When you're a Jet,
You're a Jet all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin' day...
TIP #1: The pink ghetto is limiting.
I’ve grown to sort of cringe at the idea of this blog being lumped in with ForbesWoman. Working the woman angle is a double-edged sword. Would I have been hired to blog for Forbes.com if I weren’t a woman? I don’t know. Does being put in a female ghetto make my skin crawl? Sometimes.
Hear, hear. I have worked in male-dominated workplaces and female-dominated workplaces and as of now the female-dominated workplace- the "pink ghetto"- was by far the worst experience. I had a succession of female supervisors who were determined that we should never forget we were women and were expected to act female.
In the pink ghetto "acting like a lady" has been replaced by "being authentically female," but they amount to roughly the same thing. In both cases your gender is used as cudgel to enforce behavior: little girls are supposed to "play nice," sharing toys and taking turns. Authentic females are supposed to "be non-heirarchical" and do everything in consensual groups. "Ladies" are submissive and softspoken, "authentic females" are non-assertive and team-oriented.
In the pink ghetto the worst thing you can do is stray outside these "norms." Straying means being called into the bosses' office for a lecture on "male-dominated values" and "women's ways of knowing."
My take-away lesson? If you're a woman and you want to be yourself at work, work with men. It's less complicated.
Of course, Ms. Breslin was speaking more specifically about "working the woman angle," :
I’m sort of over relating my crotch to my place in the world. Didn’t we do this already?
Let’s do something new.
She has an ally in 83-year-old playwright Edward Albee (yes, author of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, that Edward Albee.) In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Mr. Albee said the following:
"Maybe I'm being a little troublesome about this," Albee tells NPR's Renee Montagne, "but so many writers who are gay are expected to behave like gay writers and I find that is such a limitation and such a prejudicial thing that I fight against it whenever I can."
He also said:
"A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay."
He continued by saying, "Any definition which limits us is deplorable."
Mr. Albee has been criticized for his remarks by many gay writers, artists and bloggers. Yet, like Ms. Breslin, he was simply advocating for the most radical, most basic human right- the right to be fully himself, whatever that is and whatever it means.
There are people whose entire identity seems to hinge on being part of some extremely narrow social tranche (sexual, ethnic, gender, religious, etc.) Sometimes I wonder if pulling an identity blanket over yourself is a just a way of avoiding the messy confusions and contradictions that come with being human.
Denying the gray areas can certainly make life easier.
I was reminded of this when I happened to hear an interview with Chaz Bono in May. Chaz Bono was once Chastity Bono, the daughter of Sonny and Cher. Mr. Bono, who identifies himself as transgender, has undergone medical treatment to become a man. Ironically, this individual who has literally crossed social and physical boundaries to transform himself from one gender to the other seems to have the most rigid gender views of all:
Chaz Bono: ...How do you know that you're a man?
Neal Conan: Well, I- I just do.
Chaz Bono: Well, because you feel like a man. It's not just about your physical body. It's how you feel inside. You feel male inside. You don't feel female inside.
Neal Conan: Well, I think all of us exist on a spectrum.
Chaz Bono: Well, not really. I mean, I would have to disagree with you. I think that, especially in our society, as young as I can remember it was very clear, the difference between male and female; it's really kind of drilled in from birth. As far back as I can remember I felt male. It didn't have anything to do with what was in between my legs, it as entirely about what was in between my ears.
Guess I missed a few of those crucial skill 'n' drill sessions.