Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Nevertheless, She Persisted

I remember the first time I experienced true sexism. I was in college and wanted to apply for acceptance into my major program. My (female) adviser told me not to bother. I was a borderline student, and there was a limited number of spots available. "And since this is a career path major, it will go to a man who could use this major to get a real job and support a family."

I was so angry. It wasn't right and it wasn't fair. I could live with the verdict if I applied and got rejected because I wasn't competitive enough based on the merits. But to be told not to bother because men deserved the career track more than I did? That really bothered me. I knew what I wanted to major in. I knew what field I wanted to work in. I didn't want to take her advice to go "major in something more friendly, like English or Family Sciences."

So I looked up all the universities in the country that had the specific program I wanted to major in. There were exactly 7 schools with my program, and one of them was back in Virginia in my hometown where I qualified for in-state tuition. It took little more to convince me to apply there and transfer schools. I've never regretted it. I majored in Political Communications and Broadcast Journalism at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications at George Mason University, and loved every minute of it.

It was while I was attending GMU that I experienced my second serious case of sexism. I had a job working on a political campaign as a fundraising associate. I was pretty good at my job, and got promoted a few times through the ranks. One day I made a comment to the male receptionist about my paycheck. We quickly came to discover that he got paid $3/hr more than I did. He was the receptionist. He was new. I had rank and experience over him. Why did he make more? I asked and got the straight answer. "Men need the money more than girls do."

Back then I believed that sort of thing. I accepted that he made more money than I did because he had to pay for dates, and I didn't. (Really, that was the argument I was given.) Even though I did more work and had more responsibility and experience, I believed it was okay for him to make more money that I did because he was male. Today I know better.

Those first few years out of college every job I had wanted to turn me into a secretary, but I didn't want that. I persisted in being seen as a planner and creator. I forced employers to not expect me to be their assistants or secretaries, but to let me create programs and step out and do something more.

I'm 42 now. I'm glad I wasn't held back by the first university that told me a man deserved my career more than I did. I'm good at what I do. I love what I do. I persisted and broke out of the "secretary track" that my career started me down. I'm a marketing director for a national bank now. I've written 6 books and hundreds of articles. I've planned huge events, and fundraised thousands of dollars. All things I could never have done if I had listened to the people that told me a man deserved my job more than I did.

I don't agree with the politics of Senator Elizabeth Warren. She's not my cup of tea. But last week she tried to read a letter on the Senate floor, and was shut down by Senator Mitch McConnell (who's politics I also don't agree with). In so doing, he said the following, "“Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

He then went on to let two more men give lengthy speeches, reading the same exact text Senator Warren had tried to read.

And the words, "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." suddenly became the rally cry for every woman who has ever been held back by sexism. (Whether or not they consider themselves feminists.)

I was warned in college [that I wasn't good enough for the major]. I was given an explanation [that a man deserved it more]. Nevertheless, I persisted, found a different school, and got the degree I wanted anyway.

I remember clearly sitting in a team meeting where I pointed out that the plan in front of us was the same plan we had tried the month before, but it had failed - badly. My boss snapped at me and told me (verbatim) to shut up. Minutes later a man made the same observation. He was given the opportunity to create a new plan for us the next month. Because girls are supposed to sit still and look pretty, and not think critically or speak up out of turn. We're told we're bossy, but boys have leadership skills if they command a room.

And so it is, I LOVE the phrase, "Nevertheless, she persisted." I don't care about Senator Warren or Senator McConnell. But there is something about those words, "nevertheless, she persisted" that speaks right to my heart. And I know that it speaks to thousands of other women who have been in the same places I've been.

So I put it on a t-shirt. And I'm selling that shirt through Bonfire.com a fundraising platform. I've created it in multiple colors, sizes, and styles for men, women, and children. There's something for everyone there. It's available for another week online.

The proceeds from the sales of the shirts will go to donations for refugees in Germany. This summer I will be traveling with Clog America to Germany, the Netherlands, and England on their annual folk festival tour. As a plus, I'm bringing my nephew Tell Gresko with me. Clog America will perform at folk festivals alongside several other countries. And between shows, we take the time to make humanitarian visits to orphanages and shelters. We have become aware that in one of the towns we are visiting that the hotels are filled with refugees. I intend to bring donations with me to this town to personally hand over to the refugees, and give to the organizations at the most direct levels. (Some of the proceeds will also go to help offset the cost of Clog America's expenses so we can give more money in humanitarian donations.)

If you know me, you know that I have a love for doing humanitarian work. I've traveled to Romania, Haiti, Cambodia, Serbia, and more doing humanitarian work. If I could raise my hand and volunteer to take in a refugee in my own home, I would. The travel ban on refugees- the very victims of our enemies- breaks my heart. And so I created another t-shirt in support of the refugees. This one says, "Give Me Your Tired" on the front, and "Refugees Welcome" "#My America" on the back. It also comes in multiple styles and colors. It's only available for one more night.

Wear the "Nevertheless, she persisted" shirt in honor of every woman you know that had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. Who got paid less to do the same job as the man beside her. Who stepped out of the shell she was put in, "because that's what girls should do."

I hope you'll consider purchasing one of these t-shirts knowing that it shows your support of a good cause, and goes to support a good cause. (If you don't want a shirt, you can still make a donation using the links as well.)

Thank you for all your support in all of my projects over the years. This pet project is near and dear to my heart. I want to show my support for the women around me, and I want to show my love for the refugees. I want to help the women in the refugee camps who need so much of our help and love, and not our hate and sexism. And I've found my own simple way to show support and raise funds all at the same time. I hope you'll consider supporting it.

Thank you!!

Nevertheless, she persisted. - https://www.bonfire.com/nevertheless-she-persisted-2017/

Give Me Your Tired - https://www.bonfire.com/support-true-american-values/

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