Earlier this year during a conversation with my mentor, Sara Topsoe-Jensen, she shared with me this thought:
Have you ever noticed how women feel the need to validate others? For example, when we’re in a conversation with another (male or female) we have a tendency to nod.
My initial reaction was. Well, yes. Of course I nod – because the world needs more “yes”s than “no”s. We need to encourage new ideas, conversation, voice.
And then she said. Why do we need affirmation? Men don’t do it. World leaders Mandela, An San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama don’t. They have enough self assurance.
Is this perpetual nodding actually reflect our own desire for validation?
I didn’t really know where to go from here. And I kind of stubbornly thought, well maybe males (and just to be clear I’m just talking generally) needed to have a bit more need for approval. A little more room for fallibility.
If there is one thing I find more frustrating in a colleague than anything is the inability for someone to say “dammit. I fucked up. sorry folks.” I despise passing-the-buck.
My then boyfriend used to smile bemusedly at this. As an architect he was told in his first week to never, ever accept blame for anything. Legally, financially the repercussions were not worth his job.
I was reminded of this at a lecture I went to this evening about gender. Dr Lesley Pruitt advice to women (it help if you imagine her American accent):
“Girl, stop apologising for your life. We got 99 problems, but inadequacy ain’t one.”
And I realised how much I apologise. And am timid. And only wait to speak when I am positive I have a solid answer. (unlike most males I know).
But at the same time, I think more space for the quiet is required. We still live in patriarchal systems (hello public liability no-blame world).
In my little corner of the world: the arts industry in Australia – I still see these systems. I see up-and-coming-males given golden tickets for their brash & ego-centric behavior and theatre. Their confidence.
And then I see me, who tried to find that brashness, that confidence.
(ok, that only lasted a little while – but I did consider it)
There are very few female role models I can see who are making headway for other females. Disappointingly, one up-and-coming female said that our role (as female artists) was to chose the stories, but I would say it requires more than that.
I want to be me. And trust that my work might not be for the male-eye but for the female. That when I hear “too safe”, “not bold enough”, “not angry enough”, “too feminist” that I think about it in this mindset now. That you can be bold and quiet. Angry and small. Fight for feminism and realise it’s needed.
It requires those that are at the top to make change structurally. To make it accessible, new, innovative, different. To find the ways for women to not be “women leaders” just “leaders”.
I don’t know whether we need more apologies. Or less.
But we do need change.