I identify as a heterosexual, cis-gendered, black woman. I mention this because often times we assume that is the norm, but because we are living in a society of many identities, I want to discourage from making assumptions about how people identify. Additionally, I want to acknowledge my bias. People of identities different from my own could very well have a perspective that I will not be able to cover. This is my experience.
From the beginning of time, men and women have had roles to fulfill. I must admit that to a certain degree, I can understand why. Men are biologically stronger, women are biologically capable of feeding their young, and there are a lot of other ways in which one gender has innate abilities that the other gender is not necessarily able to fulfill. We know that we are socialized in a number of ways as well. Nature creates us a certain way, and then we are socialized and trained to be whatever is deemed appropriate by those around us. Of course we must account for the fact that we are a combination of who we are innately, and who we have been brought up to become. Each person is unique and no one person, even from the same household and genetics, will be like the other. Men have a range of traits, and women alike. But! Men are still biologically stronger. So, more often than not, men are going to be more capable in physical strength than women.
We discuss feminism in a way that, I feel, does not account for the reality that is, men and women are different. Men are not all the same, and women are not all the same, but each gender shares traits with one another that the opposite gender does not commonly have. I believe wholeheartedly that women are equal to men, but we can offer different strengths than men, and vice-versa.
I have noticed a trend in my current place of employment. Your experience may be different, but hear me out. Some men do not admit when they don’t know something, and many women honestly admit when they don’t know. Many people, men and women, believe in this notion that it is valuable to appear as if you are all-knowing at all times. I’ll call this the “never say I don’t know” clan. Others are of a different belief, which is “I must acknowledge the areas I am not strong in, in an effort to not communicate false-truths, and also to be aware of what is not yet known so that I can learn it”. Both belief systems have value, but I must admit that I tend to fall into the “I wont say I know it, if I don’t” clan. I’m sure there is a whole psychology behind why, but I’ve noticed that women tend to be honest when they don’t know, while men either pretend they know, or act as if you should know where to find the answer. I should be clear, I do not aim to fuel false stereotypes, but let’s acknowledge a trend I have noticed and believe is worthy of discussion.
If women tend to say “I don’t know”, and men tend to say “ well the answer is…(some bs)”, what does that imply about how we respond to men and women in different settings? For instance, a man in a leadership position versus a woman in a leadership position, may be received and perceived differently. Pause for a moment and think about how you respond to people in leadership who openly admit that they do not know something. Now be honest, does it make you respect them more? Or do you find yourself trusting them less and less, respecting them less and less, and taking them less seriously? Unfortunately, I think many people want to be led by someone who appears to know the answers, even if they are wrong. Frequently, we picture a man in leadership for this reason. But here’s the way I see things, women who understand their weaknesses have an underused strength. A woman who can be honest about her lack of knowledge, makes me trust her more. Why? Because she is aware of her weaknesses and she is honest about them. This trait is only alarming if she knows her weaknesses and does nothing to strengthen those areas of weakness. The first step is admitting you have a problem *wink*.
Women have strengths that are different, but equally as valuable as men. We are leaving half of our potential untapped when we deny women leadership roles and when we give preference to men, or anyone else, who claims to know something when they, in fact, do not. Remember I am only talking trends here. Not all men are alike, and not all women are alike in every single way. This is simply one example of the many ways in which women’s potential goes underused.
I hope you can read this and see your bias, whether that is for or against women. Figure out where your biases lie, and check them. I’m not innocent either, I tend to hold biases against men as well, assuming that they are not as smart ;). Forgive me, I’m human! We can all do better and I hope you will see that women and men need to be represented in all roles. Like I said, we each have strengths and weaknesses and offer something that the other may be lacking. #yourbiasisaweapon