I was listening to James Brown- It is a Man’s World, the other day…..
This is a man’s world
This is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl
That first part of the lyrics got me thinking. Sometimes the mind is a dangerous thing! Intelligence is just as sexy as a hot pair of Manolo’s with perfectly pedicured feet! For those of you that don’t know shoes, Manolo Blahnik’s are super sexy shoes that are pricy but oh so hot, the pair I have hidden in the back of the closet that my fireman sees but doesn’t know the cost of…shhhhh! I digress, but seriously, growing up a girl of the 70’s, the fact that it was indeed a man’s world, was not evident immediately to me, and really never impacted me then, because I was always accepted as one of the guys, they really didn’t give a shit if I was a girl as long as I could catch a fly ball, and steal bases. I was a tomboy until I was 14, and puberty told me otherwise, but I enjoyed hanging with the guys, they were funny, they were crude, and they never once apologized for being who they were. They were cocky and tough, adrenaline junkies who pushed the envelope and put themselves in perilous situations and not for the benefit of a viral YouTube video, we didn’t have that shit back then, but because they were simply being who they were meant to be. See that’s the thing that fascinates me about men, they never question if they should say that vulgar thing, if they should take the extra slice of pizza, if they should speak their views, fuck no, they just do it! No regrets, no apologies, no afterthoughts. It is as much of who they are as their eye color, and almost as much an autonomic response, as breathing.
Now on the other hand, take a woman, she is worrying about upsetting someone, if she will suddenly be disliked for her views, or if she should offer the last slice of pizza to someone else so she doesn’t appear selfish. Guys are not hardwired to think in those terms, it is that unassuming sense of entitlement, that makes them feel worthy of all things, including, but not limited to, the extra slice of pizza! I was so mindful of this as I became a Mom that I promise you, my children, two handsome young men, and a beautiful, young woman, whom as they were growing up, I refused to parent each differently because my daughter was a girl and the boys were, well boys, they were disciplined the same, had the same rules, not gender specific, played sports, took martial arts together, yes they had different interests, my daughter fell in love with dance and played softball, and the boys perused baseball, football, wrestling, and LAX, but they all learned how to cook, sew, do laundry, did all chores, my daughter has mowed the grass many times, she can ride a four-wheeler, a dirt bike, handle a brush mower, can shoot a shotgun, a crossbow, baits her fishing hook worm and all, knows how to pump gas, can change her tire, and my boys can make a meal, sew a button, iron a shirt, I could go on. With my children, there isn’t that, “I can’t do that I am girl, or “I am not doing laundry that’s for girls”, well my youngest says that, but just to get a rise out of his Mom, true story! But I would like to think that I evened things out among the sexes, at least in our world. I did this because I wanted my children to fall into their own rhythm without society labeling them and telling them who they should be, why it isn’t ladylike to curse, or manly to show emotions, I wanted them to see that it its ok to stick up for yourself, show your intelligence, speak your mind, and to not apologize for being who you are.
But as I left the neighborhood behind and began forging a career and a life on my own, it became painfully clear that this was definitely and man’s world and I best start knowing my place in that world. Nothing drove that point home to me more than this one incident, which still lingers with me. I remember years ago in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was working in corporate as Assistant Director of HR, I put in for a promotion for the job as Director of HR. It would have been not only a bump up in my career, but it carried a substantial financial raise, the likes of which for a 27-year-old, would have been insane. This was a top position in a large corporation that had manufacturing plants throughout the country from the east coast to the west coast, and globally known for their products. The name was synonymous with disposable plates and cups. But they had deep roots in the south, and most of those good ole’ boys still believed a woman’s place was in the home. I was more than qualified for the job, I had been there several years already, I was traveling for the company and I was implementing HR programs to streamline training to adhere to the strict OSHA mandates at that time in our industry, training that I had helped create to save the company from the high cost of worker’s compensation cases that had existed when I was hired, and on top of that I was doing my job and the Director’s job already, managing payroll and benefits for over 200 employees. I deserved that job. But I didn’t get that job, there had never been a woman in that position, and they weren’t ready to have a woman as young as myself run HR. Men in upper management balked at the idea of having me in that position because they were afraid I would make them adhere to company policies, such as managers fraternizing with their subordinates in the aisles of the production floor, (the stories I could tell you about work place canoodling), sexual harassment, and taking the lead in staff meetings. Truth is, I would have, I would have done my job and I would not have felt guilty about that, but more importantly I would have been really good in that position. I was told this by more than one of my male coworkers who supported me in this promotion. I wasn’t surprised, women weren’t even hitting the glass ceiling in the corporate world yet, let alone, breaking through it. I was hurt, I was pissed, but I knew it, it was a man’s world, and they still ruled the boardroom, even if we ruled the bedroom. Didn’t fucking matter that I had what it took to better the company and continue my vision for the future of the company. However, in spite of not getting that promotion, I stayed with the company two more years, until I left and took a job for half the pay, working as a Librarian at the Edison Public Library, I loved that job, and I kept that it until I became a Mom and left for the job of a lifetime! But there was the reality of it all, it was a man’s world and James Brown knew it! Men took credit for it all, the innovators, the pioneers, the warriors, in spite of the many things they knew we could do, including, but not limited to, bringing them to their knees. Yes I get the irony! And while as James’ song acknowledges that having it all means nothing without a woman to share it with, it hints that women are ornamental in their necessity, and serve a distinct purpose, or at least that’s my take on it! Lest anyone think that I am knocking this song, it just got my inner dialogue thinking, nothing more! James Brown is not responsible for the plight of under acknowledged women! Sorry men but you collectively are. Still love you guys though!
But that was then, fast forward to the present day, things are slowly becoming evenish. Woman now own, and are running Fortune 500 companies. They are firefighters, police officers, doctors, and mechanics. Men are now nurses, primary caregivers of their children, florists, and are beginning to dominate the culinary world. Once a girl’s club, suddenly more male dominated. We shattered the glass ceiling. There is a woman driver in NASCAR, and even a woman referee in the NFL, and I am pretty sure you won’t see her apologizing for any botched calls, hell men don’t, why should she? Slowly there is a paradigm shift. A universal recognition, that maybe things aren’t so black and white, male and female. A recognition that the gray areas are ok, and nothing has to be so defining and so clear-cut that we can’t be unified and still be individuals.
There is a sadness in me though, as I recognize that we are still a long way off from gender equality, equal pay, true recognition for our accomplishments and what we can bring to the table. Men are still grappling with the notion of masculinity versus being a man. You can still be a strong, intelligent, virile man and say your sorry if you hurt someone, cry at a sad movie, or show compassion. That is called being human, it shouldn’t be a gender specific trait, but I know it seems to be. I admire a man who is not afraid of his truth, who owns his flaws, allows himself to be vulnerable, and part of the human condition.
I am not naïve, I know it is still a boy’s club and the boys are still pulling rank, not quite ready to relinquish the glory in which their manhood basks, or so they perceive it to, and that is ok, because while you men are clinging vehemently to that notion, woman will take comfort in knowing that with the swing of our hip, our gloss drenched lips, our sexy brain, and a killer pair of Manolo’s, you will always be begging to be in our world!