There are only 2 types of feminists left.
- and how your neighborhood yoga teacher & any woman in tech is by default very feminist.
As an active feminist, my life has been a series of experiments. Experiments - to figure out what differentiates us, as feminists. While most people argue if feminism is even relevant, I belong to the tribe that assumes we all are and focuses instead on analyzing what kind we are. Perhaps I am that privileged? Or perhaps I am not in-denial of statistics.
Eitherway, I am a feminist.
And lets be honest, its hard to analyze “feminism” without stumbling upon the trifecta that is the “waves of feminism” — the First, Second and Third. Anyone whose taken a Gender 101 or knows to google knows whats inadequate about them. Most people stop caring by this point. But obviously I didn’t. And lot of us actually didn’t.
Even today, in 2017, lets admit we still ask many of the same questions.
Having studied, worked, lived, grown-up all over the map (in at least 7 countries spread all over the world), a nagging question followed me through academia, private equity, and now technology. Despite the diversity of geographies, history and industries, there are some creepy similarities about the “workplace” worldwide. Especially with respect to the socialization, expectations and accepted attitudes of women in the workplace. Granted my observations are limited to those on women working in heterosexual male-dominated workplaces. For e.g.: in academia in Sumatra, private equity in the Middle East, tech start-up in Seoul, etc, men hold more prestige. If I have not lost you, you catch the drift.
We as women experience:
- patronizing hetero-normativity in the workplace?
- meetings where its funny to be sexist?
- look -on, stand-by, ignore, overhear, “passively see” our negation on media, Ads, blogs, Facebook, chats etc?
- see gender inhibit someone’s promotion, election, celebration, etc?
- This. Every. Single. Day.
Indeed, we have sure come a long way. We do not have men sexually harassing us openly like the Mad Men era anymore. And yet men still mansplain and “man”ify every interaction like before the word existed. This is not a hypothesis. A couple of cocktails in, we can all openly narrate instances and loudly wonder how this is even possible in 20xx?
And what do feminists do?
Well, we start by admitting we have two types.
The kind that stoops to conquer.
Upon seeing her daily reality, she thinks to herself, “lets not abandon this fight.” She wakes up appreciating our well-achieved progress. She wants to be President, CEO, lead armies and be the best. She knows she’s winning when she looks at the record levels of women’s workplace participation and the social media awareness around her causes . After all, she thinks to herself, “if something truly bad happens I can always hold people accountable. We have fabulous HR resources here.”
She knows in this connected world, nothing will be a secret for long. She knows given enough legal protection and political correctness, even the mightiest of men will be intimidated towards egalitarianism. Besides noone can ultimately stop her from hacking the system, making money, earning glory, joining Boards, getting on those private jet cigar clubs, etc. Its 2017 and she temporarily “stoops” to conquer her male dominated workplace.
She is not clueless. She believes women have the same rights as men. She does not want her self-identity and esteem bruised on verbally, emotionally, financially, intellectually, etc just because of her biological fact (whatever gender that fact maybe). She also read critical pieces about uber, Ellen Pao and the end of sexism in technology. She soothes herself that sensational blogposts are outliers and sympathetic distractions. For now, “all those things will not happen to me.”
She occasionally recollects those infamous posts and continues to feel discomfort routinely at her workplace. But she sucks it up and reminds herself that her paycheck depends on being a “team player.” Her neo-cortex reminds her that being “feminist” or “not a team-player,” is rarely rewarded.
And here is the thing, turns out that decision of whether you think our workplace equality is a right or a privilege is made in our limbic brain! So its not something we can reason her out of. Infact she is inspired by the cognitive dissonance of her workplace. She knows that she risks doing a disservice to other women working everywhere by gaining an easily stereotyped reputation. She is a silent feminist and stoops till she conquers.
The kind that rises to conquer.
Upon seeing her daily reality she thinks to herself, who is the real decision-maker in her industry? Chances that it is a ‘he’ who leads the Department, tech startup, VC fund, institutional investor, the stock market, etc are certainly high. She knows there are some wonderfully feminist men out there and envies those who get to report to or mentor with them. She does not feel that optimistic about this game once she sees the odds are terribly and unimaginably stacked against her.
She knows the roots of this unfairness — all too well. Once in a while, she might strike it lucky and she marries, gives birth, brings up, nurtures, befriends or even is gifted power. But she knows not to confuse good fortune with fair opportunity. All that matters and all that she sees is that she is generally spoken for in most “management” teams.
What she sees today in the workplace …
…is not a rupture at all, but rather the culmination — the logical end point — of a great many dangerous stories our culture has been telling for a very long time. That greed is good. That the market rules. That money is what matters in life. That white men are better than the rest ... That we are surrounded by danger and should only look after our own. That there is no alternative to any of this (No is not Enough: Naomi Klein pp. 257–258).
Turns out, the way capitalism works — customer is king — unless she’s a woman. And others can speak more, but at least in technology, women do not even lead in verticals where they form the lion’s share of the employee and customer base. Nothing new here, the horse has been better beaten on this subject with menstruation, childbirth, old age health, cosmetics, childcare, media, etc. Subsequently, even when she researches startups disrupting women-dominated spaces, most of them are led by VCs who are men?
She notices that nowhere in this equation is she ever asked — what does she want?
Suddenly, it dawns on her. Whether it be geriatric care (women far outlive men at every income level and most caregivers are women) or Childbirth/care (literally only women can deliver babies) or fitness (72%+ of all yogis are women), as a matter of life and death — she thinks women need instantaneous representation in ownership or business decision-making roles.
“It is also about developing technology that can help us make this world kinder to women, by offering solutions to problems that have to do with women’s health, safety and career dilemmas.” Could not have said it better myself.
Since technology is a great democratizer in a historically unprecedented way, she “does her own thing.” She takes on the workplace by creating her own online and offline initiative to help, hire and further the needs of her community. She chooses starting a blog, a startup, a book, a boutique, a yoga studio, a private practice, a sole proprietorship, an independent consultancy, a fund and so on. She also hunts and discovers those refreshing businesses which are not explicitly run by just men and she wholeheartedly supports them. And this proliferation of her ability is only possible because of technology. Grabbing whatever tools she can she rises to conquer.
And This is a Type 2 feminist.
I get this girl. A lot of us do.
So what does this babe do?
I can comment (read: cut through jargon) on my industry and my vertical — technology & health. When a start-up talks about revolutionizing “geriatric care,” I ask is this progress for the man who owns old age homes or the poor grandma who lives alone and struggles with her devices? When I hear of the “fitness revolution,” I ask is this even helping the talented yoga teacher hustling at minimum wage or the owners of huge studio chains? Are their goals even aligned to begin with?
And if you are asking “who cares?” then I argue you do. At least you will soon.
But I’ve written enough already. Besides that answer deserves its own whole post. Ciao for now and stop hustling so hard — remember to stay present ;) —