International Women’s Day was pretty awesome. Women around the globe took the day off. Off from work, from changing diapers, from cooking, from cleaning, from whatever they wanted to take off from to show what life would be like without women. Life would be bad.
The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. Originally called International Working Women’s Day. It’s now celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights. Today it’s also a push for gender and pay equality, and also raises awareness about sex trafficking and abuse.
International Women’s Day forced me to think about what I am doing to advance equality for my children. I believe if you raise good kids who respect each other, the world, and themselves, then you are doing the most you can do to create a better world. But a few years ago, I had an experience with gender inequality that was so uncomfortable it made me sweat and shake. I tried to remember we grow from uncomfortable experiences but this one was excruciating.
Before I worked at WCCO-Radio I was consulting for a private client and one of the managers of that company was a true misogynist. I suffered through him because I felt I had to as I had agreed to consult for this company (and I needed the money because I was going through a divorce). For months this manager hurled personal insults, professional set backs, (he had the power to squash some of the initiatives I proposed to move the company forward and he did so), and public embarrassments in front of some of the other company executives. It was true old-school harassment and sexism. It sucked.
Finally, I relayed these stories to a male mentor and he looked at me like I was a crazy person and plainly said, “No man would put up with that bullshit.” He was right. I set up a meeting with the CEO of the company and told him everything. This was the part that made me sweat and shake. I had to recount all the slights and blatant harassment that had been occurring. In the retelling of those incidents I relived the shame of each slight and felt new shame that I had allowed myself to take it. After the humiliating list was shared, I was exhausted and embarrassed. Even though I needed that job and the money, I held back tears and proclaimed, “I needed to tell you all of this because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be the mother to my daughters I want to be.”
No one should have to feel the shame I felt that day, but that’s what harassment does. It demeans you and somehow makes you feel like you deserved it.
The CEO of the company listened, was appropriately sensitive and thanked me for telling him. Then… nothing happened. A few weeks went by and still nothing. I was not the only victim of this manager’s harassment, and although nothing happened I was glad I said something because maybe it would make things easier for the next consultant or the other women who were full-time employees there. That manager mostly stayed out of my way for the last few weeks of my consulting gig. A few months after I wrapped up work for that company, I heard that manager got fired.
Change is hard, advancements in gender equality can seem to move at a glacial pace, progress can make you sweat and shake. Doing the right thing, even if it’s as obvious as standing up for yourself can be exhausting, painful and embarrassing, but it can also make you more of the mother you want to be for your daughters.
This week I wish you the strength to withstand the shame and uncertainty you’ll need to stand up and do the next right thing for all of us.
Jordana Green with her children