Be Beautiful But Stay in the Background:
Before I begin, let me say that I recognize this may be triggering for some of you. Nobody wants to see themselves as having an #unconsciousbias or as someone who disrespects or marginalizes women.
For instance, I went to see Barbie with a well-educated, research-minded male friend of mine who even identifies as a feminist. He loved the film and appreciated its messages, but when I spoke of the sad fact that the vast majority of women are still conditioned to see themselves as inferior to men, his response floored me.
He said something like, “Not the majority of women; not anymore.”
It’s amazing to me how confidently and casually he told me I was wrong and implied that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
I took a deep breath and asked him, “What are you basing your assumption on?” He struggled to produce any concrete facts to support his declaration, and then just doubled-down on being right.
This is a prime example of the relative ease and comfort men seem to have when shutting down a women’s point without even seeking to learn more. Whether it’s a personal or professional female assertion, this style of deflective disagreement is unfortunately something that women are quite used to. When a man doesn’t share our perspective, the burden of proof is on us to convince them, which then forces us to defend ourselves, making us appear oversensitive.
Patriarchy is Hiding in Plain Sight
There’s a scene in the movie where Ken and Barbie travel to the Real World and Ken explores Century City, a posh section of Los Angeles. He is taken by the fact that, unlike in Barbie Land, he’s treated with immediate respect. He visits the library to learn more about men in the Real World, and then runs into another man outside.
Ken: You guys aren’t doing patriarchy very well.
Corporate Man: We’re actually doing patriarchy very well
Corporate Man: … we’re just better at hiding it.
Let’s all take a moment to consider the women around us – our colleagues, friends, sisters, partners – and the intricate web of #unachieveable and #impossible #expectations they must navigate. At first glance, this might seem like an exaggeration, but bear with me and try to understand:
- They need financial stability, but asking openly for pay raises or promotions can be seen as #aggressive or #unbecoming of a ‘lady‘.
- They should be leaders at work but in a way that takes into account everyone’s feelings, including fragile male egos, making it challenging to make tough decisions or assert #authority without being seen as a threat.
- They’re supposed to love #motherhood but not let it get in the way of their responsibilities at work. Women are regularly overlooked for more senior leadership positions if they have or plan to have children.
Feminist Backslide: An Erosion of Women’s Empowerment
Now, you might ask, “Don’t men face pressures too?” And you’d be right; we all face challenges. However, the issue here is the specific, often #contradictory, demands that hinder women’s #progress in the #workforce.
- If a male colleague misbehaves, women often find themselves under scrutiny. Speaking up about this disparity can lead to accusations of being #argumentative or #difficult.
- Women are navigating a system that subtly, yet persistently, holds #marginalizing #biases against them.
- Women are expected to maintain a certain level of #appearance, adding another layer of effort and time that doesn’t directly contribute to job performance. Women are told to maintain a certain physique, not too thin, not too heavy, and expected to dress ‘appropriately’, but there’s an unspoken tie to #attractiveness.
A recent article in NPR titled The weight bias against women in the workforce is real — and it’s only getting worse reported:
Economist David Lempert, who worked for the U.S. government for over a decade, found in his analysis that an increase of 10% in a woman’s body mass decreased her income by 6%. This wage cut comes on top of the fact that women already earn 20% less on average than men in the U.S.
And another article from CBS News titled, Who Earns the Most? Skinny Women and Hefty Men reported:
An American woman who is average weight earns $389,000 less across a 25-year career than a woman who is 25 pounds below average weight.
Acknowledging these pressures isn’t about #blaming all men, nor are we ignoring the unique pressures men might face, such as:
- Performance Pressure: Constant unspoken #competition with colleagues.
- Emotional Restraint: Fear of expressing #vulnerability, being seen as weak
- Masculine Culture: Needing to convey endless #assertiveness
- Work-Life Balance: Cultural norms expecting them to be the #breadwinner
However, recognizing the challenges women face doesn’t diminish anyone else’s struggle. Instead, it brings to light the added hurdles that prevent women from fully achieving their potential in the workforce.
It’s not about creating a divide, but more about understanding that these specific societal demands on women are real, pervasive, and create an uneven playing field. Even in seemingly innocent societal representations, like dolls, these expectations are reflected, indicating how deeply ingrained they are. By understanding and acknowledging this, we can work towards a more #equal, #equitable, and #fair work environment for everyone.
Real men (evolved men) in the Real World stand up for women and learn how to make necessary changes.
The world needs more real men.