I want to share with you two conversations I have had in the last week with two wonderful men.The first was with my running coach.
We have been working together for a few weeks, so the relationship is going fairly well. We get on well, he pushes me, and listens to me, and we have a great laugh together.
During a running drill, he said to me, “For this next sprint, think about pushing your tits out!”
At that moment, I suddenly felt the dynamic of the relationship shift; I suddenly felt like an object, and it was not a pleasant feeling.
My brain fuzzed over while I looked at him, nodding, pretending I was listening to what he was saying, but wondering if I should say something and how I would say it.
Luckily, I had a 100m sprint to work it out.
When I got to the other end of the sprint, I decided I would say something, and I knew I had to say it in a way that would not shame him or make him defensive because none of us will listen if we feel we are being attacked.
As I did another sprint back, I was all over the place, which he pointed out as I arrived at where he was standing.
“Yes. I was; I was thinking. I would prefer it if you said ‘chest’ because we are no longer in the 1940’s.”
He looked at me and said, “I get it. I deeply apologise.”
There was nothing else to be said.
A wonderful man, using language he has grown up with, that he probably believed was just a way of saying something.
The next conversation was with my guitar teacher.
We were looking at some music sheets he had put together for beginners like me.
“So, we have David Bowie, Paul Kelly, Bob Marley, Bruno Mars, Bob Dylan…….”
“Why are they all men?” I asked
I may have said this a little accusatorily, because he replied with an awkward laugh, “I am not a sexist.”
I knew I needed to expand my observation and my question.
“I noticed all the musicians are men. I like Bruno Marz (no judgements please I love a good pop song) and Bob, but none of the other guys resonate with me at all. I know they are great musicians, and gender is only a small factor when it comes to musical taste, but if young girls only see ‘the men’ as the best, how can they ever believe that they can be?”
“I never thought of that,” he said, “but to be honest, it is many of my younger female students that have chosen the music in this folder; they love Bruno!”
The sad thing is, I could not name any famous female guitarist apart from the one that played for Michael Jackson, but to my shame, I do not know her name (he did – Orianthi Panagaris), whereas his favourite guitarist is female.
“I am going to add some female musicians to the folder”, he said.
As I left with my week’s practice schedule, I said, “Well, I’ve got some homework to do.”
He replied, “So have I Kemi. Thank you.”
I’ll admit it was an awkward conversation; it didn’t flow. I felt like I made him feel judged, which was not my intention at all, but these are our opportunities to have mini-conversations for change.
They will not all be easy. They will not all make a difference over there with the person you’re speaking to. But the fact that you said, “This is not okay” or “I am uncomfortable” or “I don’t feel seen” will make a difference to you, I promise.
And of course, there will be times when we will say nothing. We will freeze. We will laugh it off. We will spend sleepless nights, thinking about what we coulda, woulda, shoulda done.
That’s okay too.
In case you are interested a video – Top 10 female guitarists of all time.
NOTE: Please ignore the line where the female presenter says – “They are known for possessing ‘some skill’ on the instrument!” #alongwaytogo
Wishing you a weekend filled with possibility. xxx