For many years, I just accepted a lot of things.
Growing up, I just accepted that there were certain things I could do as a girl that boys couldn’t. I just accepted that there were even more things that I couldn’t do that boys could.
As a teenager, I just accepted that I was “weird” for liking math and science, since those were boy things. I just accepted that my love for English and grammar was perfectly fine because I was a girl.
In college, I just accepted the assumption that biology was an “easy” major and therefore more “girly” than others (go ahead – spend all night in a lab doing a pulse-chase and analyzing the results and then tell me just how darn “easy” that is).
As a young adult, I just accepted that the doctors wouldn’t tie my female friend’s tubes (after all, she was childless and single!), but didn’t even question my male friend’s vasectomy.
It’s not that I wasn’t a feminist. I’ve been fascinated by women’s rights since I read a biography of Susan B. Anthony way back in kindergarten. I always assumed I’d work full-time in a powerful role (as I kid, I thought I’d be a scientist. As an adult, I’ve realized that business is my game).
I was, however, also heavily socialized into gender roles. I was raised by a stay-at-home mom in a small town in a conservative part of the country. The women in my family made sure that I knew how to act like a “lady” even if I wasn’t going to pursue anything particularly “ladylike.” And I am grateful for knowing which fork to use and who to introduce to whom.
At some point, though, I stopped just accepting things.
It probably happened gradually, but I definitely stopped just accepting things.
In college, I didn’t accept when my TA told me that girls couldn’t do physics.
As a young adult, I told someone (when he said, “When is your (student) husband going to start supporting you?”) that I was perfectly capable of supporting my husband and myself.
When I went to a family party, I got angry that I’d just taken my first executive role (in my late twenties, no less!), and everyone in my extended family was merely concerned with when I was going to have children. (Hint: never.)
During a review session, I had a yelling match when I realized that the group of managers had ranked all of the women lower than all of the men. (“I refuse to believe that ALL these women aren’t better than ONE of these men! Something must be wrong.”)
When I worked in a larger company, I pointed out that men got promoted more often than women.
I can’t be the only one.
I’ve been part of a lot of conversations recently where someone wonders whether gender issues have actually gotten worse. To some extent, maybe they have. The brogrammer culture and certain members of the Republican party aren’t exactly pictures of enlightenment. And don’t get me started on the insanity that is gendered toys.
I have to think, though, that I’m not the only woman who just accepted things once and who has stopped. I’m not the only woman expressing her views on blogs and social media. In fact, I’m not the only person who is standing up every day and saying that this isn’t okay.
I have to admit that this does get exhausting. I’m not trying to find things to stop accepting, but they’re in my face every day.
I noticed yesterday that the fun little “horsey ride” game that I was playing with my niece and nephew was heavily gendered, but I didn’t have the creativity to change it on the fly. I learned that game from my grandfather. It’s a treasured memory from my childhood. But the lady is gentle, and the gentleman gets to have much more fun. And that isn’t okay.
So I’ll keep pointing it out.
I’ll keep having the fights. I’ll keep noticing my own habits and traditions and stop accepting them. I’ll keep blogging, and I might even start writing for Entrepreneur again. Whatever, I do, I’m going to think before I just accept something at face value when it might reinforce hurtful stereotypes.
I hope you’ll join me.