Lose the Labels, See the WomanPosted: December 13, 2013
As someone who was born in the Philippines, I was thrilled to find out about the Pantene commercial airing there that has gone viral online. In it the contrasting ways that successful men and women are stereotyped are shown.
My first job out of college was as a video journalist for CNN. I worked so hard during the 4 ½ years I was there that every time I was eligible for promotion, I got the job. By my third year, I was writing and producing international news for the network’s CNN International channel.
I enjoyed what I was doing so much that working overnights, weekends, and coming in on my days off were not inconveniences but part of the job description as far as I was concerned. But what I hated about getting ahead—at the time, my movement in the company was considered rather rapid—was the whispering that went on behind my back.
According to gossip, I was sleeping my way up the ladder, giving sexual favors in exchange for promotions. I also was a stuck up, mean, bossy bitch. Ironically, most of these made up stories can be traced back to a few of my female coworkers.
At the time, I remember being hurt and angry that my hard work was being dismissed and attributed to me using my sexuality instead. But competition with other females was familiar to me, as we vied for position at work and for attention from men in the dating scene, so I chalked up their insinuations to jealousy on their part and a “win” for me.
Back then I didn’t question the way society in general negatively judges a woman who does really well on the job—making it about her sex appeal or her “connections” or perceiving her as “domineering, pushy, or aggressive” rather than recognizing her body of work or her intelligence, talent, determination, or abilities. Is it any wonder that these women looked at me through this same lens? How many were holding themselves back so they wouldn’t be similarly judged? Did any of these women pass on certain opportunities in favor of being liked?
I think back to my own dismissal of their feelings and how I too chose to negatively categorize them… petty, jealous, catty… rather than understanding that something deeper may have been going on for them beneath all the barbs.
The other day I was reading an article in Vanity Fair about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. The article says a lot about this successful woman, tracing her ascent and mentioning both positive and negative comments from people who previously worked with her. She also has a $5 million penthouse at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, reportedly throws fabulous parties, appears on magazine covers, and is married with a child.
My initial knee-jerk reaction to the negative reviews was, “Wow, I guess you do have to be a ball-buster to be that successful and have it all”—but then I stopped myself. I don’t know Mayer outside of the headlines that I read. She wasn’t even interviewed for the article. I have no idea who she is as a person or what her life is really like. Why jump onto any bandwagons about her—especially the negative ones—or perpetuate the usual stereotypes, even if just in my head? Why not look at all she has accomplished and the life she appears to have and say, “WOW! How awesome is that!
Over the last 10 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in women’s circles. These gatherings are usually populated with females committed to remembering their own power while holding space for the other women in the group to do the same.
What I now know for sure is that one woman’s power and success never takes away from anyone else’s. It gives us permission and possibility to have our own.