Trina: It’s the voice in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough. That little voice — make sure you’re looking really beautiful everyday. If I’m not presenting a beautiful package am I going to find someone who loves me, am I going to succeed at work or at life in general? It is that “nasty” voice that so many of us have.
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Valerie: Welcome back to the League of Badass Women Podcast. I’m Valerie Orth, your host. For this episode I spoke to a few badasses about their recent Power Talks on internalized misogyny. And for those who don’t know Power Talks are intimate conversations on topics curated by the League hosted by and for our badass members. First you’ll hear from Trina Cooper who hosted her Power Talks in -40 degree weather in Edmonton, Canada. Trina is a people and cultural strategist and creative problem solver who is passionate about helping women find their voice.
Trina: I look around the room and we’ve got educators and female executives and we all really have the same ah-ha moment. We didn’t think we all had that internal misogyny going on and we all do and as we discussed it, it was a little bit.. I think we were all blown away.
Valerie: I also spoke to Jamie Silverman, born and bred Brooklyn girl, creative director, avid runner, animal lover and all around supporter of women about her Power Talks in New York City… during a snowstorm.
What is internalized misogyny?
Jamie: I never heard the term before so it was kind of tough to even articulate what it was for myself and for the group but the way that I understood it was anything that caused you to have a bias against women — leveraging any preconceived notion that you had about specific gender roles and one of the examples from the video that you sent me that I really liked and that I referred to was women who were anti-suffragettes.
Valerie: And that video Jamie is referring to is from Feminist Frequency. I’ll be sure to link it in the description of this episode on Soundcloud, as well as other resources you might like to check out on this topic.
Jamie: The idea that because somebody else tells you a woman is not supposed to vote, women taking on the perception of the masses and saying women shouldn’t vote because voting is a man’s game. So if you kind of play into ideas that other people have about what specific gender roles are supposed to entail — that was my understanding of internalized misogyny.
Valerie: Also at the New York City Power Talks is Barrie Ginsberg, advertising accounts supervisor, social good and badass women enthusiast and New York bagel connoisseur.
Barrie: Building off of what Jamie was saying, I think one of the things that really struck me in our group conversation was about the impact of the environment and how that has shaped, kind of, women’s internal perspectives on things and one of the examples that we had talked about with the group is women in their early, mid, even late 20s feeling that pressure to constantly have a boyfriend or have a significant other and be in those relationships and feel like they have to rely on that other person in their life and the impact of those external forces on shaping people’s internal opinion about how things should be was definitely something that I found incredibly interesting.
Jamie: There was a woman in our group who was 25 and she said she’s kind of been off the hook for dating and her family was like “Yeah do your thing, do your thing” but then she hit 25 and her mom was like “Sooo what’s going on? Why don’t you have a significant other?” Just the assumption that there are specific points in our lives where we are supposed to accomplish things — that’s a form of internalized misogyny.
Valerie: Back to Trina in Canada who continues to give us examples of internalized misogyny.
Trina: Out of all of us, there were 3 of us who didn’t have children and so making that decision — when you’re around others who have children or people who are questioning it, myself and the others shared as well — we really feel like we have to justify why. It almost feels like you’re being selfish, like you’re choosing yourself over creating life and that sounds really dramatic, but it was interesting that so many of us who don’t have children felt that way.
Valerie: Did the women who have children feel any internalized misogyny when it comes to feeling like they needed to have children?
Trina: Well, what came up was, you know, that feeling of wanting to go back to work early or having your children and going back to work. One of our members brought up a story about they went back to work, they got a nanny, and they lost friends over it — like other people in the mommy groups — and they said they were “mommy shamed”. That’s the terminology that came up. So there’s a lot of misogyny on both sides of the child issue — if you have them or if you don’t. And a lot of people questioning why would you go back to work? Someone had gone back to work when their child was 4 months old and they said their decision in doing that made them a better parent because they personally for themselves were more well rounded, but other women and people not understanding that, really making them feel bad about it, which is unnecessary. We all have our different paths.
Valerie: What is “mommy shaming?”
Trina: It is a mother who, either if it’s internal speak or external speak, is being told that they’re not good enough. The decisions that they’re making for their lives or their children’s lives — that’s not good enough, that is not what society wants or what their peers expect.
Valerie: One day for some reason I decided I wanted to know if Oprah had kids. I don’t follow her too much, but I listen to Super Soul Sundays and I’m inspired by her and I typed in my browser ‘Does Oprah’ or ‘Does O-p-r’ and then the first thing that came up was ‘Does Oprah have kids?’ so it was like a lot of people must be wondering if.. Is it right to have — you know looking at Oprah as somebody who is, you know, an idol as a woman — how do you decide that and she of all people decided not to have kids. It was interesting to me more, not that she doesn’t have kids, more that so many people wanted to know. How many people wanted to be validated in their decision to not have kids.
Trina: Yeah, it’s really amazing. One of the members, she’s been very resolute in how she feels about not having children. It’s just not her path. As her siblings started having children, I think she started to feel that pressure. I don’t think that it.. part of it’s internal but also part of it’s external and really at one point I guess she really struggled with that. Until she realized this is my path this is what I am doing for me and for my spouse.
Valerie: Back in New York City the topic of motherhood and work also came up.
Barrie: Thinking about a woman who’s pregnant but also trying to pursue a career and the pressures that she’s having and probably what’s going through her head just based off of the environment that she was raised. Women could frequently think “Should I not go after that promotion, should I not go after that other job that I want just because I know 4–5–6 months from now I’m going to have to take leave?” And that is something that… there are some women in my life that I know who, you know, either got pressure when they tried to pursue a career, promotions, or raises or other roles while they were pregnant and kind of — the women putting pressure on themselves in those situations and I definitely think that that’s a perfect example.
Jamie: 100%. There’s a woman that I used to work with who was incredibly talented, fairly ambitious just in that she was great and could have risen up as much or as little as she wanted to and we had a discussion and I remember her telling me her salary and I was like “Holy shit you are so massively underpaid — why do you stay at this company?” And she’s like “I’ve had 3 kids over the course of my ten years at this company. I was just grateful that they let me keep my job and let me keep on coming back every time I took off to have a kid” and I was like, “That’s insane! That’s not a reason to stay at a company 1. and 2. It’s not like they’re being generous by letting you keep your job. There’s rules and you get 3 months. You can have as many children as you want you get your time and then you can make the choice to come back or not come back.” And she was like so grateful to this fucked up system we have that she was like “Thank you, oh my god thanks for letting me keep my job and keep working at this company — getting literally half the salary that I should be making.”
Barrie: Which I actually think raises another point. If you think about women’s perspective of asking for raises and asking for promotions — women are so much less likely to ask for what they deserve to be making that other male colleagues that they’re working with, who probably bring the same things to the table and are earning significantly more but yet women are — I don’t want to say predisposed, but a lot of times women don’t ask for the dollars, right they just don’t want to ask and if you don’t ask you’re definitely not going to get it. You have to be the person who advocates for what’s best for you because you have to assume that nobody else is going to.
Jamie: So funny — I’m in the process of doing performance reviews at my company so I did them for the women and not once in the process of our interviews, and they both said they wanted promotions but not once did they raise the spectre of money. And then after I finished that process I got an email from another employee of mine who’s male who spelled out in the email: here’s what I’ve done, here’s my contributions and here’s how much more money I want to make, can we start the process of a review. And it was so interesting to me how drastically different the experiences were of looking at this more junior guy who’s talented but these two women who were basically much more senior than him were — I don’t know if it was embarrassed or they just didn’t feel entitled to ask me for it, but they didn’t ever raise the issue of money. And he’s like, I’ve been doing all this — give me more money. And it was just so much more direct than it was with the women and it was really interesting to see that disparity.
Barrie: Jamie that immediately makes me think of the other night when we were talking about how women are much more likely to wait until they basically satisfy 100% or even 110% of the items that are basically bulleted out on a job description before they go ahead and interview for it whereas men, I think the statistic quote was like they might only have 50 or 60% of the bullets within a job description but they are there and they are confident and willing to fight for it.
Jamie: Right, there is more of a sense of entitlement. Women just don’t think they deserve it. Because it’s taken a while for us to get where we are professionally I think we’re still getting comfortable. I mean even though it’s 2019 there’s no reason for anybody to have any feelings like this. I think there’s still a little bit of a mentality “Oh do I deserve to be here? Do I deserve to have this stuff?” In a way that men, who have been ruling the workplace for so long, just feel a little bit more inclined or deserving of it than we do — and I include myself in that. I mean, every single day I talk to my boyfriend about the fact that I don’t think I deserve the job that I have and he’s like, “You wouldn’t have it if you didn’t deserve it” and I don’t… maybe, but I still feel like I’m not worthy of the titles that I have and the accolades that I’m given.
Barrie: I think about it from a different perspective. Women might do the exact same thing that a man might do but she’s much more likely to be considered or called aggressive or too direct. That also plays into this. I’ve heard from so many friends and fellow colleagues that when they ask for something or they’re direct or they come into the meeting and they have the agenda and they’re pulled together and then they start it then they’re immediately perceived as —
Jamie: Why are they being so bossy?
Barrie: Yeah exactly! They’re considered as ballsy, they’re considered aggressive. If you think about how that might translate to a woman asking for a raise or a promotion even if she’s completely deserving or as deserving as her male colleague she might be perceived before as aggressive and might not be taken as seriously as a male colleague that might have the exact same qualifications.
Jamie: Well and it’s really tough. You know, I look at women who are bosses and some people I feel like lean in to being a female and kind of use their femininity in a way that’s … or traditionally feminine qualities or female qualities: being more nurturing and more mentoring. Female bosses who just behave like themselves are the ones who are the most successful whereas female bosses who try to embrace traditional female characteristics in the workplace and try to be extra assertive or extra dominant and I’m like — this isn’t working. That’s just what the Power Talks are about. Embracing male qualities, embracing female qualities these shouldn’t even be things taken into consideration, right? You should just be behaving the way you want to behave, but it ends up coming off more forced whether it’s because socially we’ve been conditioned to think that men are supposed to behave “x” way and women are supposed to behave “y” way, but when women do kind of come in guns blazing it doesn’t necessarily work for me professionally. I think it’s more effective to just do your thing.
Barrie: Jamie, one thing I was thinking of while you were just going through that was actually how if women did actually embrace, and I hate saying more stereotypical female characteristics, but if you think about a stereotypical woman being more caring, more nurturing, more approachable I actually agree with you. Those are characteristics of a really great boss, yet unfortunately those are characteristics that female and especially c-suite or very senior level executive females if they really do embrace them they’re very likely to hear from fellow colleagues that that’s actually being perceived as too weak or ..
Jamie: Be tougher.
Barrie: Yeah, exactly! And that’s what I think is so horrible about this.
Jamie: Yeah. I mean, and then in our Power Talk it came up that I’ve been told I’m too soft. I think I’m very direct when I need to be. I think I’m aggressive and assertive when I need to be, but I also want to take care of people. And when one of my employees came to me and was like “I’m taking vacations for the next 3 days I know we have a lot of deadlines, like I really don’t want to have to work over the weekend” and I was like “I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure you don’t have to work over the weekend” whereas a guy would be like “Sorry we have a lot of work to do, let’s take care of it. Not my problem.” That sucks. I want to be respected. I want my time off to be respected and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure yours is as well. I’ve been told that I need to be… yeah it’s a job, this isn’t an animal shelter which is actually something a boss of mine once said to me that I thought was hilarious, but also terrible. I try to be nurturing and I try to be a mentor and it’s funny — female employees and female coworkers have told me I’m a really really great boss, they really appreciate my leadership style but I don’t know if it’s generally perceived to be a positive that I’m considerate of the people that work for me.
Valerie: Some other examples of internalized misogyny that were brought up in the Edmonton Power Talks…
Trina: Going back to that package that women present, going into corporate meetings — really focusing on how do we look before we go in — Am I wearing the power suit? The pencil skirt? Is my makeup right? And if you think how men go into these meetings — they’re not worried about that. But women thinking, you know, sitting across a board room with other women with men we really feel like we have to… so many of us I should say, really feel like we have to focus on the physical presentation instead of just really focusing on what we are bringing to the table. If you’re faced with a situation and you’re feeling emotional and, you know, I think so many people have had situations where you’ve started crying at work, in the privacy of your office or out in the open, and really battling the humiliation that comes with that. There’s really nothing wrong with showing emotion, but so many of us feel humiliated if we’ve had that situation at work and that’s part of that stereotype. You know, we look at women as we’re over sensitive or we have to be nurturing others instead of worrying about ourselves.
Valerie: Did anyone talk about when men show emotion and how that might be different?
Trina: Yes, when men are showing emotion they’re “passionate”. That’s what we always hear. Oh he’s passionate about the subject. Where, if a woman is really showing that emotion she’s over sensitive. How do we turn of that internal voice of self doubt? That nasty voice that tells us all of the negative things that we’re doing.
Valerie: It might always be there, right? How do you change?
Trina: I think it’s just really taking the time. A lot of what we have has been passed down from our family, from generations. You know, as a women making sure that you cook, you clean, and do all this. One of the things that we said was being mindful of what we are passing down to the next generation. If you can’t do it for yourself, if you can’t figure out a way to do it, if you’re at least mindful of that it can kind of help you stop because these little things that we’ve been taught comes out in conversation some way or another and so it’s really trying to role model for the next generation what we are going to do
Barrie: The biggest thing that jumped out to me from our conversation was just openness and that kind of seemed like of “Well, of course” but the understanding that comes with just pausing for a moment and being open to different perspectives and what people might mean and kind of the environmental factors that might shape their perspective I definitely think was something that I really walked out of that room appreciating more so than I have before.
Trina: For me, personally, whenever I’m going into a meeting or if I’ve got this self doubt I tell myself to stop and I say it out loud. The person who shares the office beside me — they’re used to it.
Valerie: So you physically will say it out loud?
Trina: Yeah. Stop.
Valerie: You know when you’re hearing it and what to say stop to. Some people it’ll just kind of cycle in their head and they don’t know what they’re stopping even. So to be even aware that this is internalized sexism that is coming from the outside — that’s really powerful.
Trina: Sometimes it’s after I’ve been saying stuff to myself for quite some time so I need to get better at seeing it and catching it right away. If I’m in a meeting and I’m kind of feeling that same way sometimes I’ll pinch myself or my pinch my palm so that it doesn’t look really obvious to anyone in the room but it’s just really any way to get a physical break and then move forward.
The biggest thing we really need to focus on as we are growing and going on this journey — it’s not something that we’re going to be amazing at right away. We are not going to just turn that voice off in our head. As I spoke to the women around the room and we talked about our own internal misogyny someone at one point was just like we just need to be kind, be kind to ourselves. When you’re going to that meeting, “Oh maybe I didn’t check my lipstick, maybe I don’t feel as smart as the men in the room” just really being kind and really recognizing that we are all powerful in our own right and we are bringing and whether it might not be the same exact skills as someone else, but our skills are just as good as someone else. Working towards an internal balance. It’s hard but it just takes work and that’s what we’re here for at the League, we’re all here to support each other as we’re all growing and figuring out our way and always have an accountability partner. That’s what we do in our Power Talk. Sometimes we’ll revisit things from the previous one and do like a check in “How are you doing with this? And how are you doing with that? And just knowing that A. I’ve got that support and I’ve got that accountability partner to my growth makes a really big difference.
Valerie: That’s awesome.
Trina: It can feel like the smallest of things but it can have such impact. I’m fortunate because the people in the group, for the most part, we’ve got a lot of communication that goes on on a regular basis so we’ve got that check in. We bring in new people and they feel like they’ve got that access as well, but everyone knows that there is someone else that we can reach out.
Valerie: Special thanks to this episodes featured badasses: Trina Cooper, Jamie Silverman and Barrie Ginsberg. Stay tuned with new episodes posted every other Wednesday. In the meantime you can join the conversation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail your thoughts, comments, questions, whatever you’d like to hear to hear from the next featured badasses on the next episode.