NOTE: This guest post is by Leslie Peterson, one of Adobe’s Student Scholarship winners for the 2014 3% Conference
Guest blogger Leslie Peterson (left) presents her portfolio at the 3% Conference Student portfolio review
I was walking down 34th street, looking to catch a train back to Jersey when the e-mail arrived saying we’d won. A month earlier, a friend and I entered a poster contest
, hoping to win a scholarship and tickets to the 3% Conference
in San Francisco, courtesy of Adobe.
The conference is about women championing causes, speaking out, and making strides in advertising, a traditionally male-centric industry. In short, it’s a distinctly feminist affair. When I stood back and realized this, I groaned inwardly a little bit.
I don’t think of myself as a feminist. Most “feminism” I see these days comes from a small, but vocal, subset of writers claiming to be the “true” 3rd Wave feminists. They huddle in the warm, life-giving glow of their computer screens, fingers eagerly clicking away writing post after post for their terribly designed blogs about how men oppress them daily in the most trivial of ways. They make mountains out of molehills, and complain of all the issues women face while expecting the problem to fix itself because it’s been “called out.”
A man smiles at you? Oppression. A man holds the door for you? Oppression. A man spreads his legs when he sits on the subway? Go ahead, take a guess.
I like to call this subset Tumblr Feminism, and it has all but turned me off from championing female rights completely. Why should I be a feminist if it means affiliating with people who enjoy “bathing in male tears,” and believe misandry should be the way of the future? That men are brutish dolts who serve no other purpose but to breed? But hey, with the way cloning technology is coming along, we might not even need them for that anymore, am I right ladies?
It hurts, because in my mind, that’s not what the idea of feminism is. Equality entails that men and women are on the same footing, not that it’s time for women to rise and crush their male counterparts under pink stilettos. I sometimes weep for what feminism has become, because too often it comes across as vapid, facetious, and asinine.
This was the mentality I took with me to the conference; a very skeptical, yet open-minded interest into women’s issues.
What I found at the conference was something different and refreshing. The speakers were not only all well informed and realistic about their expectations of men, but they were keen to discuss the responsibilities women need to take on if real change is to happen. Kat Gordon, CEO and founder of the 3% Conference, mentioned in her opening statement that, “everything begins as an invention, therefore everything can be reinvented.” How true those words rang, as it felt like the way we handle women’s issues was being reinvented before my very eyes.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the conference for me happened at the very beginning with filmmaker Dyllan McGee’s passion project, MAKERS. With over 2500 interviews of prominent women in various fields, every story I saw was a story of change. The interviews proved what I had always known to be true: change doesn’t happen by complaining, it happens through action.
In fact, actionable change was a prevalent theme throughout the conference, whether it was a panel on gaining respect from male coworkers, or a discussion on what agencies can do about Super bowl commercials still catering mostly to men, even though more women than ever are tuning in. We were discussing practical solutions to practical problems in ways I never imagined.
Poster created by Leslie Anne Peterson and Malika Reid
Every day women make strides toward closing the gap between them and their male counterparts, and not because they whined on their blogs about how the world constantly victimizes them, but because they work hard and treat the other side with understanding and respect. The American workforce has become significantly less oppressive toward women. In fact, John Gerzema, coauthor of the Athena Doctrine contends that the essence of a leader is more female-like, and that “we’re on the cusp of a feminine age”. Be that as it may, one must cultivate both masculine and feminine traits in order to be an effective leader.
The second day of the conference focused on self-improvement, because, believe it or not, most women don’t always want to be defined by how oppressed they are. Todd Henry, founder of Accidental Creative and author of Die Empty suggests that structuring one’s time by design is the only way to combat oppressive force. It’s important to allocate our time into projects that will both pay off immediately, as well as in the long term. Investing time in a passion or hobby, even if it doesn’t seem like we’re really doing anything, can have unexpected far-reaching benefits.
Coming away from it all, I couldn’t help but be impressed with both the 3% Conference and Adobe. They were nothing but wonderful, considerate sponsors to me and all the other student scholars. The experience definitely gave me a new perspective on what it means to be feminist. The world is a different place than what Tumblr feminists make it out to be in their “safe spaces” of the blogosphere. It’s not just women who are ostracized for not following an expected gender norm, and in fact, the gender gap has narrowed and even switched in the last few years. Women have a responsibility to take action for their causes, and not just think men will magically fix the broken system because women complained enough. It’s said that the hardest rules to break are the unwritten ones, but these rules on what women should be are going out of style fast.
I still wouldn’t say I’m a feminist, but if this is what being pro-women is about, I guess I can live with that.