I recently engaged in a LinkedIn discussion that left me disgusted, shocked and angry. It seems that I shared an unpopular opinion in one of my writing groups, and while I wasn’t surprised by the fact that people disagreed with me, I was completely floored when another woman attacked me personally. She didn’t like what I had to say, and I respected that wholeheartedly. I’m always up for a friendly and spirited debate–but then she took it one step too far. She implied that because I have children, I must be an incompetent writer.
This woman, who later admitted to being a mother herself, spewed hate and ignorance, the likes of which I haven’t seen since junior high school. She even attempted to insult me by calling me a “mommy blogger.”
Guess what? I am a mommy, and I am also a blogger. I’m an awesome wife, a homeowner, a friend, a daughter, a granddaughter. I love my life, and I’m proud of my family. I also happen to be a pretty successful freelance writer who brings in a pretty decent income. I’m passionate and I know what I want in this world–and I’m not afraid to go after it.
But apparently, simply admitting that one has children in some circles is a sign to some people that she’s not capable of being a professional. Instead, women who admit they’re mothers are often belittled and ridiculed–and often, this treatment comes from other women, even other mothers. People who openly admit to being moms might be called “unprofessional” and told that they must not be taking their work seriously–even from people who are less experienced and making less money than they are.
It’s not just the writing community, either. Back in my corporate life, I experienced discrimination from some of my colleagues, including other mothers, because of my maternal status–and my research tells me that I’m not alone.
Being female already puts us behind our male counterparts in the professional world. On average, we earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. While there are for this phenomenon, there are just as many .
Discrimination At Its Finest
If a career-driven woman aggressively pursues her own success, she’s called a bitch. If she chooses to focus on her family, she’s considered “just a mommy.” And, if she tries to “have it all” and work while she raises her family, God forbid, her intelligence is questioned and she might be called incompetent. The really messed up part is that men don’t generally experience the same type of discrimination when they become parents.
The thing that really gets under my skin in regard to discrimination against women, and especially mothers, in the workplace is that it very often comes from other women. By the time we’re 33 years old, 76 percent of us are or will become mothers. There’s a pretty good chance that could include you (or your partner), if it doesn’t already.
Woman Vs. Woman
As a society, so many have been conditioned to think that motherhood=career suicide that many women turn against one another. While competition in the workplace is natural and even encouraged in many cases, it doesn’t need to involve personal attacks–especially on a woman’s maternal status.
I don’t know about y’all, but I am over this whole “women discriminating against other women” thing. Some people seem to thrive on it–maybe they think that by spewing hate and insults at the other women in their respective industries, they’re somehow proving their own superiority. Or maybe they are trying to appear more masculine, as they mistake spitefulness for assertiveness. I honestly don’t know the answer here–maybe it should simply be chalked up to the fact that some people are just plain negative.
So back to the story…
While I’ll openly admit that my heart was pounding in shock and anger as I read this woman’s venomous words, after I had some time to think on it, it occurred to me that my initial reaction would only encourage her negative behavior. So, I reminded her that it’s easy to be nasty in a semi-anonymous forum to people she doesn’t know and will probably never meet. I apologized for any perceived sarcasm or negativity she found in my responses (although I was nothing but respectful to her–unless you count the time I suggested that her negative attitude might be the reason she’s having trouble finding high-paying gigs), and then I wished her well and removed myself from the conversation.
Sure, I had a brief urge to tell her what I really thought, and believe me, it wouldn’t have been pretty. But that would just be putting more negativity out into the world–thus, bringing more of it into my life. I don’t need it–and neither do the rest of the women in the world.
Woman, Support Thy Sisters
Listen, girls, I know just as well as anyone how it feels to be competitive with the other women in your life. Who doesn’t? This society encourages a certain type of perfection, and anyone who doesn’t fit in that perfect little box can expect some level of discrimination.
But I propose that we, as women, work together to climb that collective “ladder of success.” Let’s stick our proverbial hammers in our back pockets on the way up so that when we reach the top, we can break through that perceived glass ceiling people are always talking about.
And on the way up, why not give our sisters a helping hand? Reach out to the women in your life, personal and professional, and you might just find a kind of support that you didn’t know was possible. Get off the woman-hating band wagon and love your sisters, flaws and all.
Why It Matters
Here’s the kicker. When we focus on tearing down the other women around us, we are also tearing down ourselves on some level. Remember, you get back what you put out into the universe. So, when you’re constantly trying to “one-up” or belittle the other women in your life, you might just look in the mirror and see someone you don’t even like. After all, you’re one of those people you’re always cutting down. However, if you can muster up a little support for (yourself and) the other feminine folks in your life, you might just find that a beautiful, happy person you’re proud to call Self smiles back at you instead.
My challenge to my female readers today is to support and encourage the women in your life. Instead of feeling competitive and threatened by one another, celebrate one another in all of your feminine perfection. Offer praise, support, advice. Focus on the good things about the women in your life, and watch yourself experience immeasurable personal growth and increased self love–and ultimately, an improved quality of life.
As for the men, if you’re still reading, I challenge you to tell the women in your life that they matter. Hug your significant other and tell her she’s amazing. Call your mother and thank her for putting up with you for all these years. Tell your female colleagues that you appreciate them.
What do you think? Have you or someone you know experienced discrimination in the workplace? How did you handle it? How do you support the women in your life?