There is a movement happening for women right now. Have you noticed? It may have started with Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. Her website, leanin.org, boasts that she wants to shift the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can. This message and her ideas about leaning in and sitting at the table where the real conversations are happening is critical messaging for girls and professional women everywhere.
An unspoken male dominated corporate culture exists today and yes women are marginalized. That is just truth and I know this from my own experiences. For example, I used to hangout with the East Coast VP of a large national bank. She wore suits to work everyday, but not pantsuits. She only wore the skirt kind along with pantyhose and sensible shoes too. She said pants on a women was frowned upon at work, sort of an unspoken rule, so she never wore pants. This was last year! I don’t know about you, but I’m more offended by the sensible shoes part of that dress-code than the no pants. Regardless, this is the tolerated corporate culture, boys club bullshit that we as women are not supposed to talk about or complain about, much less change. Sorry, for the tangent…
By taking on this important social issue, Sandberg has faced harsh criticism over her views. Curiously, it comes mostly from other women. I try not to have any judgment against these women as they are a product of the system they have unknowingly bought into. This unlikely opposition is not new. Women opposing the upward mobility of other women dates way back. Remember the suffragists too? The way I see it, when one woman stands up for equal pay, mentorship, opportunity and empowerment for women, both men and especially women should applaud! She’s standing up for all of us, our daughters, and frankly, for a better world. Still I wondered, who these bitter haters were.
Then last Thursday, Barack Obama was at a fundraising event in San Francisco and naively put his presidential foot in his presidential mouth. If you haven’t heard, he was introducing California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a long time friend of his and Michelle’s. “She’s brilliant and she’s dedicated — she’s tough,” Mr Obama told his audience. “She also happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general.” Since then, there has been a firestorm of criticism from both camps, liberals and conservatives, calling his comments sexists, unsettling, insulting, and old-fashioned. She went on record claiming she was not offended, however after a day in the media spin cycle the President apologized to Harris for his comments and the distraction they created.
Here’s the thing though- Was that really sexist? Did he belittle Harris by acknowledging her physical appearance while praising her professional accomplishments? It’s a slippery slope here ladies and gents, careful how you decide to answer. Consider Ms. Harris. No doubt she’s beautiful at 48, and single too, FYI. As I watched the criticism build, an uproar coming mostly from women, I felt like I had missed something. Did he grab his crotch while making the comment? Did he think the mic was off and proceeded to make an off handed comment about ‘dat ass’ to John Goldman? What was everyone so upset about?
Then it dawned on me. These are the same women complaining about Sandberg. Its a collection of bitter, unattractive, marginalized women. Overweight, undersexed, lonely… She may be writing her strongly worded letter right now from a crowded cluttered apartment in the company of her cats and Nancy Grace or Fox and Friends. I know this hater of fabulous, professional, beautiful women personally because I have encountered her in every job I’ve ever had.
Indulge me for a second with this quick story from my career archive circa 2005: I’m fresh out of grad school, well liked, and things are going well in my department. My male boss *James calls me to his office. When I get there I see *Lori, the 300 pound HR lady wearing her hair in her signature tight perm. She has a bright yellow mumu-type top on over faded brown leggings, her callused feet in worn generic tevas. Teva’s are a crime against foot wear rivaled only by Crocs. Anway, she is sitting next to him with a contrite smile on her face. I’m wearing a black BCBG dress with a turquoise shrug and new classic black leather Charles David heels. I remember this like it was yesterday. James gets right to business and explains that he called the meeting because Lori complained about my cleavage. Yes. My boobs. Apparently my breasts made her uncomfortable and he wanted to bring it to my attention. I was mortified and in retrospect, I think James was too. Stunned, I awkwardly apologize to Lori and excused myself. Sigh.
On paper, even with TWO masters degrees, there is still a physical aspect that counts as an accomplishment, and here’s why. As a society, we don’t expect beautiful people to be smart. Remember Ms. South Carolina? When was the last time Kim Kardashian said something worth quoting? Now, I’m definitely no Mila Kunis here, or Kamala Harris for that matter, but as a working professional in Los Angeles, where the standard of beauty for women is extremely high, the fact is that there is a certain amount of expectation related to appearance in certain jobs.
Being beautiful is hard work! Even Cindy Crawford famously said she doesn’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford. Personally, it takes me about one hour and a half to get ready for work everyday. We wont get into the truck load of cosmetics I use daily, my hair stylist Letty who I have on speed dial, my three closets or the myriad of personal trainers, gyms and studios I’ve belonged too. And does it somehow diminish my achievements? I guess this is where real sexism comes into play. Did I work this hard to live in a society where a friend can’t compliment my appearance? Sorry, but until we live in a world where a woman can look like Lori (from HR) and get ANY job she wants, then men should be allowed to comment on the beautiful ones.
Feeling like you could use a makeover? Here’s the best beauty advice I have ever read:
For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.”~Sam Levenson
“Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.” ~Markus Zusak
*Names have been changed to protect the ignorant.