WIP IT

Young Women Leaders

Archive for the category “Insecurity”

Push Through

The fall semester of 2014 is coming to an end. Yes, here in Sweden we are still on fall 2014 time, at least in the university world. This semester has been my thesis semester for my M.A. in Political Science at Stockholm University. It has been hard. Academically and personally. I am now preparing to survive the last shaky hours of this week, and then beginning my final semester at the university before the real life in the real world starts.

I am shaky and breathless. My head is filled with air and all I really want is to work out and drink wine and meet friends and sleep a lot and not think at all. But I have to push through. I have to push through this last week even though I dread it to a high extent. I try to imagine myself and how happy I will be when this week is over. It will be over soon. Then I will be happier. Will I?

It has been a wonderful semester in so many ways. The most important part has been my stay in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I got to interview young women leaders within activist work. They have inspired me so much and I am eternally grateful that they gave of their time and experiences so I could write this thesis.

Think of me this week, will you? Send me happy and positive thoughts and strength. Thank you. ❤

The Power of Vulnerability

How often do you feel like you can let your guard down and just go? Let out feeling and emotions that you just bottle up and not feel ashamed and stupid about? I always thought that that is what you can do in a romantic relationship but lately I have begun thinking that one shouldn´t wait for that (if one is not in one), and maybe go more towards being vulnerable in more situations, letting it out in little pieces bit by bit?

I have a tendency to build up stuff that eats me up from the inside, and ignore them, not recognizing that they are there, inside. Then they build up and finally, something really small can send me off the edge to breakdown, anger, tears and self-hate. I have written about this self-harming behavior here before. It is worth considering in this case, as self-harm can take many more shapes and forms than the obvious forms, such as cutting.

When I was in college, my mentor sent me this video, about how being vulnerable is actually really good. When I watched it the first time, I cried and cried because I recognized how hard I was (and still am) on myself. I kept those high standards inside me, not wanting to show their negative effect on my thoughts toward myself. And I never ever showed how bad I sometimes felt inside and how much damage I would to myself by thinking in negative spirals.

The other day I watched the video again, and I teared up. When I am under much stress, I do still sometimes treat myself in that same way. With damaging words, locking myself up. It is more rarely now though, maybe because I am older, maybe because I have learned more about myself. That I do not know.

But I do know that letting those who love you see you vulnerable is friggin´ scary and you may not want to let all parts out because it is painful. I also know that those who love you will help you and support you, just the way you would if a friend opened up to you, right? So I think it is a good thing to open up, to different people, the ones you trust and confide in. Open up more for more people, it is powerful to be vulnerable.

And knowing that others deal with the same thoughts of insecurity will make you love them more.

power of vulnerability

I am not that person you like

Let´s see if I can write this blog entry without getting lost in translation.

We all want to be liked, right? But do we want to be liked for the the “right” reasons? Why is it so hard to let go of the haters and only care about those who love who you are and what you do? I´ve spent a lot of time worrying about what others may think of me. And then, if I think they don´t like me, what to do to make them like me?

I hardly ever spend time appreciating people that already like me (or at least a lot less). You know, friends and family that are always around no matter what, those that love you for who YOU are. Instead, I´m going over in my head “that person doesn´t seem to be a fan of me, what should I do to make them change their mind?”

GUESS WHAT? There´s really no reason to spend time on those people, because if they don´t like you to begin with, they´re probs not going to like the fake version of you either. And I don´t want to behave like a person that they would like, because it would probably be a pretty lame person. (Since that´s not really me, I mean.)

Think of it, when I am trying to impress a person to want to be with me, I am giving them a person who is not really ME. And maybe they like that person, but then they like a non-existing individual. And if I am liked for somebody I am NOT, then I am wasting my time being with somebody who would rather be with somebody else. And most of all, I am wasting my time being sith somebody who doesn´t like me for me. A so-called Loose-Loose situation.

So from now on, I will not try to be that constantly laid-back, giggly, non-ambitious woman I sometimes think people like. Because if there´s something I have realized, it´s that I´m none of the above. (Well, I´m giggly and laid-back when I WANT to.)

And it may hurt, that it doesn´t work out with somebody (be it friend or partner) just because we´re just not a good fit. But it´s ok to be with those people as well, as long as they like you for you and me for me.

Ok, I hope that made sense.

Robyn. Photo cred: kulturbolaget.seImage

 

How to NOT support your fellow women leaders

Once upon a time I worked for this youth organization in Sweden. I began becoming involved my second to last year in high school, and after my graduation I was hired as a kind of consultant/coach for the local organization in my hometown.

I may not have had the greatest grades in high school, mainly because I was very involved with this organization, leadership, events, recruiting, etc. I worked really hard, and during my time as a consultant I began realizing how hard, and how much I was not ever satisfied with what I did, how insecure I felt and how I kept it all inside because I didn´t want anybody to know (naturally). The atmosphere in the organization at the time really didn´t fit me either, but that´s another story.

What I also began noticing was that so many of the leaders I coached were women. They were very different, but also similar in some ways. They were high-achievers, ambitious and well, great in general. What they also often had in common was some guys that they lead that could not handle their leadership. I talked numerous times with young women leaders that, in official meetings, were talked back to in nasty ways by their male board members. They came in late to meetings, brought friends that didn´t belong there, talked behind their backs and sometimes did everything in their power to just work against their leader.

Look, I know that this happens, women and men do it both, but this pattern was clear: young men who had a woman leader worked against her, instead of working WITH her. These women were not afraid to take they argument, but what was really hard to work against was this kind of half-ass behind-the-back policy.

So I connected these young women presidents/leaders for a leadership group, to talk about their issues and to be able to network and connect with each other. I also invited a few women that had left the organization a few years earlier, thinking that they could probably look at the situation from a fresh point of view and encourage the women that were now in their previous shoes.

My idea was received in a positive way by these women, and at the first meeting most of the leaders showed up. I began by introducing the thoughts I had when initiating the group, and talked a little about my own experience as a young woman leader. In order to open up for talk about insecurities, I also mentioned the fact that I had felt insecure the previous year, that I didn´t always trust myself and my own potential. The meeting went well, and the participants shared similar stories and made connections with each other.

So far so good, but after the meeting, when the younger women had left, one of the older participants told me something that to this days still makes me angry. I forget her exact words, but it was basically something along the lines of this: “Hanna, I have always seen you as so secure and confident. I cant believe that you are so insecure on the inside. It surprises me, and that gives me a weaker image of you.”

Image(Above is a picture of me at this time of life. Yes, that is the face I wanted to make when I got this comment. Unfortunately it´s from a masquerade I went to another time).

SO… I had for once opened up about feeling insecure in myself, and in my leadership position because I wanted the women to know that we all struggle, nobody is perfect, and YOU CAN STILL DO IT. And then one of the more experienced women looked down on me for being upfront about it. I have carried this shitty comment with me for years and mentioned it to one of the other women I worked with in the organization a few weeks ago. She had a higher position in the organization than me, but the same woman had told her that she was basically weak for leaving the organization when she did. And she is one of the strongest, least shit-taking people I know.

I am not claiming that we should all go around and be lovey-dovey with other women leaders just because we are women. But what I am saying is that it is hard enough as it is to be a woman leader, and nothing good comes out of critiquing one another in that way. Constructive critisism is usually good, but even better is the support and understanding in vulnerable situations.

I think you´re great at what you´re doing.
Hanna

Slutshaming pt 2

Hey again, here´s a great video by Laci Green, and she is doing a great job arguaing against slutshaming, so I will let her talk:

Thank you to Belinda for this!

Slutshaming

I am on instagram and every day I see many young girls uploading pictures of themselves in positions I assume are meant to be sexually suggestive/ “sexy” posing, etc. Of course we all want to be liked and noticed, but it makes me sad to see that it is so common for girls to put themselves out in this way. BUT it is their right to put up whatever THEY want, it´s nobody´s business to tell them what to do.

Even worse than these pictures/videos is the the slutshaming that goes on, where people comment on these pictures, or even are the ones putting them out with out the girl´s consent. A dear friend sent me this link and I suggest you listen to it, it´s disturbing and sad, but it is the truth about what is going on out there.

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/07/168812354/online-shaming-a-new-level-of-cyberbullying-for-girls

It is definitely some heavy material you have in your hands when choosing to publish sexually suggestive/ naked pictures of young girls or women. Of course it is awful to become published on a website this way, but even worse when people start commenting on the pictures, about you being a slut, the way you look, etc, etc. People are letting these women down. Maybe they posed for a boyfriend/girlfriend, thinking nothing of it, doing it as an intimate thing. And then they are being published for the whole world to see. Or they took the pictures for themselves, for their own reasons, and somebody steals and puts them up.

Where does this hate come from? To try and destroy somebody´s life and make her feel awful in her own body?

Hanna

PS. Please watch this awesome woman.

Yes, it´s complicated to have a sex life when you don´t have words for it

Last night I was at a meeting for women who wanted to get involved with the local young women´s shelter. Well, it´s not a shelter, more of a chat/ phone line for young women, but that was the best translation I could get. I got in late bc of course my train was late even though I left work early (damn you trains/SJ/växlar).

Anyhow, not only did I get more information on how to be able to support young women in my hometown, I also met a lot of new people, young, older, more interested in looks, less interested in looks, stable, less stable, skinny, larger, etc etc women. I LOVED IT. It shakes me, but it´s good to see that there is no clear definition of what a woman “should” look like or be like and I think it was beneficial to all of us.

For me, it has been a long-term goal to get involved with young women´s groups/shelters/chats/phone support because I know I have something to contribute in a positive way to these women. Junior high, and the beginning of high school was absolute shitters for me because I was not popular, didn´t feel like I fit in, wanted to date somebody but truly could not feel a thing for those guys around me. All of these things made me feel ugly/stupid/fat/lame/out of it/insecure, etc. etc. BUT I have lived through all of it and because of that I know what it feels like AND can maybe be of service towards the once who are still living it.

One of the things that the leader of the organization mentioned when talking about problems young women may face is the lack of describing sexual assault or their own sex life because they do not have a word for their own sex! I can totally identify with that, so few words are actually even usable when talking about a woman´s sex that in the end we might just avoid talking about it altogether.

That sucks! How is one supposed to put your experience or feelings into words when you don´t even have a word for it???
You tell me? Word choices? There are so many words for a man´s genitals I can use (without being too embarrassed) but very few for women´s. WAG is what I used to say in English. You have a vagina, you got WAG (not swag ;)). But is that one ok?

Hanna

Thank you for the support on “Scaring the Shit out of Bros”

When I was about to publish the above mentioned post I hesitated for a while because I was scared of what people might think. I was scared that I would be seen as making fun of bros (which… I actually was…) and that especially people I went to college would think that I overreacted.

But then I realized that I really do believe and agree with what I wrote, and there´s no need for me to censor myself in this. If you think I was wrong, please discuss with me or we can agree to disagree and not be friends.

What really made me happy was the response I got from people. Some sent me messages on FB, some retweeted, some liked it and one of my (male) friends sent me a text that “we are going to talk so much about equality, just so you know!” next week when I meet up with some friends. Also super happy that one of my friends from college asked me to do a guest entry for his blog (more to come on that), especially since I thought of him as a male that could handle being around strong women when I wrote the entry.

Anyhow, THANK YOU for supporting!
Hanna

This is an important movie

How to scare the shit out of bros by being a strong woman

I am giggling a bit when I write this, mainly because I think it´s a funny story but it´s part sad giggle because this story does make a little sad (and a wee bit angry). I will say to all the bros out there: don´t be offended if this story doesn´t apply to you, be happy.

Me being stereotypically Amurrican in 2011.

Me being stereotypically Amurrican in 2011.

Imagine this: summer of 2011, it´s friggin´ HOT every day in Ohio, USA, we keep sweating, staying inside for work and occasionally going for a drive to the nearby reservoir. I have just begun making friends with this fellow student, we can call her Al (mainly because that is her name). So Al is this awesome woman, she´s smart and funny and powerful and good-looking. She can, like me, see that being a senior woman in college will not really offer any chances of romance/dating/relationships because all guys are… well, let´s say more interested in beer and being bros. (Not all of them, I promise, but the grand majority of boys at our college.)

We talk about our grand dreams of taking over the world and being able to make it all happen, despite the claims on us as women to take care of a family, raise kids and such. I mean, how do you really do this if you want to start a career??? And mind you, in the US it is much harder than in Sweden. We planted the seed of this organization called WIP (that this blog is named after) with our friend Layzoor on a roof of a dorm drinking beer (yes, I can now admit we did this). We talk about the hookup culture and binge drinking at our college that really doesn´t do anybody any good. We can see all these amazing young women in leadership positions on the weekdays – turning into very drunk people and making decisions they regret on the weekends.
Look, no judgments on women wanting to have fun and hook up, but I saw more women being dissatisfied with this way of living than satisfied. There´s a difference here, the women were often hoping that these encounters on the weekends would lead to something more than just the casual hookup. The boys in general seemed happy with it (not saying that they were.)

So we did occasionally frequent the local bar (one of three bars within walking distance to campus), not so much because of their scary dangerous drinks, but to show that we´re around, meeting up with friends and mostly avoiding alcohol. It´s hot and humid out there, and people are mostly just sweaty 24-7 (this has no point to the story, just providing you with the feeling of stickiness we had most of the time).

So, we´re at the bar, sitting outside at some tables, having a Blue Moon, me and Al. Talking about why gender stereotypes are bad for both men and women, and how we could somehow change this, but struggling with the HOW? (I can´t exactly remember what we talked about, but general stuff that concerns strong women, go figure, haha)
Enter: the bros.
(For those of you that are not super aware of American college life, the bros are basically male students, generally either belonging to a fraternity, an all-male club, or some kind of sports team where you spend a lot of time hazing each other and being stereotypically “manly.” They´re very common and for those of you that are more interested I would recommend reading “Guyland – the perilous world where boys become men” by Michael Kimmel http://www.guyland.net/ Look, they´re not all bad, but a lot of the culture they bring is not exactly great.)

The bros are sitting down with us because we know them. They get a beer or something and we welcome them. They are pretty loud. Me and Al are super interested in the topic we are discussing (again, gender and equality), and continue talking, making sure to not leave these people out of our conversation. After an extremely short period of time (we´re talking 15 second here, friends) I feel a tension in the air. The bros (there´s about eight of them) seem slightly uncomfortable, they are turning in their seats and looking around for nobody in particular. They become quiet. One after another they make excuses to get a beer or “I HAVE to go play pool” or just simply disappear. They do not return.

We continue talking, trying to figure out why these guys left. Was it because they were threatened by the topic? Because they did not find it interesting? Because they thought we were nuts? Or maybe because they just went to the bar to play some pool and wear their shorts low and their hats backwards and drink a lot of beer and HANG OUT WITH THE bros DAMMIT and all you can talk about is gender equality???!!!

Hey, yes, this was one of the first things me and Al did together in our friendship, and yes, we would look back at this throughout the year (and laugh) and really pinpoint it as an example of why we didn´t really see any men during our last year of college. But it saddened us too because we wanted to have this conversation with our peer male students and talk about it as an issue for ALL students. Unfortunately, I only met a few men in college that were comfortable discussing these questions.

What do YOU think? Is masculine and feminine stereotypes hurtful to society?
H to the A to the NN to the A

PS. I am still looking to meet a man that is capable and interested in discussing gender stereotypes, inequality and what the roles of masculinity and femininity does do our society. A man of quality is not threatened by (talking about) equality. 

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