Independent Women – History in the Making

History has a strange way of making the world seem simultaneously vast and small; old and new. Perspective always has a way of changing the way you see the world, and, like an optical illusion, you’re never able to grasp the full picture at the same time. Look too closely and you miss the big picture. Grasp the big picture and you miss the interesting details.

I was given a little bit of perspective not that long ago when I volunteered to help with Tribe Table @ Bentonville Film Festival and got to listen in on the stories of women in the film industry while they were interviewed by Tribe of Women founder, Amy Robinson. One guest talked about how women have only been “allowed” to have credit cards within the past 40 years. Another talked about her previous work experience as a sales associate in the late 1990’s and how she was only allowed (that word again) to work on a sale up to a certain dollar amount, at which time a man would have to come and finish the deal.

Shock… Then Awe

I was shocked. Not only because they didn’t think that women didn’t have financial rights, or that someone who had done all of the work to get a sale to where it was, could suddenly not seal the deal, but that this occurred the past few decades, and within my lifetime.

And thus, out of curiosity and a desire to understand and contextualize the progress of women in history, I was inspired to develop my own timeline, “A Brief History of Women’s Independence”. I wanted to remind myself of just how recent the rights I often take for granted were won. In particular, I wanted to give myself a little bit of perspective on women’s rights – how far we have progressed, how much we can accomplish in mere decades, and how far we still have to go.

I cannot stress enough that this is a brief and biased history (as is most history). In honor of the 4th of July, I decided to focus only on women’s independence in the U.S. beginning in the 1770’s. Even with this shortened time frame, I’ve missed a lot. For example, I didn’t include the still current #MeToo movement or that there’s a record number of women running for office – that history is still being written. One of the biggest things missing from this timeline is the social attitudes and prejudices. For example, I would be surprised to find in any of my history books the limits and discrimination of financial rights for women, or the year women they were finally allowed to finish the sales they started. Or maybe it hasn’t happened yet? At least for some.

So, while this exercise has helped put things in perspective for me, I realize it is only my perspective – a young woman in the United States of America perspective – and that there are other perspectives to add and stories to be told. Societal attitudes and prejudices have a much more mercurial nature than laws and history portray. When looking through textbooks it’s easy to find when a law, such as voting rights for women, was enacted. However, when society’s attitude changes to accept the underlying premise of that law, that “Women should be treated as equals to men,” – is not so easy to pinpoint. Maybe because we haven’t arrived at that point in herstory. At least not everyone. At least not yet.

Herstory

History is organized by numbers, but it’s perpetuated by stories. Only through storytelling do we learn about others, ourselves, and our world.

Artist: Shepherd Fairy’s “We the People” Series

Like I said, this timeline is biased. I leafed through history and picked out things that interested me, but the timeline is missing stories that I can’t tell, a depth that I can’t add. Within one of our pillars at Tribe of Women is “Tribe Stories” – the place where we connect. And that’s what we ask from you, our readers. Any stories you have, of how women’s rights or societal attitudes have changed (or have not changed), of yourself or of others, we urge you to share, to write, to tell. Your stories are part of the narrative of herstory lived and that is still being written.

Your Story

What historical events do you think should have been included? What stories or memories do you have of historical changes in laws or in attitudes? What are you celebrating this 4th of July? Please share in the comments below, post on the social media thread where you found this blog, or send it to us directly at info@tribeofwomen.modthink.net with “Independent Women” in the subject line.

Bitch, Take it Back

Raise your hand if you’re a woman who has ever felt personally attacked by the word ” bitch”. Yeah, that’s about all of us. What does the word even mean? “Female dog”, appropriated and used as a derogatory term toward women. There’s no certain characteristic or checklist of qualities that have to be met to be called a bitch, but it’s often associated with being independent, passionate, confident, strong, fearless, and I-see-right-through-your-crap-and-am-not-gonna-take-it. If that’s being a bitch, I’m in. Because when we own the word, it will stop owning us. Bitch, take it back!

Divided we fall

strong womanIf where we put our energy is the direction we tend to go, why go backwards? We’re familiar with “nerd” and “geek” being used by bullies to keep their prey cowering and small. What has happened now that the glasses-wearing, long-word using, high IQ having people of the world have united in owning the attributes of nerd and geek-dom? Companies like NerdyGirl and GeekSquad wear it loud and proud. Shows like “The Big Bang Theory” have cult followings. Girls everywhere are throwing on their Zooey Deschanel “New Girl” specs and unabashedly being the gaming, inventing, robot warring, and cancer curing women they want to be. Why? Because knowledge is power. And what we know is that the basis of bullying and act of keeping others down stems from insecurity and fear. What are they afraid of? In the case of nerds and geeks, it’s how smart they are. In the case of women, it’s how powerful we are.

With a divide and conquer mentality and mission, anyone wanting to keep women down has a wealth of distracting derogatory terms to hurl at us and veer us from the path and the direction we want to go.  Forward. It’s time to ignore the bully and keep our eye on the prize.

bitches get stuff done tina feyTake it back

Instead of standing against the word, let’s stand for it. In her article, To “Bitch” or Not to “Bitch”, Rosalie Maggio says, “if being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we’ll take that as a compliment… if we choose to reappropriate the word, it loses its power to hurt us. And if we can get people thinking about what they’re saying when they use the word, that’s even better.” 

And it’s not just the word “bitch”.  Amy Poehler reapproriated “bossy” when she simply, but directly, said, “I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading.” Her colleague, Tina Fey did it by simply, but specifically, titling her book Bossy Pants, and then filling it with her strong, smart, witty, and wonderful wisdom.

What’s in a word

Pantene tackledno hate the gender stereo types of boss v. bossy, persuasive v. pushy, dedicated v. selfish, neat v. vain, and smooth v. show-off in a popular advertisement ending with the message “don’t let labels define you.” One of my favorite (forever and) Always ads is giving girls everywhere the permission and perspective to turn “like a girl” into the power statement it should be. As Rihanna knows, you can (and should) “be a girl with a mind, a bitch with an attitude, and a lady with class.” We have more power over perception than we give ourselves credit for, and collectively we can change anything.

So, let’s bring it full circle, shall we? What is used as an all purpose insult and attempt to keep us down and distracted from the trails we are blazing is, in reality, affirming that we’re heading in the right direction. So, next time I’m called a bitch (bossy, pushy, sassy, feisty), I’ll say thank you and go about my business, because I’m clearly doing something right.

Join me, won’t you?

Have you had a shocking or empowering experience with the word “bitch” or other terms that are meant to shut you down? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

Women’s March on Washington – Women Supporting Women

Last weekend, I spent a chilly, overcast day with several hundred thousand other women and men of all ages, colors and creeds on the Mall in Washington DC. Several things compelled me to go to the Women’s March on Washington, but one of my goals was to capture some of the stories of women who would be attending with me – stories that also compelled them to travel to the nation’s capital to make their voices heard.

Women's March on Washington | TribeofWomen.com

As I was traveling, several friends contacted me to wish me well and tell me that I was marching for them because they couldn’t attend a march at home. I cannot put into words how humbled I was by their sincere gratitude for my willingness to do something that I was not at all hesitant to do. It felt a little silly to say “you’re welcome” when I would have gone for the sheer enjoyment of traveling, seeing my brother and his family, eating amazing Lebanese food, and getting to hang out with the friends who flew out with me. Standing up for women’s rights was kind of the cherry on top.

At some point, I realized that if each of the 200,000 attendees that march organizers were anticipating in DC were marching for others, we would be representing an amazing number of women across the country. To our astonishment, the total estimate announced Sunday was around 500,000. Considering how many friends I was representing, there were around 5 million people represented by marchers in DC alone.

Women's March on Washington | TribeofWomen.com
Women were not alone in DC. I would guess approximately 1/3 of the people at the Women’s March were men marching for their partners, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

Extrapolate that out for the total number of people marching in the entire U.S. – estimated at 3 million – and 30 MILLION people were represented by the women and men who marched last Saturday. Even if you cut that in half to account for people who weren’t representing as many as I was, 15 million is not paltry. Obviously, a lot of people felt strongly about the mission and vision of the event.

But Monday, social media started looking sad. Friends of mine were sharing status updates they found online – some were pretty hateful – about the Women’s March. These posts didn’t just communicate a lack of information about the purpose of the women’s march or ask genuine questions to learn why women marched, they directly questioned the need for the event at all, and in some cases, harshly criticized marchers with personal attacks and name-calling.

Now, I and others like me could simply scroll past these posts and move on, choosing to “go high” when others “go low” (thanks Michelle!). For these situations, I am particularly fond of the “unfollow” feature on Facebook. On the other hand, I strongly believe I have a responsibility to respond. Because, while I most definitely marched for women of color (who have been marching a hell of a lot longer than I have), and my LGBTQIA friends and family, immigrant women raising children my son attends school with, women with disabilities, victims of sexual violence, women who worship in mosques and temples, and the rights of my daughters to be in control of their own reproductive health and earn what they deserve in the workplace, I also marched for women who aren’t aware their rights are being threatened, and who lash out against things they don’t understand with criticism and disdain. To those women, I say “It’s okay if you don’t understand why I chose to march (or even oppose the stated reasons for the march online) – I marched for you anyway.”

Women's March on Washington | TribeofWomen.com

All the freedoms women enjoy today – our freedom to make our own decisions about our healthcare, the ability to take out a loan in our own name, the right to vote, the ability of our daughters to play sports just like your sons, the right to speak out against sexual harassment and demand equal pay in the workplace – ALL of those freedoms were won in part by women who were willing to march. Some of them may were probably told they don’t speak for their peers, but they still marched. I am grateful for those women. And last Saturday, I was proud to take my place in line with those women to keep those freedoms from disappearing.

At the very root of everything Tribe of Women stands for is the desire to create a culture of women supporting women. We have more similarities than differences – we must remember that. I spoke to dozens of women at the march about our mission last Saturday. I watched eyes light up and smiles break across faces when I proposed the idea that we can come from different backgrounds and have different lives and goals, and STILL STAND TOGETHER.

I think I can safely say that we have all been the victim of the normalization of “mean girl” culture in our society: the judgement and criticism that transpires among women, directed toward women they disagree with. The belief that women are inherently mean to each other. We have witnessed useless debates over breast vs. bottle, work outside the home vs. staying home, judging the size of one’s family, are leggings pants or pajamas (yes, some debates are this silly)… the list seems endless.

But in the end, we are all women. We should be demanding the right to decide for ourselves what is right for us, as individuals, based on our own personal life-choices and beliefs. We should be encouraging each other to make those decisions even if they are not the decisions we would make for ourselves. And we should be able to make those personal decisions without suffering the backlash of other women questioning the decisions we have made for ourselves.

It’s simple, really: If you want to understand why I marched, I am happy to share. If you don’t want to march, you don’t have to. But every day, whether or not you know why, I’m still marching for you.

— Laurie Marshall

Women Supporting Women – What Does It Mean Now?

This has been a tough political season for tribes of women everywhere. Mine, yours, THE tribe of women. Like everyone, our team has been talking and mulling, spinning and assessing, reading and contemplating the weight and meaning of it all. The question we keep coming back to is “What does it really mean for women to support women?”

Like many, we also feel it is an important and unprecedented moment for women, and a time to make a statement as an organization and be very clear on some things on behalf of ourselves and women everywhere.

Election’s Toll on Women

We observed the back and forth of loaded words and accusations between political parties and continued to stay the course reminding all of us that we are in this together, no matter who you vote for, or what the outcome.

And, we concluded that the toll of the election on relationships between women would have been the same no matter who won the White House. The election season and its associated media headlines exposed many things about our collective culture that we may have been able to minimize or explain away at any other time, or under other circumstances – but not this time.

So, if women supporting women is 100% the focus of our organization, we know how to maintain those supportive relationships, right? Yes… Although, after the election, the question became, “What does it mean now?”

statue-of-liberty We’re All Women

Tribe of Women came to be, as a movement and organization, because the acceptance of “mean girl” culture had the phrase “women are mean to each other” rolling off the tongues of men, women, mothers, fathers, teachers, politicians, media, and business leaders, and into the ears, hearts and minds of girls and women.

The prevalence of this concept has been so pervasive that even if we did not believe or act on it ourselves, we accepted it as part of an overall cultural norm. This acceptance has women moving away from the very thing that we had in common. No matter our experiences, opinions, or outlook, we are all women.

When we look at what is possible if we do not accept “mean girl” culture as inevitable, the whole world changes. The lens of tribe recognizes our commonalities in our struggles and our joys, our motivations and inspirations. It sees our under-tapped abilities and perspectives.

So, we do know what to do! Now, why aren’t we doing it? Why are we allowing a stereotyping culture to drown out the collective voice of womanhood that knows what we need, and that will get us all much further?

We know how to tribe. We know how to love ourselves and each other. How to reach out, and reach back. To lift up, and to lead. Assuming our tribe lens has been muddied by the social stigmas, stereo types and norms we’ve been living under – especially during this tumultuous year, it’s time to wipe it clean.

What It Means

How do we learn to tribe again? That is our quest. “What does it mean for women to support women?” Sometimes life is a matter of figuring out what something is not, so let’s address those first.

What it does NOT mean
  1. We all have to like each other. No. That would be unrealistic. We cannot ask all women to like each other any more than we can ask all humans to like each other.
  2. We all have to agree. Still, no. If we learned anything from this political season, it is the value of debate and different perspectives. If we listen.
  3. We will be contributing to gender bias by supporting other women because they are women. Uh-uh. Nope. Enough with this myth! We only won the right to vote 96 years ago, ladies. We need to be seen supporting each other, or the bias that we don’t will be perpetuated.
  4. We will be making it a bigger deal than it is by talking about it. Yeah… no. “Ignoring it won’t make it go away” is an age-old saying for a reason. The cat is out of the bag and we need to deal with it.

With some misperceptions and myths out of the way, we can see a little more clearly what needs to be done.

What it means nowheart-hands
  1. We do not actively tear one another down based on gender stereotypes. Women are powerful. Like, pow-er-ful. So, yes, it is intimidating when we stand together, and unconscious bias is the fuel for the fire that wants to make sure we have just enough, but not too much, of that power. Saying nothing when gender bias is present, or participating in it (toward a woman or man), supports the bias.
  2. We create and maintain our own boundaries and respect the boundaries of others without being offended or retaliatory. We all need to go toward our own “lights” and surround ourselves with the people that fill our cup. Our communities, lives, and work-places are filled with people that do, but also people that don’t. We all have the right to boundaries in all of those spaces. We do not have to be best friends in order to come together toward a community, life, or work goal.
  3. We find common ground.As women, our likenesses greatly outweigh our differences.” Look at the women around you. In the grocery store, the coffee shop, school, work, walking down the street. We often find fault with others because there is something we are struggling with in ourselves. See past that. See them. See that they are wrestling a tired toddler, being ignored by a co-worker, getting harassed by a jerk, or picking up groceries for another night alone. Smile at her. Reach out to her. There is a story, a person – a sister – everywhere we look. If we look.
  4. We have conversations. We tell our stories, we find connecting points, we go deep. We are good at this! When we let ourselves be. And this is where we tap into our empathy from which we lead, and we’re damn good at it.

That women are not supporting one another as much as is needed to advance, evolve, and thrive can no longer be ignored, and preventing further divisions post-election needs to be a deep calling within each of us in the coming months and years. We’re here. We’re in this together. And we will rise to all of our potential, individually and collectively, when we learn to tribe again.

profile-pic-for-websiteAuthor, Amy Reeves Robinson is the Founder of Tribe of Women

Please share your comments, feedback and perspectives with her in the comments below

Let’s talk!

Equality AND Equity for Women with Sarah Megan Thomas

Happy Women’s Equality Day! We have been celebrating this week, and 96 years of women’s right to vote, with the #tribetalk topic about the difference between equality and equity. Thank you for joining the conversation! The film Equity is being released in theaters everywhere and we had a chance to follow-up with film star, Sarah Megan Thomas, this week to talk more about her thoughts on the dual meaning for women in the title of the movie.

Photo Credit: http://sarahmeganthomas.com/
Photo Credit: http://sarahmeganthomas.com/

The movie title, “Equity”

ToW: When we saw you at Bentonville Film Festival, we started to talk about the dual meaning for women in the title “Equity”. Can you expand on that?

Thomas: Equity means justice and equality, but it’s also the word you use on Wall Street in finance as a general word for stocks/buying a piece of the business. So the title refers to the subject matter of the film but also has the double entendre of what we are trying to do with this film, which is have more equality for women in film and business at large.

ToW: What difference do you hope the movie Equity will make for women?

Thomas: The wonderful thing about movies is they have the ability to reach a wide audience and create a conversation in a way that’s not threatening. If you’re watching a movie, there’s a dialogue you can have. And my goal with this movie was that you just watch it for the thriller it is, but then you leave after and say, “Huh, that was written, directed, produced and starring women—why aren’t there more films like that?” and also just “Hm, that Wall Street world, why don’t we have more women in powerful positions?”

Thank you, Sarah. And congratulations!

This movie is a must see! (Give-away)

We’re excited about the movie and hope that everyone sees it. So excited, in fact, that we’re giving away a $30 movie pass to see Equity when you “Join THE Tribe“. Winner selection, notification, and gift certificate will be sent out on September 2nd. Find a theater near you, grab a girlfriend, and experience this smart thriller that is helping further women’s equality AND equity!

Women’s Equality Day! Or Is It Equity We Need?

Happy almost Women’s Equality Day! This day was designated in 1971 as the day of commemoration of the 19th Amendment, women’s right to vote, and to be equal to men in that right. While this commemoration is an affirmation of a great milestone for women, we are still (96 years later) striving toward the elusive goal of equality in our work-places, governments, and homes. Or is equality even really the goal?

Is equality enough?

We were recently given the opportunity to participate in the Bentonville Film Festival interviewing filmmakers from around the world whose films represent diverse voices. Geena Davis co-founded the festival and her institute on gender in media to “engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve gender balance.” The opening night feature film, Equity, spoke to this mission perfectly. The film “is about women on Wall Street, but it’s not about corruption, crime, or catastrophe. It’s about women who must carefully calibrate every aspect of their lives, professional and private, to stay equal in the game.” BAM!

We had an opportunity to interview Actor/Producer Sarah Megan Thomas and Director Meera Menon. We asked Thomas if she considered there to be a dual meaning for women with the concept of equity. She replied, “Yes! Yes, it does have dual meaning.” Then she paused thoughtfully and said, “We screened at Tribeca and Sundance, and no one has commented on or asked us that question before.”

Why not? One reason may be because “equality” is used most often when we consider the plight of women coming from behind and striving to be given rights and respect equal to men. When we posed the question of the difference between equity and equality to Menon, she took a thoughtful pause as well, and said, “I think they are connected, ultimately. One is the path to the other. I don’t know. I really want to think about that.”

So, what is equity? What role does it have in women’s lives? And why is it important?

The difference between equality and equity

Illustration Credit: Off She Goes http://offshegoes2013.blogspot.com/2014/06/equity-vs-equality.html
Illustration Credit: Off She Goes

Equality noun equal·i·ty i-?kwä-l?-t?: the quality or state of having the same rights, social status, etc.

Equity noun eq·ui·ty ?e-kw?-t?: fairness or justice in the way people are treated

Illustration Credit: Off She Goes http://offshegoes2013.blogspot.com/2014/06/equity-vs-equality.html
Illustration Credit: Off She Goes

The conversation about equality or equity is discussed heavily in the education sector. Children facing challenges that include everything from disabilities to economic disadvantage may be given equal access to an education, but “equality means giving everyone the same resources, equity means giving each student access to the resources they need to learn and thrive.” The argument is that additional time, resources, or access are required to even the playing field and make things equitable, and not just equal, because equal would still leave some children behind.

How does this translate into the goals women have as a gender? Will being given equal pay and rights make us equal in the workplace, in government, and our homes? Will equal rights mean that we are respected and fairly treated? Or does there need to be more systemic change? How would equity help make that change? And how do we do it?

Join the conversation

We’re exploring the question of equality and equity this week in recognition of Women’s Equality Day. Is equality enough? What role does equity have in the goals of women? How do we attain one or both? Comment here, share your story, and stay tuned for a special guest feature and her thoughts about equity in our next post!

 

 

 

Believe, Build, and Go Beyond – Notes to my younger self for the Class of 2016

I gave the commencement speech at my graduating high school in Montrose, CO this weekend. When I accepted the honor, there was no way for me to anticipate the process. “Going back” is not always easy. Sometimes it’s downright painful. It’s also sometimes the only way to realize how far we’ve come.

It’s too early to know how my speech was received. As a speaker, and from a podium, it’s always a weird tunnel-like experience full of tiny things that only you notice, like the slow feedback from the PA system and wind blowing my hair across my eyes and into my mouth. Whatever the delivery, I wrote these words with all of my heart. So, now, I can only hope that all of my heart was heard over the wind, the pounding of their own hearts as they neared collecting their diplomas, and any skepticism that some 42 year old chick had any wisdom to impart.

And, in case you’re interested in what this 42 year old chick had to say, here are my notes to my younger self for the Montrose High School Class of 2016:

Believe, Build, and Go Beyond

Thank you, Principal Barnhill. And thank you to the Student Council, and especially Evelyn Luna. You have all been wonderful in getting me here and giving me insight into the class of 2016. The future is in good hands.

I’m proud to be a Montrose High School Alum, and humbled to be chosen to speak to you today. MHS produces some amazing graduates, some of you are out here now, some of them are your parents. There are those just as, if not more, deserving of being on this stage today, so I feel privileged for this opportunity to serve you as the graduating class of 2016, and to honor those that have come before you.

It isn’t every day that you get a genuine chance to talk to your younger self. In other words, this could be a 3 hour speech (but it won’t be!). It has been difficult to pare down everything I wish I could share with you, so I decided to simply meet you where you are. On this day 24 years ago. We’re all different, and my story, my path and my journey is my own, as is yours.

So today, I invite you to simply walk beside me, take whatever is meaningful, and make it yours. Because this is your day, and the next chapter of your story, and the next leg of your journey begins here.

High School isn’t easy. And neither is life. The good news? You already have all the tools you need to guide you on your journey. The other good news?  You’re not in this alone.

I have a great appreciation for biography introductions. They are a neat, clean, outline that highlights a person’s life. They’re a lot like social media! The Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat posts of a person’s happiest moments and accomplishments. And, all too often, they are airbrushed pictures of airbrushed lives that we are comparing to our own and trying to live up to.

This is nothing new. The yearbook was the Facebook of our time. I don’t know what role it plays for you now, but this was the place where “who you were” was recorded for all of eternity. Bad hair and all. I know you use your thumbs for texting now, but we used them to get through pages of a book, and we would immediately thumb to the back, find our name and then count on how many pages we were featured. Like social media today, we wanted to be in the “right” places, with the right people, in the right clubs to be documented, noted, recorded, and remembered.

If you were to go to my high school year book, you would see that I was a varsity cheerleader, and a nominee for prom queen. What you don’t see in those pages are the things we don’t see about anyone unless we look. And if you look, you’ll see that we are all human, on human journeys, with human stories. And the beauty of our humanity is that we’re all in it together.

My work today is to build cultures of women supporting women and our movement is called Tribe of Women, but the ultimate goal is to affect change to a degree that our culture is that of people supporting people. That we become Tribe of Human.

Your story and your journey have already begun, and you’re about to take the next step on your path. I hope in sharing some true stories, some humanity, and some lessons I have learned, it will help set you on a path toward a belief in yourself and those around you, an ability to build up yourself and others, and the confidence to go beyond your comfort zone.

Believe, Build and Go Beyond.

One path to belief in ourselves may be a surprising. It is facing failure. Society at large is conditioned against failure. Falls are cushioned, perfection is praised, and everything needs a warning labels, just in case you’re not smart enough to figure out that you should not wear a hat on your foot, or operate a hair dryer while sleeping. (Those are real warning labels.)

Maya Angelou said, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.”

This is the opening quote to the documentary film of her life, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. I recently had the privilege of sitting with and interviewing Rita Coburn-Whack, a director of the documentary. She was given the opportunity to create the documentary after she spent 4 years with Dr. Angelou producing a segment for Oprah. Through all of the years with her, and all of the inspiring and powerful quotes collected, this was the quote they chose to open the film. She told me that this quote said it all. For all of us. And it does.

The truth is that if you make failure your friend it will be your most sincere teacher. And, I would dare to say, the backbone to success. And that is exactly where I was on this day, oh so long ago. No number of glossy pictures in the yearbook revealed that I struggled in high school. I had been sick and missed a lot of school, which made it hard to maintain deep friendships or good grades. Basically, I was muddling through.

It may be ironic (or maybe the universe trying to tell me something) that Mr. Gabriel is retiring this year, and I’m sorry he could not be here today. He was my math teacher my senior year. As graduation approached, it became apparent that, without passing my final in his class, I would fail the class and not have enough credits to graduate. He offered what help and support he could, but more importantly, what help and support I would accept, which wasn’t much. I failed that test. I made up the credits in the first weeks of summer, earned my diploma, and went to college in the Fall as scheduled. But I did not pick up my cap and gown the day after that test, and I did not walk across this stage that weekend.

So, that is how my journey from today began. With facing failure. I was not wearing a cap and gown, sitting in the chair where you are, or getting ready to cross this stage where I’m standing now. So, in that, on your journey, you’re already one step ahead of me!

The reason that Mr. Gabriel’s role in this story is important is because he didn’t fail me. He reached out. I failed me. I didn’t reach back. Because it’s not just about believing in ourselves. It’s about believing that others believe in you. And when they reach out, it is on us to reach back.

I walked the halls of the high school a couple of days ago and though I didn’t get to see Mr. Gabriel, I did find something on his door. “Life is a math equation. In order to gain the most, you have to know how to convert the negatives into positives.” Thank you, Mr. Gabriel

Belief in ourselves is also hard because we are so hard on ourselves. So often there is an internal dialogue going on that we are not even aware of. Especially in the face of failure, and mistakes. We have all failed. A test, the catch of a football, standing up for a friend, proper driving safety…

And failure will always bring us to a crossroads. A decision point, and a choice between guilt and shame.

There is a very simple, but very important distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt is, “I’ve made a mistake.” Shame is, “I am a mistake.”

Words create worlds. And the words we say to ourselves are just as vital as the words we say to others. Everyone close your eyes for a moment and think of a mistake.

Now think, “I made a mistake.” This is guilt. What happens next? Maybe you are feeling sorry. Maybe you are thinking about what you could have done differently. Maybe you are already thinking about what you can do to make amends or will do better next time.

Now think, “I am a mistake.” This thought, my friends will stop you in your tracks. It is a one-way ticket to nothing good for you, or anyone around you.

None of us ARE the mistakes we’ve made. Our actions are WHAT WE’VE DONE not WHO WE ARE. Shame has no place in our internal or external dialogues.

So, guilt has its place and can be a stepping stone TOWARD something. Go back to your thoughts when you were thinking, “I’ve made a mistake.” Cool. Welcome to being human. The “oh crap, I did this” moment is guilt we can grow from, but avoid the “I suck” trap because it goes nowhere.

One of the most important aspects of this is – how you treat yourself has a direct effect on how you treat others. Belief in yourself manifests into the act of reaching out, and being the person that lifts up and believes in others.

I wish I could tell you that I’d had the insight I’m sharing with you today, and that I knew the distinction between “guilt” and “shame” at the time of my own moment of failure. I struggled with it for a while. So know that it is only attained through conscious practice… and that will, once again, put you one step ahead of me.

Believe, Build and Go Beyond.

When we believe that others believe in us, and practice belief in ourselves, we begin the process of building our tribe. A tribe is a “Traditional society that consists of families or communities linked by common traits and interests that contribute individual skills, talents and voices to the common good of the group.”

So, call it your village, your posse, your gang, your community, your squad. The point is that, to not only survive, but to thrive in this life, it takes a tribe.

I’d like to say that the world out there is vastly different from high school, but sometimes it’s not too far off. We will always be in situations, companies, organizations, groups with a mix of those that are good and not good for us, so it is very important that we learn to find those that lift, teach, grow, add to, and inspire us to be better, and for us to do that in return.

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.” Edmond Lee

Mrs. Gaber was my cheer coach. And, during my time here, she was a cheerleader in my life. I got to see her this week, and though she isn’t able to be here today, she promised that she’d watch the video, so everyone wave at the camera and say “hello, Mrs. Gaber!”

Mrs. Gaber was positive, encouraging, always had my back. She picked me up when I fell. (Sometimes literally. Like, off my butt, my back, even my head once…) She believed in me before I knew how to believe in myself. Some of my best and toughest days were in her presence, and she was always a light that I could turn to and talk to, and only had to be around to know that I was everything I needed to be. That I was enough. And sometimes, I simply needed to know I was not alone on my journey.

The poet Rumi, wrote, “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”  When building your tribe, it is imperative that you follow your light, and find those who fan your flames.

You also have those in your life that are not so positive. Those that do not fill your cup. Take a moment and think of all the people in your life. You know immediately the difference between those that lift you and fill you up, and those that bring you down and deplete you.

Our light is individual. We will not always get along with everyone. That does not necessarily mean that someone else is bad, just that they are not good for us. If you think of your light as a literal, physical light, it will always lead you forward, toward those that feed who you are, or whom you are trying to become.

I was fortunate to have a Mrs. Gaber and others in my life, in my tribe (thank you). You have them as well. They may be as obvious as Mrs. Gaber, or more subtle, like Mr. Gabriel, but they are there. Reaching out, we only have to reach back.

Believe. Build and Go beyond.

Your light will not only lead you to those who fill your cup and believe in you, it is also your navigator for your instincts and intuition. You know more than you think you do. Intuition is not unscientific. It is a subconscious collection of your own experiences and observations of the world around you.

All of my greatest successes are things that my intuition led me toward. They were also most often the things filled me with joy, and scared me to death, all at the same time. Everything from having children, to working in Pakistan, or doing the TEDx talk. Each of these experiences were completely out of my comfort zone, and I had to rely on my wits to keep things moving, my gut to guide me, and my tribe to support me. I did not travel a traditional path, and my journey to these places was not always direct, and sometimes (okay, mostly) they made no sense to anyone else but myself. But it was my path, and I followed my light, just as you will follow yours.

When you come across something on your path that calls to you, and it scares you, that is the edge of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is everything you know to be safe, sure, and easy.  One of the best practices I’ve found to test a decision while walking this boundary is the fear and ego filter. I’ve worked with Dr. Stan Beecham, author of the book Elite Minds, who works with elite athletes – professional football, golf, and Olympic champions. He says, “The more ego you have, the more fear you have. Ego makes you wonder and care about what others think about you. The less afraid you become, the less you think about yourself, and that allows you to instead think about what you want.”  I like to add to that, and like to say, “If your decision is based on fear or ego, it’s probably not a good idea.”

The duality of this is that you will have to experiment, and, by trial and error, discover what you DON’T want, in order to find what is truly worth pursuing. In order to do this, you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone. And to get out of your comfort zone, you’re going to have to embrace the edge… and then go beyond it. So as the Chinese proverb says, “Be not afraid of going slowly, be only afraid of standing still.”

You’ll have 1,000 positive opportunities come your way in life. A job, a program abroad, a relationship, a moment that causes butterflies in your stomach and will bring you to that edge between what you know and what could be. You’ll get to a door or the gate of the airport and think “What am I doing?” The “what if’s”. The “am I sure’s”. The change, adjustments, adaptations, and all of the unknowns will suddenly overwhelm you.

You may be feeling that right now, as you approach the edge in these moments before you cross the stage, with your journey before you. What’s next? Will you walk through that door? Will you board that plane? Will you go beyond the edge of your comfort zone? A little warning here… once you do, you’ll want to do it again. And again.

So filter out fear and ego. Know that sometimes this combination of excitement and terror are simply you coming up against the edge of your comfort zone. Then go beyond.

Believe. Build and… Go Beyond

As humans, on this human journey, with our human stories, our tribe is vital. In preparing for today and reflecting on my own path and journey, I wondered what would help you on your path and journey as you prepare to cross this stage (again, you’re one step ahead of me!).

I thought about what my tribe might say to me. And it would probably go a little something like this. “You are everything you need to be. You are not alone. You’ve got this.”

So, as an honorary member of your tribe today, I will leave you with this:

Believe in yourself. Trust that others believe in you, and practice growth through failure.

Build yourself, your tribe and others by following your light.

Embrace the edge, and then go beyond your comfort zone.

And finally, “You are everything you need to be. You are not alone. You’ve got this.”

Welcome to the Tribe!

 

We Have To Say It, To Change It – Healing Mean Girl Culture

I was so heartened to hear Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, state that, “I don’t believe women help women enough in the workplace.” Friends, you can’t imagine what a difficult, or important, statement that is for a woman in her position to say. Although we KNOW it’s true, it is our dark little secret that we think we can brush under the rug just a little longer. But, guess what? There is now a mound of dirt building up under that rug, and we’re tripping over it constantly. We can’t ignore it any longer. The fact that women, like Indra, who are accomplished leaders, are asking “What’s wrong with us women?” is powerful, and their influence is vast, but we all have to step up to the plate to make a difference. We ALL have to say it in order to change it.

first-aid-1732531_1920So, why don’t we? The primary reason is that we are collectively ashamed of it. Even if you are a woman that has gone out of your way to be good to other women, or have been the target of “mean girls”, none of us want to collectively condemn woman-kind! But here’s the reality. We cannot begin to heal our brokenness until we acknowledge it. It is currently as if we are walking around with a broken ankle, saying everything is fine, or that it will heal itself, when, clearly, it is not, and it will not. Our foot is obviously facing the wrong way, for Pete’s sake. Let’s get ourselves to the doctor, ladies!

I know how hard it was for me to stand up on the TEDx stage and say that “women are mean to each other” is the pervasive perception of women today. Something inside of me was so woefully sad at having to admit that we are viewed this way but, whether or not we participate, mean girl culture is accepted as the way things are or have to be in order to get ahead. Something else happened as well. I began to heal. I was able to look at things the way they really are. And, as much as it hurt my heart, it also cleared away the things that were obstructing my view, and I began to see how we could all heal. Together.ToW - Change the dialogue (2)

We can be thankful to the Indra Nooyi, but we have to step up to, and into, her example toward healing and change. “We have to change the dialogue. If I have one plea… let’s figure our how we can help each other, way more than we are today.”

profile-pic-for-websiteAuthor: Amy Robinson, Founder of Tribe of Women

Watch her TEDx Talk and Join THE Tribe of Women to heal mean girl culture, and learn to tribe again.

Sistering Brothers

If you have a little brother, then you know that I’m about to gush. If you don’t, get one. They’re out there, waiting for your big sistering. Today is this my little brother’s birthday. I remember this day as an Easter weekend, and I was at my grandmother’s while my mom and dad stayed home and waiting for the baby to come. Waaaay back then, we didn’t know if it would be a boy or a girl. It would be a surprise. But I was hoping, so hard, for a little brother. Why!? I have no idea. It never occurred to me that having a sister would be cool, or that my mom was likely not having any more children and this would be my last change to bond with someone of the same sex. My 6 year old intuition told me I.wanted.a.brother. The phone rang on that bright Spring day, my grandmother answered, then smiled down at me and said, “You have a baby brother.” I was elated! I jumped up and down, and, to this day, it is one of my happiest memories. Now, 36 years later, he has been my joy, my pain-in-the-butt, my laughter, my frustration, my heart, and sometimes a combination of them all, every day since.

Sistering is an important job, is not something you have to be born into it, and we’re all obligated to it.?#?moregoodmen? come from a world where they are respected and taught to respect women. We can each create that world and have these opportunities every day. It just so happens that mine was handed to me in the form of this sweet little face, but I find brothers wherever and whenever I can. They are the guys in your classroom, the colleagues in your office, the men where you serve as a volunteer. They have many of the same struggles, questions, and hazards on the path of their journey as we do. Where we are different, we can find understanding. Where we are the same, we can find connections. Where we come together, we can shift the needle toward change and equity.  

Thanks, little brother, for letting me boss you and hug you, dress you up and let you fall. I know that being my experiment in how men and women journey together in this great big world wasn’t always fun, and that your more-good-man-ness wasn’t all me, but I’m grateful for you and all the good men that exist because you do.

“What the world needs now is liberated men who have the qualities Silverstein cites, men who are ’empathetic and strong, autonomous and connected, responsible to self, to family and friends, to society, and capable of understanding how those responsibilities are, ultimately, inseparable.'” Bell Hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love

 

Grandma’s Garden

I was raised in my grandmother’s garden. It was a large plot through a rickety gate, over a wobbly board that you teetered on to traverse the irrigation ditch. I remember it being like crossing over from one world into another. She spent hours growing vegetables that we would pick and eat right out of the garden, eat for dinner, or set aside to can. We’d spend hours more in a steamy summer kitchen taking turns crushing, sorting, destemming, deseeding, coring, and snapping to prep for the pressure cooker on the stove. While the food in the garden was to sustain our bodies, the flowers were to sustain our souls. Harsh conditions and a dry Colorado mountain climate were not always kind to either, but we worked hard for both, because both were necessary to thrive.

I’ve dabbled in gardening most of my adulthood. A city rooftop apartment garden, a strawberry and tomato patch at a rental house, some potted herbs in a kitchen window. But, it wasn’t until we owned our first home that I really began to dive in.  We bought an old farm house on an acre of property in town, and we wisely waited a season and see what unfolded. Daffodils, day lilies, lilacs and iris! Even old strawberries popped up out in the field and at the base of we’ve-seen-it-all trees.

A 70 year old house on an acre of land has quite a gardening history and layers of attempts at this or that were everyhwere. The first years of gardening made me realized the extent to which my grandmother worked, and I was determined to live up to her. We mapped, we weeded, we planted and pruned, I beat back yucca, we watered and trimmed morning and evening after morning and evening. I scrutinized and criticized what needed to be added or changed.  My obsession was so complete that when I walked by and a weed, I would immediately snag it out of the ground. It was pristeen. And I was exhausted. Was this what gardening was really all about? Was the magic garden of my childhood simply of product of innocence and youth? Another memory squelched by reality? Was this “adulting”!? How did she do it all?

Time and children, life and death, and the ups and downs of the every day have a way of shifting priorities for anyone and, eventually, the garden moved down the list. Weeds came up. Unintended plants grew where they may. Ivy spread and, before I knew it, my garden looked… well, just fine, actually. In fact, it was fuller, more robust. More full of life. Sure, I didn’t really want that tree to sprout so near the porch steps or that ground-cover to sprout over the to climb over the edging, but it it seemed more natural, more real. And, when I stopped over-thinking it so much and enjoying it more, it started to feel more like my grandmother’s garden. Because she didn’t do it all. She did what was needed at the time. And it was enough. So, to my grandmother’s garden I crossed over again. Where there is food for the body and flowers for the soul. And it is enough.

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne