Other times, that means empowering disadvantaged people with tools, knowledge and wisdom that will help them help themselves. For example, in Women Have Three Body Parts That Can STOP Mansplaining In Its Tracks, I wrote that, yes, men shouldn't interrupt women. But they do -- and, ultimately, it is your responsibility to speak up. (Here's how!)
But in An Emerging Problem With "Intersectional" Feminism - The Scramble for Victimhood, I discuss how many social justice circles are doing the opposite of educating and empowering. They promote victimhood and rumination -- two thought patterns that lead to depression and anxiety.
And it turns out... in the name of promoting victimhood, they give really bad career advice.
In particular, I'm referring to Everyday Feminism's recent piece, Dear Middle Class People: It's Time To Cut The Entitled "Networking" Crap.
In it, writer Josette Souza complains about an email she received from an "upper-middle-class white girl" asking for a favor.
This is a long shot, but,' she wrote to me in an e-mail, the subject line of which began with 'Help?,' 'I’m writing because you mentioned that you are one of the new staff members at Everyday Feminism, and…'
She then preceded [sic] to ask me to advertise her blog to my new job’s 250k+ Facebook followers, a blog she had decided to make feminist three days ago just so I could advertise it for her...
When you’re a formerly poor, class-transitioning, first-generation college graduate of color with a shiny new full-time dream job at a big online independent feminist magazine, absolutely no one tells you about the bullshit your former classmates will try to pull with you.
I'm very disappointed in Everyday Feminism for publishing a piece like this, when what they should have done is given Souza some total major life advice. For example:
1. One of the biggest things holding women back professionally is their failure to self-promote.
Men do it shamelessly -- and it helps them get ahead. Rather than whine about a woman who self-promotes, feminists should encourage other women to do the same.
Because, listen up, ladies:
People don't magically notice all your ideas, efforts and contributions. They only way they're going to know what you've accomplished is if you tell them.
You think you're the only person in your office with a million-and-one things to do? Everyone is working their ass off -- even/especially your boss. They aren't just sitting around watching you all day to make sure they notice each of your contributions.
IN FACT. If you're a woman, you're less likely than men to get credit for your own work. Especially team work. A 2015 study by Heather Sarsons shows that teamwork hurt women’s careers, because men always get (and take) all the credit.
See also: Two Female Scientists Discovered a Revolutionary Gene Technology. Predictably, Men Are Trying to Steal Their Patents.
Self-promotion becomes especially important when you're trying to create something new -- whether it's a company, a blog, a book or an idea. IN FACT. Some of the most successful bloggers (which, sadly, does not include me -- yet! But you can help by liking me on Facebook, supporting me on Patreon, or signing up for my email list) follow one very simple rule:
Spend 20% of your time writing, and 80% of your time promoting.
Meaning that, in this case, the "upper-middle-class white girl" was doing the exact right thing. The only way for a blog to be successful is if you're willing to put in the time to get the followers. Google isn't going to send you thousands of new users, just because you're so interesting.
If you really want something, don't check your privilege -- check your ego.
Yes, it can feel embarrassing. Some people are going to be annoyed about it. Some people will say they're not interested or ignore you. (Actually, most of them will.) But here's the thing:
Women extremely overestimate the cost of self-promotion.
Remember earlier when I said that people aren't sitting around keeping track of all your contributions? Know what else they aren't doing?
Constantly judging you for promoting yourself or your ideas.
You're not being that annoying. You're not imposing. As long as you're not overdoing it -- and I have never, ever seen a woman overdo it -- you're fine. Not sure if you're overdoing it? Check out this post on presence and charisma. It will help you get super in-tune with those around you.
I leave you with this horrible story I heard at a Haas women's networking event once:
A woman was working on a super exciting project. All she needed to get it off the ground was an intro to a certain investor. Every Saturday, her kid played soccer with a child whose dad worked closely with said investor.
Week after week, she would chat with this man on the sidelines... but not once did she ask him for this intro. She didn't think it would be "appropriate."
You think a man would have hesitated to ask?
You've been laid off, and you're looking for something new. You've got an idea, and you need bloggers, investors, or employees to help you get it off the ground. You've got a job, but it's not your dream job.
One of the best things you can be doing in any of these situations... is networking.
And you know who's pretty pointless to network with?
Your immediate network.
You and your good friends know many of the same people.
But you know who's SUPER AWESOME to network with?
Your extended network!
These are people you've got some connection to -- through school, through friends, through past volunteer experiences. But since they're mostly part of a different network than you, they're going to know about way more unique opportunities than your close friends do.
Which kind of blows bullshit complaints like this one:.
I had known this woman for my entire four years of college – she was best friends with someone who lived three doors down from me in our freshman year, she was a part of the very insular social justice scene at my school, and she was a member of the tiny group of 17 people from my class majoring in Africana studies...
And this woman had not even once tried to get to know me.
Someone should tell this girl! Networking comes naturally to some people -- but there are some intricacies that can be kind of tricky to navigate.
3. GOOD networking is mutually beneficial.
Souza claims in her "feminism" post that:
Hordes of middle- and upper-middle-class people out there are encouraged to see the people around them only in terms of how they can use them.
This behavior is not only rampant, it’s normalized. We wrap it up in a pretty bow and call it networking. We’re told that the only way to get ahead is by knowing the right people or knowing when to use the people around you at the right times.
My first response to this paragraph is, Listen, Souza: there are no victims, only volunteers. In what way does someone asking you for a favor hurt you? They're not forcing you to do anything. They're just asking. You're allowed to say no.
But my second response is, Listen, Souza. Some people are slimy, shitty networkers. They talk about themselves continuously without asking anything about you.
But a good networker always asks you what you're looking for or how they can help. And, guess what? If they don't ask/offer -- you can always make an ask of them.
Using Souza's story as an example -- here's how I might have responded to her college acquaintance:
Hey, it was nice hearing from you, and your blog sounds awesome! Sadly, since I'm so new here, I don't feel comfortable making a request like that at this time. But I will definitely keep you in mind in the future, once I'm more settled in.
I do know that we're always looking to drive social media engagement -- and if you started interacting with our social channels, I'm sure my boss would be more open to giving you a shoutout (or even guest posting opportunity) in the future.
Keep me posted, and let me know if there's anything else I can do to help!
The point is... why burn a bridge, when you could fortify one?
And remember: when you're doing networking for yourself, don't make the same mistake as the upper-middle-class white girl. Remember that networking should be mutually beneficial.
One last tip: when someone thanks you for doing them a favor, remember to use this simple but powerful phrase:
"I know you'd do the same for me."
And then don't be afraid to cash in when you're ready.
Apparently, "entitlement" means different things to different people.
Networking isn't about entitlement. It's about empowerment. The sooner you learn that, the better.
Something else to keep in mind, since cognitive reframing is such a powerful psychological tool:
One of the reasons men do better than women in salary negotiations is that, when men get hired, they are more likely to report feeling like this employer is lucky to have hired them.
Women are more likely to feel lucky that this employer hired them.
So maybe feeling "entitled" to a higher salary, introduction, or opportunity isn't such a horrible thing. Don't you think?
5. Trigger Warning: This section contains some true facts that you aren't going to like.
I'm about to repeat something a speaker shared at the Haas Women in Business event I mentioned earlier.
But first, let me start by saying (again) that facts are facts, even if you don't like them or wish they were different.
Next, let me briefly address the cool new, totally-acceptable-and-not-racist-at-all thing for social justice. It is, in the words of the Scripps College Unofficial Survival Guide, "a general distaste or hatred of white people."
The full quote, if you're interested, is:
Anger is a legitimate response to oppression to white people, as is sadness, fear, frustration, exhaustion, and a general distaste or hatred of white people.
Ready for the facts you're not going to like?
Here's what the speaker said:
Eventually, you're going to have something to pitch -- yourself, your team, your company, your idea. To do that, you're going to have to get a meeting, a spot at the table.
The person on the other side of the table is probably going to be a white man.
Statistically, that's just true. Maybe someday that will be different. But right now, that is the case.
The person on the other side of the table is probably going to be a white man.
This has implications for women and people of color.
Let's start with this one: when you feel "a general distaste or hatred for white people," you're doing ourself a huge disservice. You are shutting down relationships and opportunities before they have a chance to begin... all on the basis of skin color.
I'm not going to go into the psychological reasons why hatred is bad for your body, mind and soul. I'm just going to say that if you are a woman or POC, it really is in your best interest to network with people who are different from you -- with respect to both your race and your gender.
Because, guess what? People tend to be friends (and acquaintances) with people who are like them. Women typically have more female friends. Asian Americans typically have more Asian American friends. This isn't about any -isms. It's just how friendship works. We like people who are like us -- in terms of values, appearance (attractive people are more likely to be friends with attractive people), geography, religion, gender, politics, socioeconomic status, etc.
Meaning that that upper-middle-class white guy you know... is more likely to know the person on the other side of the table than you are.
(Sorry if you don't like it -- but facts are facts.)
There is no good reason to burn bridges with him. There is no good reason to hate him. There is no good reason to write a bitchy blog post when he asks you for a favor.
Because he is more likely to know the man on the other side of the table than you are, and it is in your best interest to network with him.
Or, to use a more everyday example: I used to get a lot of work done very quickly at a tech company I worked for. The reason I was so efficient...
Well, and ultimate frisbee.
I decided that it would be fun to put together a weekly pickup game at a nearby gym. I took care of all the details and scheduled an email and calendar invite each week. It was a tech company, so most of the people who worked there were men.
And it was sports, so most of the people who participated were men.
It was a great way to integrate with people whose roles were different from mine -- and having that personal connection from shared activities outside of work made things happen more quickly.
If I needed help with some tech-related issue, I'd email a baller -- and he would usually get back to me right away. If he couldn't help, he would tell me who could -- usually via one of those joint email thingies.
Knowing these guys personally, outside of work, made a huge difference in how helpful and how fast their replies would be.
And, yeah, most women don't play ball sports. But, first of all, engineers aren't going to be like, good at sports, either. Second, there are ways to get to know people outside of work other than sports. Be fun. Be creative. Don't sell yourself short.
And, if you have some "anger" issue with white people or men... GET OVER YOURSELF. It's not okay to hate someone based on their gender or skin color.
There may be some tough love in this post. There may be ideas you disagree with. But, to me, this is much more empowering, feminist advice than that shit Souza wrote.
I'm tired of "feminist" websites publishing anti-feminist articles that promote helplessness, victimhood and anger. I think we all have the potential to be so much more.
Want to know more? Check out:
- Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility
- Advantages of traveling (alone) while female.
- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Gif ALL Women Need to See ASAP
- The Orgasm Gap is Real - But Don't Blame It On The Patriarchy
- Some developmental feedback for Talia Jane, the author of the Yelp CEO open letter
And, again, don't forget to find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Patreon. :P