I've never been a guy's girl. You know, the kind who will go to a sporting event with the team's jersey, drink beer, and yell in support. Once in grad school, with my friend Christie, after the Red Socks won the World Series, we were wondering what all of the fuss was about.
Yeah, we called ourselves Fake Fans. A high school friend of mine even bought me a Red Socks visor for fear I would get in trouble for not having any Red Socks gear during my time in Boston.
I've never really had a ton of guy friends. At my wedding, a few years ago, I remember looking around thinking wow, there's only one guy friend on my side. The rest were on my hubby's side.
I've always been a feminist: I grew up in a household that whatever a boy could do, a girl could do as well. That was just that. My mom was a working mom, my dad was a working dad, and when my mom went to work, my maternal grandma came from Singapore to live with us and take care of us in Hong Kong. My paternal grandma was the bread winner, supporting my grandpa (who was a gardener/painter) as a real estate agent retiring at the age of 72. My maternal grandma was the only one of her four sisters to fight for and get a high school education.
My dad now in his 70s cooks, cleans, and takes care of my mom who has early onset dementia. For her birthday, he made her a woodwork replica of her grandfather's 1940s Packard car with the license plate "DAISY" on the front (!).
In that bubble I grew up.
I have wanted to write a letter to men for a while now. Even my editor thought I should include a letter to men in my book, but I don't think I was quite ready to write one. Perhaps I was scared, nervous, worried about being judged?
Then I realized, I had to take my own advice that I give fellow fementrepreneurs:
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH!
So here goes:
Let me preface this letter with: We need you. We need you to move forward WITH us. We need you to create change. We need you to work WITH us.
EMPATHY > EGO
Sometimes when I walk home alone late at night, I tend to look over my shoulder more often. I quicken my pace, my heart beats faster, and I put my iphone away so I can be aware of my surroundings. I cannot assume that you have never had that experience, but perhaps you have come close? Well, that is how most of my female friends and I feel on a regular basis. We just ask that you empathize WITH us a little bit.
I think a lot of what happens when we are blamed for something is our EGO steps in: "Hey, I didn't do anything, I'm innocent!" I wonder if rather than REACTING to what our ego says, if we all actually took a mindful breath, and RESPONDED WITH empathy instead how that would look?
We might actually be able to move beyond the WHAT to the WHY and more importantly HOW to move forward WITH solutions.
A few months ago, I was having a lunch meeting with the then WeWork Community Manager of Gangnam Station and some of the other Community Associates, as it was his last week there. We started talking about hobbies:
Male Staff: Oh, I enjoy going to hotels and eating good food.
Another Male Staff: Haha. Do you go with HER?! (Pointing to female staff who looks bewildered and embarrassed)
Community Manager: Don't say that. You can't say that. That is considered Sexual Harassment.
And with that, the male staff who had inadvertently dropped a sexual harassment bomb stopped. I also stopped in my thought tracks, because this had never happened to me in all of my 8 years in Korea. I wanted to jump up and give the Community Manager a huge hug, but thought that might not be appropriate (given he had just called out sexual harassment) so I sent him a gratitude email instead. Sometimes in the moment, when a comment is made, or an inappropriate action is made, we women FREEZE. If you see that, please help to say something.
You may just save a woman's life.
A lot of what has been said about the #MeToo Movement and the recent Dr. Ford case have been in defense pessimism: #NotAllMen #BelieveWomen. This assumes we don't believe women and that not all men are well, you-know-whats. And although both may be true, how helpful are the hashtags to moving forward? What if we reframed all of this. Cue Science of Happiness music. What if we could inspire greatness in ourselves and each other? What if we could create change both WITHin first and then WITH others?
We could change those hashtags to #InspireGreatnessTogether #MenAndWomenTogether
What if we could sit down and have a hard conversation about:
BE A MIRROR and REMIND HER
Early on in our relationship, I would complain to my hubby about how I felt chub or I would put myself down/self-doubt; I would not take his compliments when he called me "beautiful." So one night he sat me down and said,
"Honey, I honestly mean it when I say all those things--I'm not just trying to flatter you. You're a badass. Stop putting yourself down."
I remember crying because I was so touched. Then he said something else:
"The focus of your work, your book should not be me. It should be YOU."
Drop the hubby mic.
Thank you for reading this letter and for being willing to work WITH us women, empathize WITH us, stand up WITH us, inspire greatness WITH us, and be a mirror WITH us.
Wishing you Happiness,
*This blog post is dedicated to ALL men out there. I believe you will work WITH us to create much-needed change.*
SpeakHER. InsipireHER. TraveleHER.