I was raised by a “happy 1950s housewife” without a feminist bone in her body. As a child of the 1980s I somehow got confused along the way when it came to my feelings about powerful women. I liked the idea of women having as much power as they want. What I didn’t like was the whole “girl power” narration that seemed to be required to attain that power. Couldn’t we girls just achieve what we wanted in life without the streamers and paper hats? It was then that I decided – I might be a woman, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the other ones.
So in college and into my 20s, I became a “guy’s gal.” My closest friends were men, I became an EMT where “women’s uniform” was an oxymoron and I secretly mocked the cult of sorority among women. Even as a nurse, I preferred hanging out with the doctors because I found little in common with the ladies in white.
My personal views also extended into politics. I liked the hypothetical theory of a woman president but for some reason whenever the option presented itself I quickly found things to hate about the female candidate. From my seat on the sidelines, Hillary Clinton was too fake and Sarah Palin a dimwit. Now, there is a new field of Tea Party ladies, including Michele Bachmann and Nevada’s own Tea Party “favorite” Sharron Angle, being discussed as presidential possibilities. My initial idea for this column, in fact, was a full-on, nails-out, junior high locker room girl-on-girl assault on Ms. Angle. I even had a great line prepared about her recent random travel excursions to Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire — “Who’s paying for these delusions of grandeur?”
But as I gathered my ammunition, extended my claws, cracked my knuckles and prepared to attack, it suddenly occurred to me that I’m on the brink of declaring war on myself as a woman.
Yes, there are valid political points to be made about all of the candidates I listed above. I could pen perfectly valid, factual editorial columns about each individual. That’s beside my point.
I have been a fairly successful woman in business for many years now. However, true to my college days, I’ve always tried to walk the entrepreneurial walk of the big boys, especially in networking situations. I’m not entirely sure this “strategy” was intentional. And like in my nursing days, I typically gravitated toward my brothers in business rather than my sisters. Recent events have made me reconsider.
When some respected fellow female entrepreneurs invited me to my first eWomenNetwork event (“a community of women helping women”), I was immediately skeptical. I flashed back to my college girlfriends and their hysteria about sorority rush. But I showed up and it wasn’t so bad. So, last week, I went to another eWomen event: a big networking dinner. Before I even had a chance to complete a decent eye roll I realized I was enjoying it — a lot. I looked around and finally understood the difference between the way men do business and way women do it, and felt more connected to the latter. As if that weren’t enough, one of the token business men attending the event (yes, they’re allowed; business networking is an equal opportunity democracy) explained to me how valuable these events were to him in understanding how women do business and gaining insight into the female consumer. We might be a mysterious breed, but since we tend to buy a lot of stuff, men consider it worth the effort to try and crack the girl code.
I’m still a lot closer to my inner June Cleaver than Gloria Steinhem, but I feel like I’ve made some progress away from the unisex EMT uniform. I will always love doing business with men and women alike. It just feels like I’m approaching it from a different angle now.
Speaking of angles, by the way, this doesn’t mean I think Sharron Angle should be president of the United States. Not because she’s a woman though. The last thing America needs is another delusion of grandeur in the oval office.
Christine Whitmarsh is the owner of local writing firm Christine, Ink. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.>/i>