Shut Up and Listen

I apologize for being so MIA!!! I promise that I will get back on the horse.

I spent the past three days in a Communication Skills class with a group of 17 other women. It was fantastic. 18 women of all different ages, backgrounds, and professions gathering together to learn.

I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive about this whole thing. Maybe a little too “kumbayah,” maybe a little cultish – everyone who had told me about it had overly glowing reviews, so I was suspicious. But I was completely and totally wrong.

I’m sure you have all seen/heard/read about Hermione Granger – I mean, Emma Watson – speaking at the UN on feminism and the #HeForShe campaign. YOU GO, EMMA WATSON. YOU GO.

The striking part of the whole thing, to me, was not that a celebrity woman my age was labeling herself as a feminist (finally!); it was that she was focusing on men in the movement. He for She. Men working for women, because working for women is working for a better society for all of us.

In this communications class of all women, I often wondered how much we were gaining or losing by having a single-gender group. I imagine there would have been a much wider scope of perspectives and experiences… but would the women have shared their vulnerabilities as freely with men? Would men buy into the class as quickly as women?

The first day, we got the results from a behavioral style test, which told me that I am someone who likes steadiness, harmony, and serving others. That’s the “S” in me, and it also explains my being slow to make decisions and accept change.

Most of us were these people-pleasing, peacemaker types. If men had been in the mix, would they have dominated conversation, or made things move more quickly/efficiently?

And then I realize – I stereotype ALL THE TIME. I put women in this “nice girl” box, which most of us actually tested and identified as, but it’s still a box! How much of our behavior is a self-fulfilling prophecy or “nurture” results due to cultural norms?

How many of us would be direct, get-it-done types if we were men? How many men would be peacemakers if the world didn’t tell them they had to be ready to fight?

In this program, I opened up to relative strangers who ended up becoming friends, and I learned not only how to listen, but how to confront. And my new way of confrontation is humble, and peace-seeking, and nonviolent and truly communicative, instead of harsh and aggressive and selfish. To me, it seems almost feminine.

Why is it that we see women as caring more? As being more willing to do something for others? Because women are the childbearers, therefore the caretakers? That seems pretty damn harsh to the incredibly caring men in my life.

So, let’s do each other a favor. Instead of bringing men on board to a women’s issue, or even stating women’s rights as a human rights issue (all cred goes to Hillary), let’s work on this as a communications issue.

Obviously, there’s more to it than that.

But if all of us, men and women, speak up when we need something addressed – even, God forbid, CONFRONTING people about it – and listen when someone needs to be heard… wouldn’t that save some of the soapbox-ing and speech-making?

Instead of thinking how women need this, and men need that, what if we think about what we need as people connecting to other people? What would happen then?

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