Here’s my question to the men who are about to read this piece:
Based on what you know for sure, or have been fed by the media about her, if you were to find yourself seated next to Nancy Pelosi on a five-hour cross country plane ride and initiated the conversation, what would you talk about, avoid talking about and why?
So how about I give you, say, one minute to absorb and craft your answer to that question. Go ahead. No, wait, on second thought hold off on your answer until the end of this narrative.
As a long-time admirer of outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, I was riveted to the screen when she announced her retirement. As she stepped away from the podium amid thunderous applauds, several thoughts ran through my mind.
I first thought about her as symbolic of how far we’ve come as a nation yet how far we have to go with regards to women in the world and workplace.
I thought about the grotesque images of those snarling, noose-hoisting 1/6 insurrectionists storming the Capitol and recently, that psychopath who invaded her California home, both spewing “Where is Nancy?”
And on a personal level, I thought about all that in the context of my three granddaughters and the challenges they’ll face in the years ahead.
Now men, given the limits of your attention span to this issue coupled with the limitations of my space here, let’s look at the challenges ahead when it comes to fostering a more gender inclusive society. I’ve decided to talk to you via the following questions for personal reflection:
- When you hear the words “gender identity,” which gender immediately enters your mind, and why?
- How might your upbring and learning about gender help or hinder your assumptions and attitudes about women today?
- In what ways do you consider yourself lacking, and maybe even incompetent, in understanding the realities of women?
- What does it mean to be a “real man” today and what are the forces challenging that definition?
- What do men sacrifice trying to fit the “real man” definition and at what cost both to them and to women?
- What do you choose to say and not say to other men about sexual harassment when women aren’t around?
- What do you choose to say and not say to women about sexual harassment when men aren’t around?
- What makes you stop listening to women and, when you do, where does your imagination typically go?
- Would you want your wife or daughter to work at your current or former place of employment? Why?
- If you are a man born and reared in a culture that views and treats men and women differently, what have you done to make sure that none of that gets in the way of your treating women equally?
- What are the chances that you may interact and communicate differently with women of your race versus how you interact with and communicate with women of other races?
- What lessons or insights have you learned from women that you would have a hard time doing without today?
- What do you feel that you already “know” about the realities of women and might that “knowing” stymie your continuous learning?
- When was the last time you called out a man who made biased comments about women when women were not around and what was the result?
- How would others describe your ability to be strong or vulnerable in situations during which they observed either or both?
- What might others observe about your assumptions about women and how would it benefit you to find out?
- What would you like to see more of, less of or altogether new in the relationships with the women you interact with?
- What pact are you willing to make with women in your life to make sure that you’re not placing the entire burden on them to educate you about gender-based realities?
- If you could change things in any way so that your daughter, wife or sister would not encounter barriers based on their gender, what would you change?
- Years from now with your legacy in mind, how would you want to respond to your granddaughter who asks you, “Grandpa, what did you do personally to make the world better and safer for women?”
- Now to our women readers, how would you like for the men in your life to answer the questions above compared to how you think they would answer them? To both women and men, after reflecting on this narrative, what insights and opportunities emerge for each of you and as partners in forging ahead?
In closing, I’ll repeat the question I posed to men at the outset:
Based on what you know for sure, or have been fed by the media about her, if you were to find yourself seated next to Nancy Pelosi on a five-hour cross country plane ride, and you initiated a conversation, what would you talk about, avoid talking about and why?
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