGER, which is BETTER; and you have to defend yourself against any and all critique.
No thank you.
As I head into September — another month fraught with uncertainty as we send our children back into schools, face mounting environmental disaster, and experience another spike in Covid-19 — here’s what I am thinking about:
- Anything that comes after the words, “you’re too…” is bound to be judgmental, and a threat to your sense of self and wellness. So this September I am going to develop a strong boundary on shutting it down before those words even complete themselves. For example:
Them: You’re too—
Me: 🙋🏾♀️—This sentence better finish with “funny.”
- I started my first, second, third, and fourth companies because I like to bring amazing people together to create. I love innovation, so why would I allow myself to be afraid of innovation in my approach to leadership? I am just as much a CEO in my pink lipstick’d, licorice-colored locks rocking, heart-emoji dropping, soccer-Mom bopping self as the next one. I didn’t come here to get a seat at the old table, I came here to be like the phoenix: to burn shit down and rise.
- Just like racism, not being racist and being actively anti-racist are two very different things. I commit myself to finding more and more mentors who are actively anti-misogynist leaders. And that is to say that a woman in a leadership role and a leader who is actively anti-misogynist are not necessarily synonymous with one another.
And remember: Diversity is the norm.
Reach out when you are ready to do the work.
Lindsey T. H. Jackson