Archives: Community

What part do you play in Society?

“I think we’re starting to see a fundamental shift in the way small businesses are started and the way that they’ll succeed. I’m hoping future small business owners will ask themselves what part their business will play in wider society – what impact will they have, socially and environmentally? What can they offer and what can they give back to the community in which they’re rooted? I’m convinced that those kinds of questions will assume increasing importance. And I’m wildly optimistic about their prospects for success. To me, entrepreneurs have always represented change. As an entrepreneur myself, what I’ve discovered through the years is, seeking those people out, listening to them, amplifying their encouragement, and sort of turning a deaf ear to the people who are defending the status quo, is a lot more fun and an easier way to spend your day.” Seth Godin in a great Q&A interview.

Boss Lady Panel Podcast

Boss Lady SXSWi Panel

Finally the podcast from the panel I did at SXSW in March is up. Listening to it I felt really proud (yes, even with the embarrassment of realising I talked about vomit) of all that we said in it. The advice that Emira, Lauren, Jenny and Vickie shared I think is really valuable and I hope the fun we had really came through.

“Successful, creative and self-taught entrepreneurs (from graphic designers, to producers, to crafters) will discuss and offer advice on what it’s really like to be the gal running the show. With experience running their own successful businesses on-line and off, each of these women has a wealth of information, advice and success stories to share. The panel will explore what makes business different from a female perspective, the particular challenges the panelists have faced, how to create/maintain a business with/without employees and how to achieve financial success all without boas or pink markers.”

Listen Now to the Boss Lady Podcast

Dan Rather Keynote – SXSW

danrather

One of the highlights for me at this years SXSW was Dan Rather’s Keynote. It spoke a lot about truth in media which is something I think about a lot as both a reader and a writer.

I found it very enlightening to hear the differences in reporting from twenty years ago and now. The biggest difference that I found was how at one point reporters banded together. If a reporter asked a question to say the President and the President didn’t really answer it, the next reporter would have said, “Mr. President, you didn’t answer So & So’s question.” Now, if that happened the next reporter would just ask a new question – no one holds the President accountable for answering it. Journalists to a large degree, have become afraid to stick up for one another or press questions or find the truth. And, as an audience, we have become lazy about questioning what we read and if it’s the truth.

Hearing this keynote inspired me to really write as organically and truthfully as I can. And I’ve been thinking about advertising and how that plays into it and I think if you have personal integrity, if you keep at something that is important to you, if you believe in truth and true creativity, then nothing should get in the way – not working for a big news corporation, a small corporation, an advertising company, or for the President. It’s all about personal responsibility and beliefs. And I just love the way Dan Rather puts it all together.

I’m no GRRRRL

When I attended a BlogHer panel today I left really, really frustrated Both the panel and the audience, and perhaps rightly so, seemed to be very “grrrrl.” Everyone seemed to reflect each other both in dress and in speech and it everyone seemed to be just so focused on the pain of women, how women writers need to tag everything they do as “women” and how we need to kick some ass (ours! theirs!) and get angry at not being “equal” or as perceived as smart as men because lord knows we’re better. There was an energy in the room that for me was really uncomfortable. It was as though everyone was just riled up and angry at anything not “grrrl” oriented. In talking to a several people after about it, I wasn’t the only one that picked up on it. But then, none of the people I spoke to were “grrrls” (actually, a lot of them were really hot women who held engineering jobs in Google and Yahoo. Their openness made you want to talk to them. Their brains made you want to listen).

Despite having the word “girl” in many of my site and creating sites based on women and for women, it has never, ever been at the expense of men. I do not feel the need to be “PRO WOMAN” to get ahead. I get along fine with the fella’s, can talk business and smack with the best of them, and am taken seriously too. It’s why with almost every site (even the ones “geared” towards women), my readership is always almost 60% female and 40% male. I tend to do things universal because I just believe we’re all here to connect. And I don’t care if you’re in a dress, pants, blue hair or blond. It’s what is interesting and useful to me that counts and not defining myself in a small group to try to gain power.

What I took from the BlogHer was that they seemed to think that as a woman you should be kicking mens asses for visibility and breaking down the boys club and to do that you must be all about being serious woman, hear me roar. That you preach to the choir, form a group of only like-minded people and attack that old boys network which is bad (though this is a little amusing considering they’re creating a woman’s only network). They didn’t seem interested, from what I could tell, in engaging people with different opinions or who weren’t like them. Despite wanting something different, they weren’t willing to risk being different. And I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to them.

There’s a lot of women, especially corporate women or women who seek power and certain positions in which they think only men currently have and will only have unless they become some kind of feminist, who think a pretty little thing that laughs and wears a dress isn’t serious and can’t “help the cause.” They see her as a flirt, dumb, and of no value because real women who try to change things are kicking people’s asses, wearing pantsuits and clinging to being a woman in an unfair world. You can’t smile about! If you do you obviously don’t care! This is how I’ve been treated by so many women in the industry and I’m so fucking tired of it. I tell you, a bit of laughter and a smile backed up with brains got me into top level corporate America and it also helped me create a really successful art career. By playing the game, so to speak, I got into places where I could change the rules. I’ve helped women a lot. I understand women run differently and have different challenges but I’ll be damned if I join a woman’s only network and say I’m limited because I’m a woman. There’s no way I want to get somewhere because I was focusing solely on my sex and the sex of others.

I have a lot of really great, smart, powerful women friends, a couple of whom are involved with BlogHer. Because of these women, I felt it would be less “we’re women with issues” and more “let’s connect,” which is why before I left for Austin I shot an email to them. I have a huge network of women that love to connect and thought it would be a great thing for everyone involved. But, I learned that this orgnisation (and a those that are similar) are really not interested in connecting with things outside what they think their agenda is. If someone doesn’t fit their profile or isn’t a minion, there’s no use. Despite being one of, if not the first, female bloggers in 1995, having two SXSW web nominations for best female oriented sites, despite receiving at least 70,000 hits on every site I’ve created and being in the industry for ten years, to a lot of girls in tech especially, a smile, a pretty dress means I don’t know what I’m talking about. Not being angry or “grrrl” centric means I’m not serious. Not having a blog entry about the trials and tribulations of how I suffer means I’m blind to what goes on. The truth is, they want to cling to being a minority and old definitions despite the pretense of wanting to break them down. I think they also cling to things as an excuse for why they’re not where they want to be. “If I was a man I’d have done X. If I was a man I’d have more hits. If I was a man I’d be taken seriously. If I was a man, I’d have more power.” Excuses are never, ever powerful and I don’t participate in that. It’s probably why I have, for lack of a better term, been successful in a mans world. I don’t look at it as a mans world – I see it as mine. Whatever I want to do – I do it. That simple.

In the conference, one woman asked the question “If stereotypes in reality bother you so much, why would you bring them into internet space? Why is it so important to be a woman blogger and not just a blogger? Why would you focus more on tagging your work as “woman” or “lesbian” instead of a woman who blogs or a lesbian who write? Why cling to names?”

The whole panel just skipped this question. When she tried too reiterate her question again, the panel once again ignored her. She didn’t look like anyone on the panel, she wasn’t mimicking the cheering on of the audience and she had a different point of view that didn’t seem to be heard or addressed. If it was, perhaps they would have gained two allies instead of alienating to. Because after the panel I talked to her about it, saying I thought it was the most challenging question out there and how disappointed I was to not hear them respond. I said I think it scared them because they were so caught up in being rah, rah, rah about being a woman and being heard that they forgot to listen and accept all kinds of women and perhaps didn’t want to acknowledge that they were perhaps hurting their own cause. You don’t convert people to your belief system by attacking them, making them afraid of you or being so glued to your ideas you can’t accept some challenging ones from someone else.

I happened to grow up in a European culture where girls wore dresses and no one thought anything of it – not even in advanced calculus. But here, at this conference and a lot of the time in America, if you don’t have a certain “look” that most women in any given area have other women tend to think you’re not serious. In this case, wearing a dress and having long blond hair makes me stand out and makes it really, really hard to connect sometimes to other women. Men, on the other hand, haven’t ever judged me so harshly as other women and are a lot more open to what I have to say and what I can do. Male bosses have advanced me further up the ladder, mentored me, given me chances when other women wouldn’t because most women bosses had an idea of what a “serious woman” is and if you hire a happy girl in a dress, she might make take women back 50 years! Which is perhaps why I tend to have more male role models who are just about getting things done, creating, and supporting instead of trying to be all about women and competing with them and trying to figure out my rank. A man goes from point a-z without apology. Some women, however, take a long and winding road because they think they have road blocks that if they just didn’t give weight to, wouldn’t be there.

The point is that if you want to wear a dress, go for it. If you want to be butch, go for it. You want to blog, do it. You want to giggle, sure! You want to be powerful and a woman, why not! Do what is in you to do and to be. Don’t cling to an idea of who you think you are or who you think others are. Don’t keep talking about limitations (ones that you self-impose or feel that society has imposed). Try to connect with more than what you know, especially if change is a goal. Because if you don’t, chances are you’ll stay a> bitter b> a minority and c>unsuccessful and d>unhappy. The only way to not feel trapped as a stereotype is to not be one.

{And as a side, I’d like to thank the people (girls & grrls) who have emailed me about this. From those who’ve agreed to the couple that haven’t. It’s good to have the discussion. To see each others sides, to bend a little, to hear. Because being willing to take the risk and talk about one’s experience and perhaps in return hear about an opposite experience or a different view is so much more beneficial to everyone than just getting snarky, childish and stopping conversation on a web site. It’s been unfortunate, for me, that the BlogHer Panel & their minions found this post and decided to just send hate mail instead of conversations. No one benefits that way because this kind of discussion isn’t about being right or getting the last word. It’s about hearing how we’re treating each other and calling each other on it (myself included). If women really want women to get more power, they have to stop keeping each other down instead of blaming men).

April 19, 2004

In the several years I’ve been working as an artist, I’ve asked for outside help with projects only a handful of times, if that.

Despite having access to a lot of fabulously talented and helpful people, I’ve never really called on any of them. Oh there have been so many times I’ve secretly asked for help but the words never came out of my mouth. It’s not that I was afraid of rejection or people giving negative feedback or help, but in being afraid that I couldn’t do it all on my own.

This has been a struggle with me because so many people think I am the one with all the answers. I am the one they come to with questions, concerns and calls for help – to which I always respond if I can. It just felt awkward to me to say, “Hey, I need some outside feedback.” It felt as though I were saying I wasn’t good enough somehow.

However, I realised this year that I do need help, especially with regards to a book I’m writing. I had the idea, I had the concept but I didn’t have perspective anymore. I had been in this book for far too long, the words all seemed repetitive and the idea almost boring. I had to create a new title and I couldn’t. I couldn’t step outside myself.

I knew I had to ask for help but it felt terribly embarrassing. What if people didn’t want to help me? What if they thought me daft for even asking? What if they thought the whole idea stupid? What if, what if, what if.

It’s a terrible state to live in, the what if state. I knew I needed to move out so I started to ask.

At first, I asked just several friends. Only one of them responded. My first fear of people not wanting to help me had been overcome – some didn’t want to help and I was still alive and no worse for wear. So I worked up the courage over the next several days to ask for more.

I put out a call on the Another Girl at Play Mailing List, asking for volunteers. I was slightly secretive about the project, not wanting to be public about something that could be seen as silly. A couple of people responded and when I replied to one with the details, I had accidentally sent the message to the whole list!

It wasn’t the error that embarrassed me but the fact I had now publicly declared my idea and need to hundreds of women! I sat for a few moments with this blunder and thought to myself, maybe this is the universe telling me I need to get LOUD and COMFORTABLE with sharing and asking for help.

So I did.

I said right after this, “I am ready for help” and then it literally started to pour in.

Lots of people were offering ideas, suggestions, information and most of all, support. In ten minutes I got further ahead because of other people than I had in the past two months of trying on my own. I had perspective, fresh ideas and most of all, the comfort of asking for (and receiving) help.