Power Tripping

Hi internets, I know it’s been a while but life has been going on and it’s been busy so I know you’ll forgive my absence.

I thought I’d come back today with a piece on bullying in the workplace. Some of you may or may not have seen the recent Salon article, When Bullies Go To Work. which I think is a great platform for what I want to talk about here. I could barely get through the comments, many of which called the interviewees whiners, and I was surprised that this didn’t get a bit more play in social media land because I know a lot of you have experiences that relate to workplace bullying, either from colleagues or supervisors. Unfortunately…

“There’s a definite lack of awareness. People are very surprised when they think about these things happening in the workplace.” Yet it’s all around us –  a 2010 workplace bullying study found that 35 percent of workers say they have experienced bullying firsthand, and another 15 percent report witnessing it.

35%!! That’s a lot. That’s too much. That’s one in three of your coworkers.

In the aforementioned study, workplace bullying was defined as “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, & humiliation”. But statistics are hard to come by:

…because targets themselves don’t always connect the dots between their absenteeism-causing migraines and ulcers and their aggressive colleagues, but Dellasega says at least 5 percent of workers say they’ve deliberately not gone in to work because of stress there.

I know I’ve had friends who felt they could not handle going to their workplace either because they knew they were going to get abuse (I mean mental, not physical or sexual) from their boss or they felt so overwhelmed by their negative workplace culture.

The study showed that both men and women bully, but the majority of bullying is same-gender harassment, which is mostly legal according to anti-discrimination laws and workplace policies. Women target women. I’m surprised by this last stat. because my experiences and those of some of my peers suggests that bullying is pretty gender neutral and is primarily influenced and encouraged by office culture, not individuals. Salon seems to agree with me on that one (the culture part, not the gender thing):

Part of what makes workplace bullying so insidious is that it’s so deeply entrenched in the corporate cultures where it flourishes. It’s not just one jerk — it’s a whole department of sycophants and terrorized underlings. As Liza, who works in graphic design, says, “One of my bosses likes to throw paperwork on the floor so we have to get on our knees. I commonly see a reaction of, ‘That’s just how he is,’ or ‘He’s just having a bad day,’ when an incident occurs.” Namie says this is common. “The whole group adopts the practice out of survival and fear, and over time it becomes the norm and the bullying becomes institutionalized. It’s about loyalty,” he says. “Once you start promoting people for that kind of behavior, you’ve sent the message.”

I’d go a step further and say that workplace bullying, like all bullying, is about demonstrating power. If bullying has become the norm in an office culture then management and junior staff alike are trying to flex their muscles and show that they have some sense of power – this may not always be solely related to work, but rather, feeling powerless in other aspects of their lives as well.

One big challenge we have is how to combat this in workplace cultures that seem to promote bullying or ignore it when it’s clearly happening. What do you do if your HR person engages in bullying themselves? Who do you have to go to? If your boss is bullying you, you probably feel stuck! Sure you can complain to your fellow employees but then what!? Office cultures seem to have created systems in which young employees remain powerless (and not just against bullying, but also against all kinds of change). It may be easier to affect change if your bully is a peer but even then, if you’re new, how do you develop allies?

It’s unfortunate to me that the workplace has become, for some people, a war zone, filled with negativity, unnecessary obstacles, and cruelty.

What cultural factors have made this OK and how can young employees stop it from getting worse, or stop it from happening in the first place? You tell me.

*Also, did you know this is my 97th post? I bet you didn’t. 100 is a pretty big hallmark and you’re invited to pat me on the back about it*

Occupy Valentine’s Day!

I choose not to celebrate Valentine’s day. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of any holiday that ‘requires’ gift giving. My husband and I have a year-round gift giving policy – if you think of something fun for the other person and it’s reasonable, go ahead and get it! Why do you need a holiday for this? Unclear.

Valentine’s day is right around the corner so I thought I would share a fun project  with you called ‘Occupy Valentine’s Day‘, created by Samhita Mukhopadhyay. Here’s how she describes it on Feministing:

So this year in an effort to push the bounds of that exclusivity that so many of us feel on Valentine’s day, I wanted to think about the ways we can rethink love and romance to resemble who we are, as singles, couples and community. Celebrating love is a beautiful thing but shouldn’t depend on if we are in a relationship or not, our sexual orientation, our class background, our citizenship status or our marital status.

So I created a tumblr called Occupy Valentine’s Day to collect our re-imaginings of love.

Here’s one of my favorites (image from OVD): 

She suggests some ways to get involved with OVD and here are the ones that resonated with me but you should absolutely send a photo into her tumblr!

  • Blog about how traditional ideas of romance perpetuate gender inequalities and hurt people of all genders (so true!!!) 
  • Raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault like others have.
  • Not be that douche-y couple on Valentine’s Day—maybe hang out with your best friends, single and otherwise (My husband’s birthday is the 15th so we probably wouldn’t go out as that douche-y couple on the 14th anyway). 
  • Have a sexy conversation by candlelight with your partner about structural inequity
  • Make a commitment to have fulfilling, accountable and loving relationships in all parts of your life (because the relationship you have with your partner, if you have one, isn’t the only relationship in your life)

More to come as Vday approaches!

Lady Judgement

I have to admit, I have historically not been the most inclusive feminist; in fact, I’ve been a judgmental feminist. Younger me didn’t grasp the fact that feminism was about choice and the freedom to have choices (even if that choice is a traditional one). But older me gets it – the women’s movement has always been about being able to choose what we want to do with our lives.

So it was a real slap in the face when I sat on the other side of the lady-judgment table.

The other day at work I was talking with some women coworkers. We were just getting to know each other – gabbing about work, school, career ideals, and our big goals. My coworkers are impressive women with awesome goals which is great! But when they asked me what I wanted to do long term I took the circuitous route: I told them my interests (women, global health, west africa) and how I want to affect change. But then I said that I thought marriage had given me some perspective on what I wanted in terms of work life balance – which is, more life, less work.

and BOOM!! Came the lady judgement.

“Really??” they seemed to ask – as if they couldn’t understand how marriage could change someone’s perspective on this.

And I felt I had to backtrack and explain myself.

“Woah!” I said, “It’s not like I want to stay home and make babies – I don’t even want kids – it’s just that there are a lot of things I want out of life and my career doesn’t define me. I want to travel, become a better musician, a better chef – and sure, I am passionate about women’s health across the globe but it’s not the sole focus of my life and I won’t treat it that way.”

See, I’m a big proponent of non-traditional work schedules, and telecommuting, and, you know, having organizations function in the 21st Century. And I don’t think that’s unreasonable. But as a woman – even to other women – I still felt as though I needed to explain myself, and it was silly. Even here I feel compelled to explain that I don’t want to NOT work, I just don’t want to work in an old-school system that doesn’t appreciate or understand the modern workplace.

I’ve grown up with very high-achieving people which has propelled me forward – heck, I am 23 and have a Master’s degree which is pretty cool. But a certain level of judgement has always existed in my circles about choosing a less-career dominated life and I’ve played into it – so it was a unique experience to be on the other side of that for the first time.

I’m Political and I’m Upset

I am a political person. I care about the politics of women and I have no problem using My Orange Chair to talk about this. Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ used her power to overrule the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to make emergency contraception available over the counter for all women, including girls under 17. This decision was unprecedented, unexpected, and in my opinion, ridiculous. 


I understand that many people will have different opinions about this issue. Parents may support Sibelius and the administration because they want to know what their teens are doing. Others may morally opposed plan B outright. 


My feeling is that, in its truest form, this act ONLY serves to take away a woman’s choice to manage her body. AND I have to say, if you’re waiting for a confrontation with your parents, a doctor’s appointment, and a prescription, you’re rendering plan B useless – you really are just removing this option altogether for young women and we have so few options as it is. 


Many of the arguments I’ve heard so far in support of Sibelius only point to the fact that we have deep systemic issues. 
The problem: We shouldn’t be giving medication to young girls when they do not have education about it. 
The fix: (1) Comprehensive sex education in all schools, (2) Allowing pharmacists to do what they’re trained to do, not just deal with insurance issues. 


The problem: Parents should know what is going on with their teens. 
The fix: Get realistic expectations about teenagers and give young women some credit. I lived in a pretty open environment with my parents and I wasn’t even comfortable telling them I was sexually active. I can’t imagine having to tell them I was pregnant. And if I were – I know exactly what I would’ve done and I would’ve taken it seriously. But there’s a lot of shame and blame going on in our culture towards women who have sex which makes it inherently more difficult to talk about. 


I don’t believe for a second that Sibelius made this decision on her own – I’m irritated with the administration’s phony paternalism. Here’s a clip from Salon writer Rebecca Traister: 

“As the father of two daughters,” Obama told reporters, “I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”
First of all, the president was not talking about “various rules.” He was supporting a very specific rule, one that prevents young women from easily obtaining a drug that can help them control their reproductive lives, at an age when their economic, educational, familial and professional futures are perhaps most at risk of being derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. “As the father of two daughters,” Obama might want to reconsider his position on preventing young women from being able to exercise this form of responsibility over their own bodies and lives.
But as an American, I think it is important for my president not to turn to paternalistic claptrap and enfeebling references to the imagined ineptitude and irresponsibility of his daughters – and young women around the country – to justify a curtailment of access to medically safe contraceptives. The notion that in aggressively conscribing women’s abilities to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy Obama is just laying down some Olde Fashioned Dad Sense diminishes an issue of gender equality, sexual health and medical access. Recasting this debate as an episode of “Father Knows Best” reaffirms hoary attitudes about young women and sex that had their repressive heyday in the era whence that program sprang.

‘Just Ask’ isn’t Such a Simple Solution

There are a good deal of statistics out there about how and why women don’t negotiate salaries when starting a new job. For example: 


A May study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University polled nearly 600 young men and women who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010. The authors found that young men are not only out-earning young women, they’re doing so by an average of more than $5,000 per year. Male participants reported first-year job earnings averaging $33,150, while young women earned about $28,000.
Another report released in May, this one by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, indicated that new female college graduates are earning 17 percent less than their male counterparts.
The National Partnership for Women & Families reports that, among full-time workers in the population as a whole, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. 
When asking the internet what to do about this problem the most common suggestion (in my findings) was “Just ask for more! The worst they can say is ‘no’. But, it turns out that’s not really true. 
Kevin Drum has more to say about this at Mother Jones

E.J. Graff asked all the men to leave the room before she linked to this reddit piece below, but I didn’t. It’s from an HR person at a tech company explaining why women routinely get lower salary offers than men:

The reason they don’t keep up, from where I sit, is simple. Often, a woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I’ll tell them a number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around $45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview simply take this offer. It’s insane, I already know I can get authorization for more if you simply refuse. Inversely, almost 90% of the men I interview immediately ask for more upon getting the offer.

The next major mistake happens with how they ask for more. In general, the women I have negotiated with will say 45k is not enough and they need more, but not give a number. I will then usually give a nominal bump to 48k or 50k. Company policy wont let me bump more than 5k over the initial offer unless they specifically request more. On the other hand, men more frequently will come back with a number along the lines of 65k to 75k, and I will be forced to negotiate down from there. After this phase, almost all women will take the offer or move on to somewhere else, not knowing they could have gotten more if they asked.

At the end, most of the women I hire make between 45k and 50k, whereas the men make between 60k and 70k. Even more crazy, they ask for raises far less often, so the disparity only grows.

I apologize for sticking around, but there’s a reason. I’ve run into this before myself, and have always told women “Just ask! The worst that can happen is that they say no.” But that’s not actually the case. Here’s a bit of research on the subject:

Their study…found that women’s reluctance [to negotiate] was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did….”What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not,” Bowles said. “They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not.”

So listen up, boys: there’s a reason women don’t negotiate as hard as men. Several of them, in fact. But one of these reasons is that men treat them shabbily when they do. So knock it off. Tell the women you love to negotiate the same as you would, and when they do, don’t hold it against them. OK?


I have to admit – I did not negotiate my salary for my current position. I was so tired of being unemployed and I was also pleased with the salary and benefits offer. I realize that this could have been a mistake in the long run – nonprofit models of raises and careers can be pretty broken; you often have to move out to move up and raises are based on your starting salary. But it’s unfortunate that “just asking” isn’t really the simple answer so many people want it to be. 

Animals in All Caps are Feminists

STOP TELLING ME TO ‘CHECK MY PRIVILEGE’ AND LISTEN TO WHAT I’M SAYING! WE’RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE SOLIDARITY AS WOMEN! IT’S THIS KIND OF PETTY INFIGHTING AMONGST POCS AND WHITES THAT PREVENTS US FROM MAKING PROGRESS IN THE FACE OF GENDER-SPECIFIC INSTITUTIONAL OPPRESSION! WE CAN’T WORRY ABOUT HOW DIFFERENT RACES EXPERIENCE THE TYRANNY OF THE PATRIARCHY! OUR OPINIONS AND SUFFERING ARE DIFFERENT BUT THEY ARE ALL EQUALLY VALID! IT’S ONLY MEN’S OPINIONS THAT DON’T MATTER! YOU HAVE TO SEE THAT!
http://animalstalkinginallcaps.tumblr.com/post/12624915191/stop-telling-me-to-check-my-privilege-and-listen

THANK YOU FOR YOUR OPINION REGARDING MY EYELINER, BUT LET ME EXPLAIN A COUPLE THINGS TO YOU:
1. I DON’T WEAR IT FOR YOU, NOR DO I PICK OUT MY OUTFITS BASED ON WHAT I THINK MEN WILL LIKE. YOUR CONSTANT OGLING HAS NO BEARING ON MY DECISION TO FLATTER MY FIGURE OR ENHANCE MY NATURAL FEATURES WITH BEAUTY PRODUCTS. THAT IS YOUR GENDER’S CONSTANT MISGUIDED PERCEPTION.
2. YOU DON’T LIKE “WOMEN WHO DON’T WEAR MAKEUP.” YOU LIKE WOMEN WHO ARE WEARING CONCEALER AND BARE ESCENTUALS FOUNDATION CAREFULLY BLENDED INTO THEIR NECKLINE, CHEEKS TINTED LIGHTLY WITH SOFT ROSY CREAM BLUSH, EYESHADOW ONE SHADE DARKER THAN THEIR FOUNDATION, EYELASHES DOTTED WITH GREY PENCIL AND LIPS THAT HAVE BEEN ENHANCED WITH A LIGHT BERRY GLOSS.
THAT’S PROBABLY $200 WORTH OF CREAMS AND POWDERS AND TAKES MORE TIME TO APPLY THAN YOUR ENTIRE ‘SHIT, SHOWER AND SHAVE’ ROUTINE, ALL SO ASSHOLES LIKE YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ‘NATURAL BEAUTY’ WHILE WE’RE WAITING FOR A DAMNED BUS.
3. EVEN IF I HONESTLY CARED ABOUT YOUR AMATEUR MAKEUP CRITIQUES I WOULDN’T IN A MILLION YEARS GO OUT WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE AN IGNORANT, BALDING FASHION CASUALTY WITH NOODLE ARMS AND A BEER GUT WHO CAN’T KEEP HIS EYES OR OPINIONS TO HIMSELF.
IF YOU KEEP TALKING TO ME I’M GOING TO SHOVE YOUR SANDALS UP YOUR ASS AND YOU CAN WADDLE HOME IN YOUR SOCKS.

Yes Means Yes

One of the most important books I have ever read is Yes Means Yes described by its authors and editors as “a groundbreaking new look at rape, edited by writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman and Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti. Through the anthology — and now this blog — we’re trying to move beyond “no means no” to connect the dots between the shaming and co-option of female sexuality in our culture(s) and some of the ways rape is allowed and encouraged to function.” From http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/about-yes-means-yes/

I have passed this book around to my friends, male and female, and have had some of the most important conversations around sexuality, rape, and enthusiastic ‘yes’ because of it. Author Jaclyn Friedman recently did an interview at Salon about her new book ,“What You Really, Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety.” A description of the book from Salon is included below: 

Too many books in this genre promise certain drive-your-man-wild tricks, or they take a side in the politicized debate over hookup culture. Friedman instead has one thing on her agenda: Getting girls to explore and embrace their own authentic sexual identities without shame, fear or guilt. Instead of arguing for empowerment through one-night stands or, conversely, abstinence, she leaves it up to young women to decide what it is that’s best for them. But she also offers guidance along the way, urging them to critically examine the social pressures and media messages that have shaped their understandings of sexiness, sexual fulfillment and love.
The book is filled with writing exercises that prompt readers to reflect on everything from body image to sexual assault. It’s essentially a guide to writing one’s own personal sexual manifesto. This is a rare thing in a culture filled with generic, passive models of female sexuality – from pop offerings like the Pussycat Dolls to hardcore porn stars. 

(Emphasis mine)


Below I’ve included a few of my favorite excerpts from the interview: 


It’s awfully hard to know where the cultural messaging starts and where the “real you” begins.Well, like I said in the book, it’s actually impossible to know that. There is no real you that’s separate from all the ways that we as individuals have been influenced as we’ve grown up and gone through the world. The idea of some sort of sexual blank slate that you can get back down to and start from is a really harmful idea, because it’s impossible to achieve.
The idea is to figure out what are the ways you have been influenced, which one of those influences are bringing you pleasure and happiness, and which one of those are hurting you or keeping you from experiencing pleasure and connection.

I know so many young women who identify as feminist and feel very conflicted about some of what really does do it for them because they feel like it’s politically incorrect.
That makes me so sad! No one speaks for feminism writ large, but myfeminism says that any one sex act is no more empowering than the next. There’s nothing inherently degrading about any sex act. It’s all about how both people involved are approaching it. On the flip side, there’s nothing inherently empowering about any sex act. I think people sometimes misunderstand my work and think I’m advocating that everyone go out and have casual sex, as though that would be empowering for everyone. What I want is to help women create a sexuality for themselves that is centered around what works for them.

My sister bought me my copy of ‘Yes Means Yes’ and I’ve been sharing it ever since. Friedman asks and answers important questions about how our culture influences our sexual lives and what it means to be a feminist. I recommend her writings to anyone! I swear she’ll change the way you think about approaching sexual relationships with your partner(s).