All posts by ksamways

A Guy is a Guy

So while the average folks of today only expect to hear a song like this at Shoppers Drug Mart on a Thursday, my partner and I enjoy incorporating wholesome 1950s music into our everyday lives – while we’re cooking, cleaning and subverting traditional gender roles – you know how it is with modern coupledom.

The only problem is, these songs are actually really not that wholesome. And a lot of time incorporate a whole lot of traditional gender norms (which shouldn’t be a thing), subtle sexist commentary, or straight-up overt “WTF” themes.

Most people reading this blog are probably familiar with some of the myths and harmful messaging that YWCA and other feminist organisations tackle:

  • Boys will be boys. (What does that even mean? And how can I get in on that excuse?)
  • Girls should be “good.” (Ew. That’s not how I racked up all those detentions in school.)
  • Women are property owned by a male (parent/sibling/husband). (I’m hoping most people have got this one out of their systems come 2018)

We know these messages are damaging, not only to the feminist movement but truly, in everyday life. They normalise rape culture. They uphold the gender binary. They keep individuals in boxes dictated by the social and cultural norms of the present day and the past. “Let’s put a halt on progress and equality!” they cry.

So it was much to my chagrin to hear this sort-of love song on one of our favourite 8tracks playlists. Despite the conditioning and acceptance of many other songs with similar messages, none managed to so bluntly threaten today’s movement as this one by Doris Day (sorry, Doris!):

“Guy Is A Guy”

I walked down the street like a good girl should
He followed me down the street like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen and I’ll tell you what this fella did to me

I walked to my house like a good girl should
He followed me to my house like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen while I tell you what this fella did to me

I never saw the boy before
So nothin’ could be sillier
At closer range his face was strange
But his manner was familiar

So I walked up the stairs like a good girl should
He followed me up the stairs like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen and I’ll tell you what this fella did to me

I stepped to my door like a good girl should
He stopped at my door like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen while I tell you what this fella did to me
He asked me for a good-night kiss
I said, “It’s still good day”
I would have told him more except
His lips got in the way

So I talked to my ma like a good girl should
And Ma talked to Pa like I knew she would
And they all agreed on a married life for me
The guy is my guy wherever he may be

So I walked down the isle like a good girl should
He followed me down the aisle like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
And now you’ve heard the story of what someone did to me

And that’s what he did to me

After reading the lyrics (or listening to the song), it may come as no surprise that Doris Day was more known as an Animal Welfare Activist than a Women’s Rights one. I make no digs at Ms. Day, as she was a pretty stellar lady for her time. But it’s clear to see how this “good girl” was fully wrapped up and embraced by the patriarchal forces that still exist today (just not this overtly).

I’m not saying I don’t still listen to our 1950s playlists or get this song stuck in my head. And I’m certainly not trying to corrupt – in the words of Youtuber Gema Ibarra – “a song reflecting a beautiful innocent romance between a young man and woman.” There is certainly enough warring in the comment section – some pointing out the inappropriate stalking/uninvited stranger kiss/overall normalisation of rape culture, while others point out and try and save the wholesome and innocent virtue of the white, straight, cis-gendered romances of the 1950s. I could put my English Degree to use and go on and on about how things happen TO the heroine of the song and that she appears to be lacking any agency of her own. But I’ll save the over-analyzing for those interested in reading the comment sections. I’m way too tired for that.

Today in some ways, the sexism – through media like music – is less in your face (in other ways it’s not). It can be harder to deal with, confront and change when it is hidden. However, I am so glad that the #1 hit today doesn’t use the line, “Like a good girl should” as it did in 1952.

(Or does it? I actually stopped listening to the radio a while ago… Most of the time I think I’m just *hoping* we’re not moving backward. Keep me posted, would you?)

Question of the Month – Inclusiveness

In recent news, there has been a devastating display and promotion of exclusivity – people targeting minority groups with hate, promoting racism, and suggesting that inequality is just. This month, we tackle the question, Why are people afraid of inclusiveness and diversity? 

Kaitlyn

Why must we fear inclusion?
Why do we foster hate?
Why do we blame those oppressed
for the oppression we create?

Diversity is Canada’s strength,
but at each turn, we try and deny the Other
the same status as us at the table,
refusing to break bread together.

We chant Progress! Progress! Progress!
As we continue to work toward a future
that keeps tight reigns on the past;
Don’t rip the status quo for we can’t amend the suture!

Our verbiage gives us away as
to love becomes to tolerate
and action reduced still to a noun:
tolerance. Some claim it’s fate…

That a system built to oppress,
built to deny, to bully, to kill, to silence
is here because we worked for it fairly
and because human nature is violence.

Those differently abled, a rainbow of gender,
of skin tone, those who come to dinner
with different experiences and different voices
somehow deserve a smaller table, deserve to grow thinner.

We build a wall so we cannot hear their voices
The stories run into one another, too much the same
The problems too repetitious, too much proof
that we’re the ones to blame.

“The Problem,” we cry, “lies not with Us!”
When we are denied opportunity, justice,
we may take up the call that we have not
been provided for – trust us.

Yet, when millions of sufferers cry for help
– we have no problem pointing out,
That perhaps they have played their hand
with error, and they deserve to go without.

Or that somehow despite all the facts
that we are the ones who sit with power,
We have been screwed over by them
a visible minority, a lower class turned sour.

When we wish to exclude, the Other
suddenly has ability to control a nation.
When we cannot shoulder responsibility,
do we seek out the aberration.

It’s not the rich evading taxes through loopholes
not to mention the hidden offshore accounts.
It’s not the corporations syphoning billions
in a gluttonous attempt to heap amounts

of our resources away, keeping them inaccessible
to First Nations Peoples in a First World Country.
It can’t be the fact that we don’t earn a living wage
even though CEOs make 147 times as much as their lowest paid employee.

Our problems cannot be blamed on the fact we own too much stuff,
That we’re convinced our happiness can be bought with the newest shoes.
It’s certainly not an oil company lobbying for a 21st century genocide
all in the name of profit – but now I just sing the blues.

We would far prefer to blame the women
who won’t cooperate in being likable.
Or the people of colour demanding that
their lives could possibly matter.

Our fear is distilled to visible minorities
with NO. VISIBLE. POWER.
When they dare share their voices,
we feel threatened and cower.

When what we should do is
learn about FEAR.
Where does it come from,
and why don’t I know what’s really going on here?

We should learn about solutions to poverty,
to homelessness, to sexism and racism.
We should have the education we claim to hold,
we should move from ignorance to activism.

Stop the useless fear and worry,
open your hearts to love.
Learn about all Others
Inclusiveness here and now, not below above.

Ones Without Power will not take your job,
They’re not out to take your material possessions,
They won’t ransack your house or even kill you.
Disregard those false impressions!

If you have to rage at all, direct your anger
with more meaning.
Look at who really controls your life
Change the false belief to which you’re leaning.

Have courage to change the world.
Be inclusive and be kind.
Hard to believe as it is,
It starts with changing your mind.

Find peace in your own home.
Love your fellow human being.
You need not fear inclusiveness.
Leave fear behind – it’s freeing.

A Journey in Grateful Leadership

What’s the deal with Leadership?

Usually at this time of year, we love to speak to thankfulness, its importance, and especially for the things we are grateful for in life. I look forward to broadening that theme to include Leadership, specifically Grateful Leadership, and how I use it to define my personal Leadership Style.

diplomatic-leader

When most people begin to speak to Leadership, they first define it. Although to a degree we all know what Leadership is and what it means, it’s clear that definition is broad and expansive as this list proves.

My favourite way to define Leadership is to talk about what it’s not:

  • It’s not managing
  • It’s not telling other people what to do
  • It’s not using people as resources to accomplish a personal goal
  • It’s not about control

People follow Managers (and other authority figures) because they must. People follow Leaders because they choose to. Leaders have the ability to influence and inspire people to take action.

Whenever I’ve read a definition of leadership or attended a management workshop, I found I had a very “well, duh!” attitude to most topics covered. It seemed that management and leadership were so straight forward that you could simply use common sense to wield power and get positive results.

After a few workshops, I realized that something that came naturally to me, did not necessarily come natural to others. Even more so, I excelled in expressing gratitude where others did not realize that was even an important thing to do.

What is Grateful Leadership?

Grateful Leadership comes down to the most obvious thing: gratitude.

Grateful Leadership means acknowledging people in an authentic and heartfelt manner. It means saying thank you. It means being specific in your praise. It means knowing and understanding what drives and motivates people. It means understanding what others appreciate.

Grateful Leadership is often categorized as having a genuine interest in what people have to say. This means you are motivated to truly understand others, what motivates them and how you can change your approach to respect their personal work style.

It also means having a genuine appreciation for the people you’re working with.

Finally, as a Grateful Leader, you do not view people just a resource to get a job done. You don’t take advantage of what people can offer, and you don’t manipulate them. You are honest-to-goodness thankful for their support! You don’t view people as interchangeable; rather, you appreciate what an individual has to offer that another cannot.

Why is it important?

Feeling appreciated is a need that most people have. And it’s hard for people to express when that need is not being met. Firstly, we may not recognize that this is a need or that it’s not being fulfilled. Just because we leave work or another commitment feeling grumpy, tired and drained, doesn’t mean we can automatically pinpoint that it’s because of not being appreciated or thanked – especially when this starts happening over a period of time. Secondly, just because we have identified that a need is not being met, does not mean it’s easy to communicate that.

As Laura Trice points out in her TED Talk on The Power of Saying Thank You, we don’t tell other people our needs, because they come from our vulnerabilities. We would be sharing information that is intimate, personal and puts us in a vulnerable position. Is someone likely going to share that vulnerability with their boss? Before trust has been established?

Why should you care about being a Grateful Leader?

The two most important things, in my humble opinion, when working on a team are: Trust & Communication.

Without tust, communication suffers. Without communication, there is no trust. These two items hinge heavily on each other. Once trust is gone from a team, it can be nearly impossible to get back.

Expressing sincere and honest appreciation for someone’s work is a great building block for both trust and communication. Valuing someone as an individual – and not just a tool to complete a job – can influence them to dramatically increase their productivity and engagement. It shows that you’re paying attention as leader and taking note of individual contributions. It’s also a way to get to know your peers and colleagues and understand them better.

How do you express Thanks?

It’s important to be specific and sincere in your appreciation. Compare the two examples below:

  • 1: “Everyone did a great job last week – thanks for your hard work completing that project!”
  • 2: “I want to thank everyone on this team for coming together to complete the project we were working on. Tammy, you stayed late and even missed your son’s soccer game to get this done! Bill, you put in extra effort to ensure the final draft didn’t have any errors. Rebecca actually drove the final copy to our partners instead of having it mailed. Your work is really appreciated!”

Ex. 1 seems nice at first glance. But imagine if you received this over and over again. What about your specific contributions to the team? What was great about the project? After all, it wasn’t a smooth process getting it completed. And now it sounds like we’re ready to rush into the next one.

Ex. 2 delves into specifics. The communicator has highlighted the different contributions of individuals on the team, acknowledged sacrifices they may have made, and shared appreciation of their ability to work together. Bill knows his proofing skills are valued, Tammy knows that making a personal sacrifice was noticed, and Rebecca is recognized for doing something outside the norm – even if it was her job to do so.

There are also a ton of other great examples on how to show appreciation here, here and here.

Why do I care so much about Grateful Leadership?

I worked in an organization where I constantly felt undervalued for my work, where none of my extra efforts were noticed, or – my favourite – when I did something above and beyond my role not only was it not noted, sometimes it was “punished.”

I now take even more care to make someone feel appreciated. It felt as though my former boss ruled under a “No Thank You” policy! If you did the work in your job description, you weren’t thanked because it is expected. And if you went above and beyond, you weren’t thanked, because no one asked you to, so why should that be appreciated?

That kind of mentality really wears a person down. That mentality is one that no person with “common sense” should ever develop. However, no matter our leadership style, there is always room for more gratefulness. It’s not just the horror-story managers that are lacking in their gratitude. We can all improve.

It costs nothing, and means everything.

A Million Little Yeses

Have you heard of Harambe? If you haven’t, you may be one of the few who has resisted Facebook or internet sensationalism in general this past week. Harambe is the 400lb gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo who was killed after a child “fell” into his enclosure. What has stirred such controversy is that “the internet” is looking for someone to blame: the zookeepers for being too hasty in their shot? The zoo for not having a proper enclosure? Or the mom of the boy, Michelle Gregg, for not keeping an eye on him. Continue reading

Starting a New Holiday Tradition

There is just something magical about this time of year. For most people, holidays are
wonderful! Whether you’re a teenager still benefiting from the joys of opening presents, a young adult just starting out on your own, a young family creating new memories, or a group that has been celebrating your same favourite traditions year after year. One thing that stands important for folks around the holidays is that very thing: tradition.

When I did a bit of research on holiday
traditions, one event was missing from many lists: volunteering. And I don’t call it “helping the needy” or use that language for a reason. Not only does using phrasing like “the poor” or “the unfortunate” lump a whole population of people together – who are each unique individuals with hopes and dreams and stories – it also creates the illusion that “these people” are somehow essentially different from “us.” They’re not. Continue reading

A Generation’s Greatest Gift to the Next…

I am Gen Y, part of the millennial generation (1981-1997): hate to be sold to, don’t look to acquire ‘stuff,’ can self-organize peers for grassroots activism, trust friends first and parents second, seek ethical business practices and value customization. My mother is between Baby Boomer and Gen X (early 60s to early 80s): educated, active, balanced, happy & family oriented. My cousins, ten years younger, are part of the next generation Z (2000+): “the internet generation.”

There is some dispute as to where some generations begin and end. Some would consider my cousins part of the millennials, but as someone raised in the 90s not having access to internet that did not tie up your phone lines or a personal laptop until I went away to university, I can’t help but think I come from a prior generation. I have watched my younger cousins own everything from Netbooks to cell phones to iPads to laptops in their 15 years – more than my whole family has owned in 54 years – I am led to believe there are some generational differences. In fact, we speak a whole different language – mine is not on fleek.

But it is not our differences I am promoting. It is the gifts that generations can share.  While there are certainly notable variances between generations – our use of technology, our expectance of ethical practices, our acceptance of abhorrent practices, our political views, our work ethic, our education – I think there needs to be more focus on our similarities. Sure, it is of great importance that employers to take note of the differences between generations when it comes to employee engagement and interests, but what do people need to best interact with each other?

Love.

Alright, that does seem super hippy and oversimplified or maybe too big a request…but let me break it down for you. When I suggest that this generation should love the next, what I mean is that they deserve respect, kindness, empathy, guidance and acceptance. What each generation has in common is the previous generation saying: “Things weren’t like this in my day,” or “You guys have it so easy with technology…”  A simple dismissal of the current reality, no empathy, no Leadership, no love.

Question of the Month – Remembrances

In November, our theme for the blog is

Remembrance and Change

Blogger Kaitlyn starts us off by answering the question of the month:

What do we take away from our remembrances? How do we create change/growth and pass on the knowledge?

As I’m driving to work, I’m thinking about what my day has in store for me, drafting To-Do Lists in my mind. As I’m sitting at my desk, I think about what I’m going to have for dinner, the chores I’ll do this evening. As I try to fall asleep at night, my mind drifts to what bills are coming up, birthdays, and other future concerns. So often, I find myself thinking about what’s in store I hardly keep my mind in the present moment. How much enjoyment is lost by worrying about the future?

Moreover, how much am I forgetting by not thinking about the past? How much am I re-learning because I haven’t remembered my mistakes? As a society, are we too busy thinking about the present and future in terms of profits, growth, commercialisation and sensationalized holidays, education, employment and war? What are we missing by not spending more time reflecting?

The month of November is typically characterized by

“Remembrance” – specifically the 
remembrance
of the many men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We justify much of our current existence and actions by those who fought for our freedom. Yet, we seem to devote so little time to remembering what this means. We seem to spend so little time remembering the details of the past, how the situations came to be, and what it really means for our future. How can we keep this month from simply being a token resounding in hollow meaning? How important is remembering in our daily lives?

It is so important to reflect upon history. Men and women have fought for more than our freedom. They have fought for liberties that extend far past our simple existence: they fought for technological advancement, women’s education, civil rights, fair laws, minimum wage, unions and equality. It is so important to remember what we have, when we earned it, how things came to be. We must remember so we can compare a difficult and unjust past to a hopeful and changing future. Why are we finding ourselves still existing in these same struggles, fighting for similar things to what has already been granted? We must learn from our reflections and continue to move forward, changing, growing in a positive way.

We continue to harm the earth, and blame our parents. We continue to extract the livelihood of minimum wage workers, and blame the greed of large corporations. We continue to wait for someone else to clean up the mess we make.

It is time to remember that history was created by everyday people who tired of living in an unjust world. It is time to remember that it was average citizens who stood up for their neighbours and demanded change. It is time to pass on strength to our children by not only teaching hollow lessons of the past, but by living in a way that honours the truth and knowledge we have for our future from what we’ve learned.

There is no point in worrying over the To-Do Lists of tomorrow if you are not taking into account what has been accomplished yesterday. This month, take time to reflect on the amazing sacrifices made by men and women of past generations, but be prepared to learn, teach your children, and make the same sacrifices for your generation and the next. Our world demands change – let’s make it positive. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes because we refused to remember.