emergingfree

Christian and Socially-Conscious…One Woman's Expression

Archive for the tag “women’s issue”

The Silence of Being Victimized

There I was walking in downtown Jacksonville when it happened.  It was in the mid-morning hours.  The weather was mild; skies were clear.  I was wearing a business suit, carrying court files as I was returning to my office from the courthouse.  Mentally, I was thinking about the tasks that awaited me that day.  There would be many.  My thoughts, however, were interrupted by sounds coming from across the street.  I turned my head to look.  It was happening.  The construction workers across the street were catcalling me.  How embarrassing! Mentor Needed At that time, I was only one year out of school.  I was still learning the landscape of my profession and new environment.  The family I had in the city, I did not really know.  At times it was lonely, but I was making new friends while trying to balance the stresses of adulthood.  The last thing I needed was to be sexually harassed, publicly humiliated, and degraded for being a professionally-styled woman.  My feeling of embarrassment quickly turned into being livid.  What was their point, really?  Was such attention really supposed to entice me to scurry across the street, distribute my telephone number, and wait anxiously by the telephone…or was I supposed to ask for their numbers and call them?  What happened to being my knight in shining armor?  Oh, the stories little girls are told.

While looking forward, I acted like I did not hear them.  They continued.  There were a couple of gentlemen walking on the same sidewalk as me.  They did not challenge the construction workers though, nor did they say anything to me.  I would soon be in my office building.  I would soon be safe.

You know, I never shared this experience with anyone prior to this blog entry.  When I entered the building that day, I went about working as normal.  Although I wondered if such thing had happened to any of the other women I was working with, I never asked.  I bet it had and we were just not talking about it.  The silence of being victimized does not negate the experience.  The memory is already impressed.

Dude, Hire Me!

I had a very honest conversation with a male friend of mine which has inspired this blog entry.  I truly appreciate my friend’s honesty.  The conversation left me pondering a couple of things.  I’ll touch base on a few….

So there I was, comfortably sitting on a sofa when my friend casually mentioned that he is significantly reluctant to hire women.  “WHATTTTT!!!!  WAIT…..”, I must have not heard him correctly!  Sure enough, I did.  For a split second, I struggled believing that this was his true thought.  How could my friend, a guy who I have seen debate unflinchingly in support of women earning equal pay and having equal protection under the law, have this bias.  I have seen him argue against injustices, not just on behalf of women but on behalf of other oppressed groups as well.  Surely he did not admit that his personal preference is to hire men because to him a man will always be his best candidate for any non-domestic job, did he?  YES, he did.

I resisted the temptation to argue with him.  Whatever he said would be unsatisfactory to me.  Anyway, I was more interested in determining how my friend could hold and potentially practice this view.  He explained his position, typical opinions I have heard before.  We would have to agree to disagree.

Mentor Needed

I left our conversation that day with many thoughts.  I still wonder how many men in hiring positions share his views.  Such practices, when gender is replaced by race/colorism, seem easier to spot and more commonly shamed…at least in theory.  The issue, at least with my friend, is not a question of “qualification”.  It is the idea of the traditional roles of women, minus the barefoot part (I hope).  In a society where so many women are financially heading households, in many cases singlehandedly, can she realistically expect to reach the top of her professional and financial ladders, even in situations when the entry door is slightly cracked for her entry?  Do women have a responsibility to help each other succeed?  Is such collective operation necessary for her individual success?  My thoughts…my thoughts…these are only a few…only to be met with that last one of, “am I the only one with them”.

I am happy that not all men follow this practice.  I have been hired by both men and women.  In turn, I have hired both men and women. Both genders have helped me further my career.  Both have tried to hinder it.  I have learned that not everyone is comfortable with a strong, opinionated, educated, professional, and in my case minority-labeled woman.  Let’s face it, when found outside of our traditional roles women make a lot of people uncomfortable.  Oh well, we are here now.  If “dude” won’t hire me, I will be left to determine whether I should hire “dude”.

Opening Doors

Recently one of my male friends and I were talking and I mentioned how I like when guys open doors for me. He was shocked.

“What,” I asked.

woman.door

Apparently because I am vocal in my support of women advancing and enhancing ourselves as women, he interpreted me as wanting to do everything myself. Really, who wants to do everything his/herself? I am not living isolated on an island. Help a sister!

For a brief second I was taken aback by his extreme assumption. He looked at me with a smile and said, “You continue to amaze me.” Isn’t it funny how generalizations affect how people “see” YOU? I loved the conversation that followed.

I told him that just because I can open a door does not mean to me that when situations arise, a man should halt himself from opening it for me. I totally support women who want to open (all of) their doors. In truth, most doors I walk through I open…and hold open for others. Still, I definitely take note of guys who reach for the handle first and allow me to step in. It is nice.

“You are like me then,” he said, “except you are more vocal.”

“I have to be more vocal if I want things to improve,” I explained, “I’m in an oppressed demographic. It is because I am a member of this demographic that I am not just like you. There lives your ‘exception’.” As I told him, if more men would take that same chivalrous attitude and open more doors for us at professional decision-making tables there may not be a need for him to refer to me as “pro-woman”. He chuckled. I winked. I was serious (though).

The Silence Of Sexual Assault

The woman on my right had been a victim of sexual assault. The woman on my left had been a victim of sexual assault. Both were victims of sexual assault before the age of 15.

Girl Silenced

There I sat, listening to these women talk about this commonality and I wondered how many women I come in contact with who have been victimized in this way. According to a Survey done by the National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1 in every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That is approximately 17.7 American women. Likewise, a Survey done by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families in 1995 cited that local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children (noting, 75% were girls) who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse. Thinking about the number of cases that go unreported, I would not be surprised if these numbers are in fact significantly higher. After all, there I sat in between two women. One admitted to never telling anyone about this experience until then.

We need to do more to protect girls. They are being placed in situations that are literally designed to kill their essence. Trust, innocence, and safety are being stolen from them, leaving them wounded and angry. Adults who are supposed to protect them, do not. The shame and guilt, the pain and hurt, the shock leave girls who turn into women silent. The crime, when unaddressed, leaves her spirit broken and creates a societal setup in which these women who were once girls are now mothers of girls—girls who are at risk of history repeating itself.

NOTE: National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE or 1-800-656-4673.

Balancing Act

Some things I have yet to outgrow. I still love balancing my weight on beams and playing on teeter tooters. Sometimes I walk on edges of curbs. Frequently I balance myself on one leg (or the other) while exercising. Now that I think about it, I have been doing a balancing act for a long time. When I was younger, the challenge of balancing things was fun. These days, I like to think of it more as an art form, which when accomplished is rewarding.

Balancing Book on Head

Last night, I had a great conversation with a friend about the importance of having a “work-life” balance as women. We talked about our family obligations, the demands at work, and our spare time personal pursuits. It is a lot, but like many women we manage…and many times we do so making it look easier than it actually is. Do you think women are pressured to appear perfect? What an impossible expectation. No one is perfect.

The older I get, the more important I find it is to have a “work-life” balance. I have been through the stage of focusing so much on work and missing valuable time with loved ones. I have attended funerals and cried, wishing to have shared more time with the person. That’s not fun.

I have been through the stage of spending precious time with family/friends and have watched professional opportunities pass by. I have wondered if I was making the right decisions. Through trial and error I have found a schedule that I am forever tweaking, however, it is working. I am focused and relaxed, as I am expected to be while balancing. I am at-one with my core…balancing…gracefully. Are you?

Boss

To succeed in a dog eat dog world, do you have to be a dog…or as some have said, a bitch? Advancing in a male-dominated profession, in a male-dominated world cultivates certain characteristic traits that oftentimes are rewarded when presented from a male’s shell. Things like maintaining high standards of performance, asserting confidence, understanding that time is important, being extensively knowledgeable and prepared are all welcomed from him. The same is not always true when housed in those of us who are females. Why is this? Are these traits appreciated or is it the male’s body from which they appear that routinely garners the applause?

Long ago are the days when the dreams of girls were limited to that of marry and motherhood. We believed you when you said, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” We believed you, at least some of us did, and so our journey began.

Boss

So when we show up as entrepreneurs, attorneys, judges, physicians, chief executive officers, department heads, accountants, presidents, police officers, fire fighters, architectures, athletes, etc.—the title of which we hold should not be disrespected because of the duplication of our sex chromosome. Whispers should not be uttered by other women when our tone takes a serious turn to emphasize the importance of a point. When she has a professional aura in a professional setting, it should not equate to her snobbery, rudeness, or standoffishness when she is simply doing her job. Instead, support her. If she succeeds, chances are your promotional possibilities increase. True…if she barks, she may bite. Still…don’t call her bitch. She is BOSS.

Train’s Tracks

I was in my early 20’s when a friend shared with me that while in college she had “trains” ran on her. A “train” is when a person is engaged in a continuous occurrence of sex with one partner, followed by another partner, followed by another partner, and so on and so on. My friend said that in her case, those partners were in a well-known fraternity. You guessed it. She said she was in its “sister” organization, although not a traditional sorority.

You can imagine my shock as my mind worked to decipher what she was saying. There I stood, with few words to offer, unsure as to if she wanted to hear any of them anyway. Her pain-stricken eyes told me her story was all too real. I could only hope that my reaction was the appropriate one.

“Why did she tell you that,” you ask?

At some point she discovered the hierarchy amongst the guys in the fraternity. She identitied the one the rest seemed to follow. She knew if she became his girl, she would find protection. She wanted so desperately to be a part of the group, to go to parties, to have friends, to feel accepted. She convinced herself that life would be better if she would just go with it. Isn’t this what college life is about? She was getting decent grades like she told her mother she would. She was in a sorority, although a non-traditional one. The other women in that sorority were agreeing to have “trains” done on them. Women before her had done it and women after her would continue it. If it was wrong, she wondered, wouldn’t someone had stopped it? Wouldn’t someone speak out? College was only four years, she told herself, only four years.

Sen. Gillibrand Quote

Unfortunately for her, her protector was still calling long after graduation. She longed to create a new life for herself, one of which she could be proud. In college, she said she felt pressured to consent. Time had passed, but things had not changed. As my friend explained herself, the sadness behind her smiles now made sense. What could she do about it now? She felt obligated to this guy. Obligated.

The summer before I left for college, my mother had a lot of conversations with me about college. I still remember the warnings she gave me—none of which were close to “Beware of ‘trains’.” I probably would have looked at her like she was crazy if that was on the list, but after hearing my friend’s story parents should add it. Far too many young women are entering into colleges and universities unprepared for the dangers that target them because they are females. Families are so happy that their daughters are college-bound that many conversations are missed in between planning the actual move and gathering the items to take. As a result, many young women are released into a world that could not care less about their naivety or their low self-esteem.

I wished my friend told her parents when she first became uncomfortable. I could only imagine that they would have wanted the truth to be that their daughter could tell them anything. Her shame, however, took that option away. Law enforcement nor her college was alerted because she was freely agreeing to the sexual acts, or was she?

Silence would keep each year’s recruitment of young women in tact. Each one initially feeling special by the fraternity’s adoption. Each one striving to graduate and begin professions. Each one being left with a lifetime scars. Each one, feeling obligated.

Take Heed: The Christian Message Janay Palmer-Rice Showed Me

I have been thinking about this for awhile and as I read parts of the Book of Jeremiah this morning, I was inspired to share.

the Book of Jeremiah

By now, everyone has probably heard and seen the video of Janay Palmer-Rice and former Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice. I, apparently, was one of the few who had never heard of Ray Rice prior to his knockout blow. It would not have altered my reaction if I had.

In the days and weeks that followed, I listened to views “for and against” her side, his side, the NFL’s side, the team’s side, the hotel’s side, the legal side…. There are so many sides! I listened to the couple’s words, Mrs. Rice’s in particular, and took away a profound lesson.

You know, as Christians I commonly hear us say, “Lord, use me.” When I was younger, I did not fully understand what this request could mean. Even now, while in the midst of being used by God it is easy to forget that we asked to be used. There was a time when I thought that there would be no difficult days, no struggle, no storms while I was being used. “How could there be,” I would think. The Lord is with me.

Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:5-6)

Then one day, you receive a Word that you do not like or find yourself in a situation where you feel as if the intentions of those around you are (as described by Mrs. Rice) “to hurt [you], embarrass [you], make [you] feel alone, [and] take all [your] happiness away” and you are tempted to tell God “never mind”. Let’s be honest, most people want to live an easy life—professed Christians included. Everybody will not understand “living in exile for 70 years and then you will become prosperous”, but will recite to you Jeremiah 29:11.

I am at the point in life where I know I do not understand all of God’s ways. I believe though that if I am doing what He has directed me to do, then I will be protected and blessed no matter how it may look to you. The Rice’s public domestic violence situation has led to a significant increase in calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. What if at some point Janay Palmer Rice asked the Lord to use her and He took her situation and did so in this way? What if this exposure was seen by someone 2000 miles away who could relate to her? What if that person was sitting in front of a laptop debating suicide, but called the National Domestic Violence Hotline instead? What if such person had only learned of the Hotline because it was trending on social media? What if that person is safe tonight?

NOTE: If you or anyone you know is in a domestic violence situation, you may call 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website at National Domestic Violence website

Equal Pay, Extra Day?

When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, the average pay rate for women was 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. When I first learned this, I was of the age where it was merely a historical fact. Life seemed much simpler. Classroom lesson plans did not include comparing “the then” versus “the now”. The “why” was easily lost in discussions. Maybe my teachers were hopeful. Maybe they thought that by 2014 this would be a non-issue. Just think about it, in 1963 the:
cost of a first-class stamp was $0.05;
cost of a gallon of regular gas was $0.30;
cost of a dozen eggs was $0.55; and
cost of a gallon of milk was $0.49.
Imagine that! I have never seen prices so low. Even still, I would have had to make some hard choices in 1963 with my 59 cents if I were a working woman at that time. Currently, women earn about 81 cents on the dollar when compared to men. This pay difference widens for certain minority women. There are still hard choices to be made.

Sure, as a country we are headed in the right direction but after 51 years I would have thought we would have reached the mark by now. Really, what is taking the land of the free and the home of the brave so long to pay us equally when we are doing equal work? Maybe I am asking the wrong question. Maybe I should be asking, “Where do I go to get my ‘19% off’ discount card?” I am paying the same as a man when buying a loaf of bread and more than him when dry cleaning. Small examples I know, but examples nevertheless. Is this a punishment or was I never expected to earn a real salary for working, to support my real life for living? Can’t help but to wonder, right?

Equal Pay Day

Saying “I Do” or Nah…

Months ago I watched Belle, the movie, and absolutely loved it. It gave me something to think about and I LOVE it when that happens. One of my favorite scenes is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmbty0RLpy8
As you can imagine, it left a lasting impression.

After watching the movie, I had an honest conversation about the idea of marriage with a man. I was interested in hearing his views on the topic. We all know that there are numerous reasons for tying the knot. When I was younger, I thought most people married for love. With the divorce rate slowly increasing in the United States since 1970, like The Black Eyed Peas I too began to question Where Is the Love.

As I began to meet people of different cultures and lifestyles, I began to hear modern-day discussions on the business of marriage. I initially took note of how within these circles, such conversations were very matter-of-fact and socially acceptable. I was aware how common these negotiations are if the couple divorces. I seemed to have missed its importance on the front-end. Such talks seem wise and some may say faith-founded.

I am glad I was able to share honest thoughts with the man to whom I was speaking. I listened to his position of how a woman should help a man be his best self, but as I asked him, “What about the woman? Who is helping her evolve into her best, complete self?” If both remained committed to supporting each other’s evolution, then together the two can be a unified best self. That would be great, but is it more common than not?

I can easily see advantages men gain from marrying. No doubt, women acquire valuable benefits as well. In no way am I writing against marriage. As in Belle I am simply posing the question, “Is marrying likened to a woman begging for a master, especially women who are financially-secure?” Considering that in the minds of many women are still referenced as property, I’m still wondering……..

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