The myth of the weaker sex and the strength of our vote

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I haven’t ever been sexually assaulted, but I’ve been harassed and discriminated against in a variety of ways. I can only say I haven’t been assaulted because I happened to be around decent men in situations where I was vulnerable to the possibility.

I don’t think about these incidents every day, every week, or even every year. They don’t haunt me. But this past week, they washed over me like a tidal wave as I watched Christine Blasey Ford give her testimony.

  • I was told numerous times that boys are mean because they like you. Certain males are quick to prove this notion false.

  • I was catcalled by construction workers as I walked home from school. I was underage and there’s no way they didn’t know.

  • I was stared at for the entire first week of school; I know this because he was facing the opposite direction of the teacher.

  • I politely declined going out with various guys I waited on back in my serving days. The tips they left me didn’t make the rent.

  • I was asked about my plans for having kids by a guy I worked with who thought it was okay have an opinion. 

  • I've lost count of the number of times I’ve had something mansplained to me. 

  • I’ve been told to to smile so often. Why isn’t it my choice? Why is the lack of a smile a strike against me and not men?

These are just a sample. I won’t list them all here because, like so many women, it doesn’t feel comfortable to do so. And not everything I put on this list in draft is in the final version you’re reading.

Ever since I was old enough to go out on my own, I’ve taken precautions to avoid being assaulted or harassed. I’ve carried my keys as a stabby weapon, stayed in well-lit areas, constantly checked all around me to see if I’m being followed, and become expert at jumping quickly in my car and locking the doors. These are just a sample of the things I consciously think about to protect myself when I’m out alone.

It makes one wonder:

Women deal with all of this, childbirth, caring for children, and we’re the weak ones?

I’m in absolute awe of Christine Blasey Ford right now. It’s been a week since her courageous testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and I’m still in awe. I don’t think I could do what she’s done, but I’m grateful to her for doing it.

Her strength of conviction, composure, and confidence in her answers before a sea of mostly white men who will never, ever fathom what it’s like to be a woman in a world that values men to the level that someone can rise to a U.S. Supreme Court appointment before their past becomes a minor annoyance in getting the job. 

Men like him and others of his ilk will never know what it’s like to be paid less due to the presence of estrogen, breasts and a vagina.

They’ll never understand the impact of losing your job because you decided to have a child. 

They’ll never understand being talked down to because you’re a woman, even when you know more than the man about the subject at hand. 

We have a president in the U.S. who thinks it’s okay to grab women, talk about and to them with no respect, mock survivors of sexual assault, and openly, blatantly discriminate against marginalized groups of every kind. He isn’t capable of being an example of common sense, let alone empathy and compassion.

In 18 years, I’ve never been so grateful to be living in Canada as I am right now. The U.S. has reached an alarming, discouraging, sad state of affairs. I struggle to maintain longstanding relationships with people who support the kind of selfish, self-centred policies that are being put forth by the current administration. And Republicans in the House and Senate have no spine to stand up to the bully in the White House. 

The populist movement that’s taking the U.S. to the far right and far left of center make it increasingly difficult to find common ground. And I get it. My left side feels the strain of carrying the weight of my views. But it’s worth it. I can’t get behind the me-first mentality and that’s after genuinely trying to understand the gap between the pervasive liberal and conservative perspectives.

I left the U.S. thinking I’d never subscribe to the socialist notions of my adopted country. But I was so very wrong. Canada isn’t perfect, but this country values and takes care of its people in ways we can only dream about in the U.S.

This isn’t the world I imagined growing old in.

It’s not the world I wanted to raise my child in. It isn’t the world I want for our future.

So, we have to fix it. And I don’t know where to begin, but I’m going to start with my vote in the mid-terms. 

Because even if the man I want to be the first black governor of my state doesn’t win, my vote will count.

And even if every justice I vote against retains their seat, my vote will count.

Because women aren’t weak and there’s more of us than there are men and we can turn this Titanic-sized problem away from the iceberg.

Don’t believe for a second that your vote isn’t important.

You matter.

Your voice matters.

Go vote and show the world the strength of a woman who knows her own mind.

To the women I admire most in the world

International Women's Day is a day of recognition that I honestly wasn't aware of (isn't that a shame?) until about two years ago. In all the years I've worked for and with women, this day was never brought up or recognized. 

Back in the days when I worked for the State of Florida, when my mother and I were employed in the same bureau, I had the absolute pleasure of working with a group of women who I liked personally and professionally a great deal. Many of these ladies were, in fact, also old enough to be my mother and in true Southern style they didn't mind telling me what they thought or what to do. (I even went to school with one of the women's two daughters.) I dubbed them my Ten Moms. I still miss the camaraderie I had with those ladies. I miss them period. Sadly, my mother and other that I know of have  passed away in the years since I moved to Canada. Time moves on and so have I but the memories I have of the first women I looked up to in the workplace will stay with me. I am so blessed to have two truly wonderful women to work with in my part-time job - they are lovely, funny and awesome. I couldn't have picked better if I'd had to choose myself. 

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Getting involved online has opened up my world to many people, places and things. There's the obvious fact that I met a guy and moved from Florida to Canada to be with him. But that doesn't count on International Women's Day. What does count are the women like Lara, Sara, Vicky, Donna and Barbara who were the original Losing it in Ottawa gang. Most of us were strangers one day and friends the next. Though we've gone on to do other things for the most part, I still count them as friends and admire their chutzpah. Seriously, when you admit your struggles as openly and honestly as we did, it takes guts.

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One person who I definitely haven't been separated from in that group is my business partner, Lara. After founding Losing it in Ottawa together, we worked together to start Social Capital Conference. When she needed a new partner for Kids in the Capital, I said yes. The only thing we weren't doing together was consulting - and then we were. I've had a lot of co-workers that I've clicked with and worked well with, but Lara's different. It's like we feed off each other. Ideas burst forth and we seem to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. We can tease each other about our eccentricities and quirks. A mutual friend, Jordan, has often called us Statler and Waldorf for our twitter conversations that happy when we're feeling goofy and loopy. I admire Lara for many reasons, but the one that is most clear is that she knows what she wants and she isn't afraid to go after it. She's the best kind of partner to have in business.

In general, I don't get starstruck by people who are public figures, but there are people I've come to know through social media that I definitely get starstruck with. I'm still embarrassed when I think about my giddiness meeting women like Amber Mac and Gini Dietrich. I look up to them and respect them as women who are contributing value to their respective fields. Gini, in particular, is someone I follow with great interest because she's so down-to-earth, approachable and she's just plain good at what she does. Also, when I have employees, I hope I'm half the boss she is. Or maybe I should just convince her to let me work for her too. ;)

Ultimately, the women I admire are not famous. They aren't doing outrageous things for attention. They are being who they are, doing what they do the best they can and being awesome at it. This is merely a select few women that have influenced me in my life and I haven't even talked about the most influential woman in my life much in this post. My mother helped shape the person I am more than any other woman in my life. There is no doubt that I was incredibly blessed to have her for a mom.

Who are the women you admire in your life? Make sure they know today!