Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person.

image courtesy of The Transgender at Work project

Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person. (New Republic)

Ben Barres is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Barbara Barres until he was in his forties. For most of his career, he experienced bias, but didn’t give much weight to itseeing incidents as discrete events. (When he solved a tough math problem, for example, a professor said, “You must have had your boyfriend solve it.”) When he became Ben, however, he immediately noticed a difference in his everyday experience: “People who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. He was more carefully listened to and his authority less frequently questioned. He stopped being interrupted in meetings. At one conference, another scientist said, “Ben gave a great seminar todaybut then his work is so much better than his sister’s.” (The scientist didn’t know Ben and Barbara were the same person.) “This is why women are not breaking into academic jobs at any appreciable rate,” he wrote in response to Larry Summers’s famous gaffe implying women were less innately capable at the hard sciences. “Not childcare. Not family responsibilities,” he says. “I have had the thought a million times: I am taken more seriously.”

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What happens when the opposite transformation takes placewhen a man becomes a woman? Joan Roughgarden is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Jonathan Roughgarden until her early fifties, and her experience was almost the mirror image of Barres’s. In her words, “men are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise.” In an interview, Roughgarden also noted that if she questioned a mathematical idea, people assumed it was because she didn’t understand it. Other transwomen have found changes not only in perceptions of their ability, but also their personality. In Schilt’s work with transwomen for a forthcoming book, she found that behaviors transwomen had as men were now seen as off-putting. What was once “take-charge” was now “aggressive.” And they had to adapt; the transwomen quickly learned that “being the same way in the world would be detrimental to your career.”

Very powerful argument – I’m hopeful there will be more research on this topic. Gender discrimination, like racial discrimination, is such a subtle thing; it’s much harder to recognize in today’s politically correct society. 

On Naming Women and Mountains

image courtesy of Lonely Planet

On Naming Women and Mountains

“The truth was more complicated. In my mind, Lucy Rebecca Bryan and Lucy Bryan Green represented two disparate identities. Lucy Rebecca Bryan was the girl who once argued that everything in the world was either black or white, right or wrong—self-righteous enough to think that she knew the difference. She was the teenager who sustained a series of flirtations in hopes of converting her crushes to Christianity. She held the incongruous (and equally offensive) beliefs that she deserved all the good things in her life—loving parents, a college education, thick hair and long legs, intelligence, sorority membership—and that God had given them to her. It took my husband to drag me out of that box of my own making.

It was Lucy Bryan Green, not Lucy Rebecca Bryan, who learned to embrace feminism, pacifism, and non-consumerism; who dared to befriend gays and liberals and atheists. She was the one who wrote a novel, who learned to garden by trial and error, who trekked all 212 miles of the John Muir Trail. The man whose name I took played a fundamental role in me becoming that person. I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to move forward.

I also wanted to take responsibility for my contributions to the mess that my marriage had become. Anger that would boil into door-slamming, hair-pulling, glass-shattering rage; my need to control everything, down to what time my husband woke up in the morning and the clothes he wore; my anxiety, which made basic tasks like doing the dishes or shopping for groceries seem insurmountable—I wanted to work on those problems as Lucy Bryan Green.

And I still liked my name. It didn’t seem fair that he could take it from me. He’d already taken the canoe, a whole bookcase’s worth of books (along with the bookcase), half the set of glass nesting bowls, our nicest chef’s knife, two watercolors I’d painted, our cast iron patio furniture, our Honda CRV, the pine bedframe we’d stained by hand, all of the power tools, and most of the money in our bank account. Those were just the things. When he left, so did his family, many of our friends, my sense of security, the belief that I was unconditionally loved, my trust in God, my identity as a married woman, my plans to have children, and my sense of self-worth. I wouldn’t let him have my name. He’d taken enough.”

Another wonderful essay about the power and privilege of names. I love the metaphor of women and mountains; the lyricism and imagery are especially moving.

(See also: What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name)

What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

“My younger brother started it off by asking me how Chris felt about being emasculated. He was joking, and he did apologize about it later, but I couldn’t help wonder if he somehow represented all the men who might feel emasculated by our choice. My mother, always a supporter, just sighed. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘Just be ready for the responses. Your child might have some trouble on the playground.’

As my belly grew, the comments got even stranger. I had secretly hoped for no reaction, for our choice to be as common as saying, ‘I went with the mustard instead of the ketchup.’ No reaction would mean something good, right? That women in this country are, for example, no longer considered the property of men, even in name. That archaic systems are truly collapsing. That we can reclaim language that was formerly used to control us.

But it seemed, at least to me, that using a woman’s last name for a child threatened everyone. An older woman asked me if I was doing this to make a point. Why was all this doing perceived as mine, not my husband’s as well? At a party, a peer told me she was ‘diehard Obama’ and then argued that her only real concern about using a woman’s last name is that you risk the ease of preserving lineage and historical records.

‘Really?’ I kept responding.”

I got a lot of weird reactions when people found out that I wasn’t taking my husband’s last name when we got married. But I’m an only child, and I’d decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to change my name for anyone. Sometimes I question my decision, but most of the time I feel proud for staying true to myself. There’s nothing wrong with changing your name to match your spouse’s if that’s what you both want. But it doesn’t have to be what you want, and it’s not what I wanted.

If and when we have kids, we’ve talked about hyphenation, or combining our last names into something new… it’s not set in stone. But it’s definitely not a given for us, and it shouldn’t be for anyone. Names are important: your name is not only a part of how you see yourself, it’s also how other people see you.

As women in the United States, even though “we’ve come a long way, baby,” we still have certain cultural exceptions, including but not limited to: 1. We change our names when we get married; 2. We wear white (or off-white, or eggshell, or whatever nonsense name that’s really just white) on our wedding day; 3. We shave our body hair; 4. We wear makeup and heels when we dress up. Well, guess what? As a white, cis-gendered woman in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship, I currently do none of those things. Somehow, I’m still a woman. The world is still spinning. My husband still feels like a man.

In summation: we don’t have to do any of this nonsense that society still expects we do. We absolutely can, and plenty of women love doing all of the things I’ve just listed. I’m not saying all women should start following my lead, but I’m saying they can. You can. If you don’t want to do some, any, or all of these things, it’s okay. You’re not alone. There are plenty of us out there following our own paths to womanhood. There’s no rule book other than the one you create for yourself.

“The patriarchy is still deeply ingrained—in all of us. Surnames are one of the unseen limbs of the old world. Giving a child the father’s last name is still a given. And that given preserves the man’s place of power, from the Supreme Court on down to the everyday Joe. How can that still be the case? Why, I wonder, are we so slow on this one? It seems lazy of us.”

World Cup Soccer Stats Erase The Sport’s Most Dominant Players: Women

World Cup Soccer Stats Erase The Sport’s Most Dominant Players: Women

Only one thing mars my enjoyment of watching the World Cup, and it’s the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our men’s team continues to gain respect internationally. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Landon Donovan has achieved. It is commendable. But every time he sits there, silently allowing that phrase to be rattled off — “all-time leading U.S. goal scorer” — without pointing out that he is the all-time leading men’s goal scorer, it does take away from what Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm have achieved — total world domination.

In sports like tennis and gymnastics, where the U.S. women clearly outstrip their male counterparts, no one talks about the men’s statistics without that clarifier. Why is soccer different? Why are almost all other sports different? Why do people consistently claim that Mike Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in college basketball when he is still 115 wins behind Pat Summit, with a significantly lower win percentage (his .763 to her .841)? How hard would it be to simply slip the word “men’s” into the conversation, if nothing else, in the interest of accuracy?

Really great feminist analysis. What I love most about this article is how she ties the coverage of the World Cup to the corporate world, to politics, and to other sporting events. Her writing is very straightforward and easy to understand; the parallels she’s drawing are clear.

1200 Calories

1200 Calories

“Women: If you are trying to go about your business during the day, on only 1200 calories, and perform cardio to burn those dreaded calories, you really are not going to succeed. You will most likely pass out.

It is unfortunate, then, that there is one – and only one – message the majority of weight loss campaigns use to when targeting women:

Calories, calories, calories.

More specifically, less calories.”

My husband has been trying to get me to read this article for several weeks, and I am embarrassed to admit it took me this long, because it was really worth my time (and yours!). Another amazing quote:

“Women should be shown the same fitness routines as men. We should be exposed to the same messages of eating nutritious food, with lots ‘o protein, and enough calories to build our bodies into Goddess-like proportions. We should not fear muscle. We should not shy away from the weight room because it is perceived as ‘odd’ and out of place when a woman approaches the squat rack.”

Just read it.

The Indian sanitary pad revolutionary

The Indian sanitary pad revolutionary

“A school dropout from a poor family in southern India has revolutionized menstrual health for rural women in developing countries by inventing a simple machine they can use to make cheap sanitary pads.

Arunachalam Muruganantham’s invention came at great personal cost – he nearly lost his family, his money and his place in society. But he kept his sense of humor.”

Reading this filled me with absolute joy. This man selflessly, over the span of many years, made women’s health and financial independence a priority, to his own detriment. He’s my new hero, and he is proof that men can be feminists, too.

Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls

Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls

“The Cool Girl has many variations: She can have tattoos, she can be into comics, she might be really into climbing or pickling vegetables. She’s always down to party, or do something spontaneous like drive all night to go to a secret concert. Her body, skin, face, and hair all look effortless and natural — the Cool Girl doesn’t even know what an elliptical machine would look like — and wears a uniform of jeans and tank tops, because trying hard isn’t Cool. The Cool Girl has a super-sexy ponytail.

The Cool Girl never nags, or ‘just wants one’ of your chili fries, because she orders a giant order for herself. She’s an ideal that matches the times — a mix of feminism and passivity, of confidence and femininity. She knows what she wants, and what she wants is to hang out with the guys.

Cool Girls don’t have the hang-ups of normal girls: They don’t get bogged down by the patriarchy, or worrying about their weight. They’re basically dudes masquerading in beautiful women’s bodies, reaping the privileges of both. But let’s be clear: It’s a performance. It might not be a conscious one, but it’s the way our society implicitly instructs young women on how to be awesome: Be chill and don’t be a downer, act like a dude but look like a supermodel.”

Anne Helen Petersen is a brilliant writer; her website, Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style, is a must-read if you’re interested in Hollywood culture and media analysis, and her series on The Hairpin, Scandals of Classic Hollywood, is so successful that she’s turning it into a book. I also love her un-Hollywood related pieces: on Lilith Fair, summer camp, two lane highways, and lost loves, to name a few. This article is classic AHP, with plenty of old Hollywood gossip and feminist analysis to keep you engaged. Enjoy!