The Double Standard

I love getting older. Some of my favorite things about getting older (in no particular order):

  • Really getting into the groove with my routines.
  • Understanding what looks good on me and riffing a little with that.
  • Developing deep, loyal relationships with my service providers (my chiropractor and my tailor are THE BEST).
  • Spending money on things I love (bikes + clothes + travel + tea), while saving money on things that I don’t care that much about (car + homeownership + electronics).
  • Learning about and enforcing my boundaries.
  • Practicing what I’m good at and how to monetize those skills.
  • Being completely unapologetic about what I am not so great at, and either being upfront or hiring for those skillsets, or investing in getting better.

One thing that I don’t enjoy so much about getting older? Learning more about the double standard, and seeing it pop up in all aspects of my life.

I’ve always had a temper; my mother will tell you this. Today, I’ve learned to control my temper in healthy ways, but I’ve recently come to understand that in the past, controlling my temper has come at a price, and for largely the wrong reasons.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that my emotions and feelings don’t matter – don’t even exist – if they’re not backed up by facts. This has been communicated to me in a multitude of small ways, from adults to boyfriends to friends, and I suspect I’m not the only one. The consequence of this, because we humans are so damn good at adaption and self-preservation, is that I have simply learned not to have feelings at all. To view life through a cold, rational, middle lens, because to become emotional or worked up over something that doesn’t have an agreed-upon factual reason to become emotional isn’t really all that becoming or convenient as a girl. But the question I’ve recently started to ask myself is: Who decides what is agreed upon?

I’m proud of the work I’ve done to control that temper and channel it into more calm ways of being. That work has been beneficial to both myself and my career. Now, however, I sit in boardrooms where men freely speak their opinions with emotion and sometimes anger, and I must sit back and hold my tongue and only speak with facts backing up what I say in order to be considered professional and even remotely competent.

I’m tired of being told that having an opinion isn’t ladylike. I’m tired of being told that getting angry isn’t ladylike. I’m tired of being told that I need to have the perfect career, but also be the perfect wife, mother, hostess, and know how to do all the things that a woman is supposed to do. This running list of things, by the way, is constantly growing: I work in an entrepreneurial world, and it’s astonishing to me how many women feel like they have to become an entrepreneur because society is now telling them that having a successful career and kicking ass in the boardroom is one more thing they must perfect. The thing is, they’re not able to let go of the other million things they must be good at, and a fact of life is that energy is finite. Most women I know are terrified to put all of their eggs in one basket, because they risk not being perfect in the other categories of life they’ve been told are necessary. To me, it’s no surprise why male entrepreneurs outnumber female entrepreneurs – the risk to pour all of yourself into one thing is huge.

I know that I am a strong person. I have had opportunities that a lot of women have not. I have gotten to a point in my career where, because of the work that I have done, my opinions matter. People listen to me. I am LUCKY. But. I am also acutely aware that in this world that I live in, I am one small mistake away from having all of that – respect, my career, the things that I have worked hard for – taken away from me. Forced into a position where my opinions no longer matter, and I must build up that reputation and respect from my peers all over again. Do you know how fucking exhausting that is? That stress builds up over time, and recently I have also realized this stress fights a (losing) battle in my mind to prevent me from taking risks around my future. And I live in SEATTLE. I can only imagine how tired other people must be.

My experience with the double standard comes solely from my experience as a woman, and so this is the only experience that I can write from. But the double standard exists all around us. I am only one person; I am under no illusion that my one voice can make a big difference. As I grow older, I recognize that the one thing I can do is to continue to be aware of its omnipresence, and treat people as they tell me they’d like to be treated. I don’t need to know everything. I am okay with ambiguity. I can only speak from and to my own personal experience, and to speak to anyone else’s experience when I do not know is like taking away their voice.

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