personal post

Let’s Get Personal: Privilege in Action – The Need for White Americans to Act is Now

I think most of my friends in the wedding & blogging industry are struggling to get back to the normalcy of “swoon-worthy” details & cool DC nuptials, after this weekend and the events that transpired in Charlottesville. I watched, I am sure like many of you, as the events unfolded online. I stayed connected to Twitter much more than I should have, but I was horrified at what was happening a mere 2 hours and 25 minutes from my home. A fellow vendor in the wedding industry lives in Charlottesville and was providing live updates from the event via her Facebook feed, and thankfully she was unharmed when the nazi asshole decided to drive his car into peaceful protesters.

As with any time this stuff happens lately, my MO is usually to post articles online and just continue to be inexplicably angry at people that voted for this. I’ve heard the countless stories from Trump voters that insist they are not racist, and maybe they aren’t, but THIS is what you decided was something worth looking over for your conservative judge picks or “economic anxiety” or anybody but Hillary. And that is something I don’t think I can ever understand or empathize with.

Maybe you think this post is too political for a wedding blog. Maybe it is – though if you follow any of my social media, or even older posts here, you know I don’t shy from sharing my opinions on this type of stuff. Because I am of the mindset that we HAVE to talk about these things, as hard, exhausting, upsetting, and yes, even inappropriate, these topics might feel. If there is one thing I am learning since the election results, is how much my white privilege has blinded me. I am learning that I could be blind to politics before I was twenty-something, because my life and safety never felt threatened as a result of it, until now.

There is a thought-provoking picture making the rounds on Facebook and I invite you to read it – especially if you find yourself angered or annoyed that I chose to blog on this topic instead of my usual engagement session feature.  “Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence. Your wealth, your race, your abilities, or your gender allows you to live a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation, or genocide” – motherwiselife.org

And so I continue to learn, I continue to read, I continue to speak, and yesterday we decided to do a small action: attending the vigil/rally at the WWII rally with Andy, Evie & my coworker Sam.

We listened and watched, cried and sat together in solidarity to show our feelings on what happened this weekend.

And what I am left with most from the weekend is realizing that my disbelief that something like this could happen in 2017, is attributed solely to my privilege. I tweeted things like “this is America 2017” – in shock, and things like “this is not America” – but here’s the thing, this actually IS the America that we live in. Our history and present day, is crawling with racism & bigotry, it just hasn’t impacted me as an upper-class white woman. Need more proof? Check out SPLU’s Hate Map. There are over 20 hate groups currently functioning in Washington, DC. TWENTY. In 2017 America. As some of the people I follow on Twitter quickly pointed out, from our nation being founded on Slavery, to Jim Crow, to Trump’s Muslim Ban, there’s nothing more American than racism.

So, where do we go from here? Well, first I think we need to define “we” because this problem is a MAJORITY White problem. I won’t pretend to be an expert on this, but look only at the statistics from our 2016 election, and those in attendance at this weekend’s Nazi rally – this is a white person problem. Renegade Mama wrote one of the best articles I have read yet that quite clearly laid out not only who is to blame, but who is responsible for leading the fight against racism: white women.

They say the truth will set you free, but first it will really piss you off. The reason it pisses us off is not simply because we are wrong, but because the truth – the great truth – sets aflame everything we thought we knew about ourselves. It uses us up and spits us out into a pile of something we never imagined could exist in us, let alone thrive at the core of our being.

Do we believe we are responsible? That we must speak? That we must call out the fifty racists in our families–oh come on. I know they’re there. Even in Portland–that we must RAISE CHILDREN WHO UNDERSTAND AMERICA WAS BUILT ON RACISM?

We are not post-racial. We have never been equal. And it is an outright delusion to convince ourselves “This is not us.”

> Renegade Mama

This means acknowledging that as a white women, I still benefit from white supremacy. This means acknowledging that this problem relies on me to fix. This means getting uncomfortable, challenging friends, coworkers & family members. This means calling out racism when I see it, but also finding ways to elevate women and people of color.

Complacency is a literal killer – we, White Americans must take ACTION over words and the first action you can take is to accept this reality, that racism is very much alive & well in 2017 America.

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Let’s Get Personal: Why Women Aren’t CEOs – A Reflection

Image: This Rad Love

I read an article last week that I cannot get out of my mind. And between the anxiety I’m feeling with the healthcare vote today & the leftover anger I am feeling from this article – well I decided to blog about it. Let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert on this topic, but as a woman in IT, at a major, global corporation, I could not get over how many of these points rang true to me personally, and what I’ve witnessed being at the Manager level at my company (much less the C-Suite level). So this post will be about MY experience, what I see and experience personally and my plea to you all to read & share this article – especially with men you know in this space.

I spent a chunk of my Friday just copying and pasting sentence, after sentence of this article to my female co-worker. We talk often about what it’s like to be a woman on our Account, but even we were a bit flabbergasted at how insanely similar SO MUCH of these womens’ experiences were to ours. Like we could have written these quotes ourselves, or we could probably even find old messenger conversations between the two of us, that said the exact same things these women shared.

The article makes so many amazing points, but for me the ones that held truest were:

  • Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion & are more likely to be criticized when they do grab the spotlight
  • Men are threatened by assertive women
  • Women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive
  • Women tend to get discouraged and drop out along the way (or decide they don’t actually want the top spot at a company) & are even disproportionately penalized for their stumbles

And after a few Lesley Knope rage gifs exchanged, the article (and my conversation with my female coworker) went on.

Women push for changes, which cause men to react badly. Women that attempt to negotiate for promotions were 30% more likely to be labeled intimidating, bossy, or aggressive.

And the final blow definitely came here:

Ms. Kullman found that men were being promoted within two years, women in three. “It wasn’t as overt as, “She’s too aggressive.’ ” she said, “It came down more to, “We’re not sure she’s ready for that job.”

This one was especially hard for me to read as I had JUST sat in performance sessions the week before and witnessed this with my own eyes & ears. I did not keep quiet during these sessions and felt strongly at challenging my fellow managers for actually defining WHY the man was ready but the woman was not. And one response yielded something to the affect of, she comes to me with frustrations and complaints of what is wrong, but no solutions. To which I asked, has anyone ever given her this feedback? To come with some suggested solutions too?

Silence.

Well, the NYTimes had me covered, “But she and other women describe a culture in which men sometimes feel hesitant to give women honest but hard feedback, which can be necessary for them to ascend, because they fear women may react emotionally.” How are we to climb the corporate ladder (if that is what we want), when we aren’t given the proper feedback to change or grow to get there?

If you think, like a lot of my male coworkers, that this article is silly or not what you experience (or as a man, not how you treat your female coworkers), then I would invite you to understand that just because it’s not affecting you, does not mean it isn’t affecting so many others. Because it is. I posted this article on Facebook and the only two comments I got, were from former male-coworkers of mine, making a joke about me womansplaining this article to them (yes really).

This is not a joke. And no, their comments were not funny. This is a reality, and like most (all?) issues facing women, it’s infinitely harder if you are a non-white woman.

So where do we go from here? These articles are great in informing & highlighting these issues, statistics, & experiences, but we need to do more than write & share these articles (but really, please read & share this article). We need to have conversations, we need to find ways to stay in the game and influence where we can. Personally, I will not keep quiet – I will continue to point out these occurrences when I see them and I will continue to challenge my male coworkers when I can, even when it’s almost always met with “oh there she goes again” eye-rolls. We also can create the change by starting our own companies – forging our own paths that aren’t already so stuck in the patriarchy and bringing as many people up with us as we can. We can win small battles in Corporate America – but the culture here as been this way for a very long time and I don’t know how fast we can change it.

I want faster change and for that I think forging our own paths is important – it’s one of the main reasons I love running this business & I am hopeful that lots of women are doing the same (plenty I know, are). My dad shared this awesome USA Today article with me, “Women business owners will save America” and this makes me hopeful. I also read a collection of short interviews with some seriously fierce & inspiring black comediennes yesterday, and a lot of them had the same message: be true to yourself, and if you don’t like the path that men/someone else is dictating for you – make your own. We do what we can to fight this ongoing battle and we continue to raise others up that need even more help than I do and give voice to those that don’t feel like they can speak up like I do. It’s the only way we will truly win.

Let’s Get Personal: Get Uncomfortable, Listen, & the Necessity of Diversifying the Views in Your Life

Images: Sarah Williams

With all the doom & gloom happening in the country (world?) right now, and constant fury & fear on my Twitter, I am constantly searching for slivers of positivity, or good that game from November’s election. For one, it’s opened my eyes to the need to participate in our government, and no longer be a privileged bystander. I’ve had multiple conversations with friends and family at this point, that if you are not called to action at this point, then you have the privilege to be complacent.

But this post is meant to be less about privilege (though I plan to tackle that topic again because I’ve never been more aware of mine, personally), and more about the need to diversify the people you talk to and interact with on a daily basis. After the election, I was one of those women that was SHOCKED that white women voted so heavily for Trump and I was also one of those women that considered myself a feminist, though had never heard the term intersectional feminism before. I consider myself to be aware of others, however I was aware only as much as I was exposed to from the media I ingested and the people I surrounded myself with. One of the best things (for me personally) that came from the Women’s March, was reading about intersectional feminism, and understanding that there are different degrees & levels of feminism, and that feminism for women of color is a whole other arena. When I thought of feminism, I thought of the most basic version: equality for women! What I never even considered was dividing that group of ‘women’ up further to look at black vs hispanic vs muslim vs poor vs trans women.

One of the first things I started doing (thanks to the countless op-eds I started reading post election & women’s march) was to start following women of colors on Twitter. We all know how I feel about Twitter (it is my everything), but when I took a hard look at my feed, it was filled with mostly white women, neighbors (still heavily white), and DC area businesses. Yikes – this needed to change.

I also keep going back to this video I watched recently about implicit bias. So much of this video has been swirling in my mind – the need to diversify the vantage points in your life, the way children assimilate to similar groups they are brought up in, and how humans naturally assimilate toward more comfortable groups of beings because it’s just that, comfortable. Well it’s time to get uncomfortable. It’s time to follow accounts that are having completely different experiences and are being affected differently by this currently political climate/current administration’s dealings. And in my discomfort, it is time to LISTEN (yes I see the irony in writing that as I type my own thoughts/opinions out in this blog post), and for those of you that know me, you know that I am much more likely the one sharing my opinion, than listening to someone elses.

But that needs to change too. So while I settle into my new realm of discomfort, taking harder looks at my privilege, the people I have in my life, and the circles I keep, I must continue to push myself harder to diversify further and listen more. I think we could all benefit from this. So if you have Twitter accounts for me to follow, books to read, or columns to check out – please send them my way.

Let’s Get Personal: Little Actions Can Add Up to Big Things

Image: Amber Kay Photography

I hope everyone had a great weekend! I am hurting big time after my first wedding of 2017 (which was EPIC), finishing my first 8 mile run since pre-Evie days (and also spraining my ankle & not realizing it on mile 5), and staying up too late to watch the Falcons lose. I was a terrible blogger last week, so I am trying to get back on track and ignoring the 800 emails currently in my inbox – I promise I will respond to you all by end of day!

Last week I participated in my FIRST EVER bookclub meeting. It was inspiring, emotional, thought-provoking, and freakin’ FUN. About 10 of us met virtually from across the US via Google Hangout to discuss the Empathy Exams – a really interesting collection of essays on varying personal experiences the author has had, both personally and through other people. I haven’t exercised the analytical reading part of my brain like that, probably since High School.

The meeting couldn’t have come at a better time too, I was having a bad day (for no real reason), just super tired, moody & low and there was a big part of me that wanted to just veg on the couch and flake on the hangout. With this current political climate and everything going on in our country lately, I am just so emotionally drained & mentally exhausted. I’ve spent too much time pouring over social media, and donating half of my bank account to every charity & cause I can. I’ve fought internet Trolls, attended protests, and decked my body in head to toe Nasty Woman gear, but nothing has made me feel so re-energized and soothed like this one virtual book club meeting.

Which got me to thinking about how important small gestures & little interactions can be. Especially right now, for people like me that are driven by solutions. I am a problem-solver, a fixer, I innately see or hear about issues & conflicts and my first thought isn’t anything other than “Well what can we do to fix it?”. And right now, in our country, the problems are big, like huge, like immeasurable. Racial divide, inter-sectional feminism, banning immigrants & refugees, taking away people’s healthcare, and the list goes on. These are huge issues, on which people are REALLY divided, and quite frankly there doesn’t feel like much I can do to attempt to help solve these problems.

Or so I initially thought.

It wasn’t until last week’s bookclub meeting that I was able to take a step back and re-focus at a more micro-level, the things I could do on a small-scale, to make a difference. My sister & a friend both posted online about connections they had to refugee families and so instead of sending all my money to Red Cross and other large Refugee Support organizations (which don’t get me wrong, I still plan to do), I was able to donate baby bottles & boys’ pants, directly two two refugee families that needed these items. That felt really good.

I am also currently a member of at least 3,000 “action” Facebook groups post-Inauguration (I kid, it’s not exactly 3,000), and again, it’s starting to get overwhelming to me to try and be apart of SO many of these groups and try and tackle a ton of big issues. So instead I am going to mute a good amount of them and refocus on the 1-2, where I can actually take small actions, without getting overwhelmed. It might take some time to see the bigger result at the end, but I am confident that the smaller actions I am now taking, will end up doing more in the end.

Let’s Get Personal: A Reminder of the Importance of Selflessness & Reflection

View More: http://mathyshootspeople.pass.us/rybackfamilymini

Image: Mathy Shoots People

I‘ve found a lot more inspiration lately for writing more personal posts, so I hope you guys don’t mind it too much. Maybe all the post-election insanity has caused me to be more introspective, or maybe I’ve been reading so many op-eds and think pieces lately, craving explanation for what the heck is happening in our country (and world) that it’s opened up more introspective thoughts & thus, posts. Whatever the reason, they’re always therapeutic for me, and so I’ll continue to write them until someone tells me to stop ;-p.

Today’s post came by way of Facebook – a friend of mine from High School posted a status update after the new year about her life as a military wife & mom of two, dealing with being only halfway through her husband’s current deployment. I asked Kelsey if I could share her words here, and she thankfully agreed to let me. Here were her words:

We are a little over half way finished with Andy’s current deployment. I’m sitting in my warm and quiet house reflecting on the past few months. When Andy first deployed a few months ago I had so many emotions; sadness, loneliness and anger. I would look at families in restaurants and stores and be jealous of their togetherness and happiness. I would quickly scroll past family photos on Facebook and wished I could post pictures of my family together also. I would tear up when I received beautiful family Christmas cards in the mail. As time passed I’ve let those emotions go as I have learned so much about myself and my capabilities as a mother and a woman. I’ve learned that I can and will handle all situations that come up. Military wives learn to expect the strangest things to come up while their husbands are gone. Things in the house break at the most inconvenient time, there seems to be less sleep and long nights, kids get sick more than ever before with more ER visits and so on.

Daily routines and traditions need to be consistent even though Dad is away. I have no choice but to take on the rolls of husband and father. Kids need “rough housing,” they need their Christmas toys that take 6 hours to be put together; they need discipline and so forth. The cars need to have the oil changed and bills need to be paid, and lawns need to be mowed and raked, driveways need to be shoveled and garbage needs to be taken out. Before I did all of this with resentment and always felt a little sorry for myself. I’m over that. I’ve realized the time apart from Andy has allowed me to mature and has made me be thankful for our health and love that our family has for each other and for those who have supported us along the way. I’ve learned to let the small things go and to focus on the things that really matter.

In reading this post again, I am once more moved to tears and in awe of her strength, self-reflection, and honesty. I must also admit that her post could not have come at a better time for me. Andy has been traveling a lot more for work lately than he ever has, and I’ll admit that I don’t ever take the news well when he tells me he has to jet off somewhere new. Yes I understand it’s for his job, and yes I know that he doesn’t want to leave me hanging to take care of Evie alone, but that didn’t seem to help my mood.

I almost always get sulky and grumpy, building up how tough and exhausting it’s going to be (or is) when he’s gone and the child care routine is on me, as I still try to keep the CapRo lights on and functioning at my day job. It’s stressful for sure, but it wasn’t until Kelsey’s post (and our quick chat after she wrote it) that made me realize two things. 1 – there are so many parents that bear this burden of single-parenting (military deployments, or other circumstances) for so much longer than the few days a month Andy travels, and 2- I was making this situation entirely about me.

Every time Andy told me had to travel, I immediately thought of myself and how hard it would be for ME only. I didn’t think about how he might feel being away and I didn’t think about Evie missing Andy/wondering where he might be. Andy’s work trips pale in comparison to Kelsey’s situation (and others’ like her) where her partner is gone for MONTHS. Surely if Kelsey can see the good in this situation, I can find a way to react better and think of others more, and of myself & own pity, less.

So let this post serve as a reminder to you, especially as we set out on a new year, that there may be times where you could think of your self a little less, and of others a little more. I know I am certainly going to try much harder to do this, starting today.

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