Two weeks ago I published a blog. It upset some people. A few of them reached out to me privately. I was kind of surprised - I didn't think the blog was that shocking. Apparently, it was. But that's the power of our stories, sometimes. They become our normal. And that's quite dangerous.
I left off from the previous 'episode' with the story of how I got my first period. It was a profound day, because I had been quite unprepared for it. When it eventually happened to me, I had no idea that it was actually going on. My body became alien. That was pretty frightening.
It brings me to the second thing that happened to me as I was growing up. You can read the first in the first part of the blog here.
It's the second thing in a toxic combination of things that perpetuate bias - the theme of this year's International Women's Day being #BreaktheBias.
The Things That Go Unsaid
In conjunction with some pretty insane language that is used about women all over the world, all the time, and taught to children before they can really even speak, are all the things that we don't talk about.
As I was growing up, navigating my father's poor behaviour, and the bullying I was experiencing at school, there was an unspoken rule governing my every thought and response - don't talk about it. Don't tell anyone. Don't make a fuss. Don't turn it into a big thing.
At home, I couldn't talk about it because my experiences were so on the edge, that often I didn't even know what was happening. I just knew something felt wrong. My father's behaviour was just on the edge of 'abuse' but not quite. Just on the edge of what wasn't acceptable - so almost-present but not quite.
At school, I knew without a doubt that I was being bullied but I also knew that if I spoke about it, things would get worse. These boys carried knives. And they were being coached by the very rugby coaches who propped up their power over the rest of us. If you spoke up, often you were targeted outside of school, and then absolutely nothing could be done anyway.
This speaks to a greater silencing of women all over the world, every single day. I'm reading a book called Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Rage, by Soraya Chemaly.
If you're curious about the kind of penalties women have to face every single day if they speak up or speak out, you should buy the book. It ranges from the simple penalties (being labeled as difficult) to the more detrimental (losing out on a promotion or a pay raise), to plain violence (being stabbed, shot, or run over). It's a fascinating read - but it'll also fill you with rage because you'll see so much of yourself in it.
The Toxic Combo
It's this combination of the language we use about women, and the things that go unsaid that contributes to bias. It really is as simple as that.
Why is it so dangerous?
Because, if they're like me, it's going to affect women in a not-so-ok way. It's going to result in a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, anxiety, stress and burnout, and poor performance.
And what does that mean for everyone? Less money.
When women aren't performing at their peak, they're not able to give of themselves 100%. And that means that profits will dip and the bottom line will be affected.
Now, obviously, I'm as feminist as they come. I'm pretty keen for us to treat women with respect and dignity and equality and inclusion because it's the right thing to do. Because it's the human thing to do.
Some people aren't able to do that, though. What they are able to do, what so many of us are able to place above everything, is money.
When your women aren't performing, you're losing money. Simple.
So, what's the answer?
There are so many answers. And they're easy. So easy. So, why can't we get it right? Because our bias is ingrained in us from the time we are teeny tiny. And we can't see it.
So, we need to name it when we see it in others, and then we need to be much more rigorous in our own self-analysis of the way we treat people.
But here are some real concrete things:
Give women space to share what is happening to them. Set up a box in the female bathroom of your company and allow them to leave notes and thoughts, anonymously. Just give them space to speak. That would be incredibly helpful.
Don't interrupt people. Not just women. Let's stop interrupting each other. It's just rude.
This isn't as simple as saying, women need to lean in and take their power back. It's also not as simple as saying that the fault lies with only men. We ALL need to change this together. We can start by changing the language we use when we talk about women.
Men, we need you as our allies.
Women, we need to start making more money. Money gives us autonomy. Only when we have more wealth, will we have more empowerment and more clout. Ask for the raise. Increase your rates. Make bank.
And remember, be YOU. Always. Everywhere.
Ashleigh Rennie is a Copyhackers-trained conversion copywriter who works with clients all over the world. She uses a proven, solid framework to make sure that every single word is performing at its peak to make you top dollar. And it all starts with your brand voice. Do you know yours? Take the quiz to find out.