Sunday, January 22, 2017

And Then There Was Hope

Saturday morning I woke up with a Trump Inauguration hangover.  It was brutal.  His inauguration speech was another campaign speech leaving me thinking, "Dude, you won, we got it.  Bring us together and do something!"  I woke up the next morning with no hope and a hunker down mentality.  

Last night I started seeing the first of the Women's March posts coming through on Facebook.  I talked to my sister and other women who were marching on my side of the world, in Nairobi, Lilongwe, Munich, Heidelberg.  I quickly saw, this wasn't a US issue, this was a worldwide issue.  Women are just sick and tired of being taking for granted, paid less, passed over more and simply not afforded the same rights as a man, especially a white man.

This morning I woke up and scrolled through Twitter and Facebook, read the NY Times and never felt such pride and joy in being a woman.  Sisters around the world you ROCK!  

I've said since that first morning when I kicked the dog bowl across my front lawn in anger over the election results, that there must be something good that will come of all this hate, lies and misogynist behavior from the person who now holds the highest office in our country.  

Yesterday all over the world was the result.

Don't poke the leopard or we'll march and show the world exactly what we think and feel.

Vienna, Austria

Munich, Germany

What really shocked me was how many women worldwide were marching.  I never felt to loved, understand and proud to be a woman.  It was a worldwide solidarity.  I saw a meme on Facebook which said:

Obviously, the entire meaning and show of solidarity was lost on this person.  If this was about not getting our way why were women from Africa to Asia to Europe to South and North America marching?  They have no skin in our game, yet they relate.  I would also strongly disagree with the "when human rights have been violated" phrase.  As a woman I dare any woman to say she has never been dismissed, passed over for a position, made less money for the same or better work, been grabbed, groped, harassed or just made to feel "less than".  

I used to scoff at the word feminist.  I didn't want to be "that" feminist.  So, I kept my mouth shut.  In actuality, the definition of the word feminist is someone who supports feminism which is the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of equality of the sexes.  (Thank you google dictionary).  I should have read that years ago.

I think for me, I reached an accumulation point, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back point.  I wish I would have been more vocal over the years.  Instead, I simply laughed it off and went back to work.  In reality I should have called it what it was, inequality of the sexes.

When I was in my early 20's and running several Subway stores with husband #1 we went to a area wide meeting to vote on choosing a new food vendor for all the stores in the region.  At that time we had 3 or 4, one of the few with multiple locations and thereby with more voting power.  The sales rep trying to close the deal was this short, overly buff (too much gym time) guy who simply looked right through me.  He had his Barbie doll wife who was very nice, however, completely clueless about why she was even there.  He kept trying to surf me off to his wife when I was asking him questions about delivery schedules, rebate pricing, everything I needed to know to make an informed decision.  Every time I asked a question, he turned to Mark and answered it.  Then he would ask him something.  I kept looking at Mark with a "WTH?? is this really happening look".  

Mark finally looks him straight in the eye and says, I don't handle any of this, if you want our business you need to deal with Kim and walked away.  Awkward....

As a young woman in business I dealt with employees over the years, men, who wouldn't listen to me.  When I finally would have to let them go, they would go running to Mark to have him reconsider.  Luckily Mark did not play that game.

As the years progressed and I either owned my own business or worked in sales I would experience the most inane conversations or be directly verbally or physically harassed.  And I took it.  Why?  I'm a strong woman why didn't I stand up?  Because in the end, I knew it was a man's world.  I needed the sale, the job, the money so I just "laughed" it off and went to work.

Some of my all time tragic moments....

When sales reps would come into our businesses and ask for my husband.

When being sold a car or a major item, "why don't you bring your husband in and maybe he can help you decide".  Apparently because I did not have decision making capabilities due to having girl bits?

"You got sales rookie of the year?  How many reps and customers did you have to sleep with or blow?"  I kid you not a man I worked with said this to me.

My strip club customer (yes, they sell food) in Vegas, "If this food gig doesn't work out you can always work here."  Eye roll....

My boss when I asked to see him...."Well, it's Friday, we're at the strip club, come on down and we can talk."  Seriously?

A chef, when he found out he'd been sent the wrong french fries, whips the 5# bag of fries at my head in the kitchen and yells, "I told you I didn't want these F(*&ing fries, are you F(*&ing stupid bitch."  Mind you, I had placed the order correctly.  The order picker in the warehouse (man) or the driver (man) made the error.  I did call my boss and gave away the account.  I gave away an account that made me a couple hundred dollars a week because HE was harassing ME.

I had an employer (man) and his board (3 other men) decide they were going to cut my pay by 1/3rd in the middle of the month without telling me while I was working in Rwanda.  I politely told them if they did not pay me the full month I would enforce the contract.  If they wanted to renegotiate the contract with me they were welcome but I was not taking a pay cut.  In the email back I was told I was being "terse".

I had a male client while working in Kenya who was awaiting a delivery of bikes.  After we won the tender we had a window in which to deliver the bikes.  My predecessor, a man, had just left the country as he had been promoted stateside with the same company.  The client did everything in his power to make sure I did not meet the delivery window.  My shipment was late from the factory, the truck was in an accident on the way from the port and spent a night on the side of the road in the middle of Kenya.  It broke down outside of Nairobi on its way to my warehouse, then there was an attempted high jacking.  Every day I called the client and every day he told me with almost glee in his voice that I would not make the delivery date.  The bikes got to the warehouse.  My staff worked a week of 24 hour shifts assembled the bikes and started delivering them.  The client tried to stop delivery by giving us impossible time frames (between 1 and 2 on the 2nd Thursday of the month).  The day the last bike was delivered I called to tell him.  It was the day before the deadline.  You would have thought I stabbed is kitten.  I have never had a man work so hard to sabotage me.

I'm the only woman running a national cycling team on the continent of Africa (54 countries).  Just imagine....the ONLY woman....

So, this is why I'm speaking up.  I've fought for abused kids in the US for years.  I've fought for my riders.  Now, it's time to fight for all the women like me who have been silent way too long.  I really, mentally, tried to explain it away, that it really wasn't what I was experiencing.  I cannot anymore.  

I want to thank all the awesome MEN out there who marched alongside women and stood up for my sisters.  There are amazing men who I feel get lumped into the smaller minority of really bad guys.  My dad is one of those men.  I remember him teaching me how to drive a manual transmission when I was 16.  I had an automatic car and asked him why I needed to learn to drive a manual.

"Because, someday you're going to be somewhere and you will need to get home by yourself and the only car will be a manual transmission."

A few years later I drove my drunk, passed out boyfriend home from a party at KU.  I had to leave because his "friend" thought that since my boyfriend was passed out it would be okay to "take over" for my boyfriend.  I hightailed it out of there.  Thank you dad!

Husband #2 has apologized for experiences he has witnessed with other men who showed blatant disregard for my work and me.  That shouldn't be his job.  But I'm glad he sees it.

So, part of the work I will be doing in the future will be with women, women who ride, race, love the sport of cycling up and down the chain from recreational rider to a management role helping dictate policy and funding for women's programs on the continent.  

And years ago, many years ago, I almost ran for the Missouri house seat vacated by my friend's father whom I highly respected.  He endorsed me and then I moved to Las Vegas and here I am in Rwanda 16 years later.  When I'm back in the US I want to get involved representing people as someone who cares and not someone just trying to keep a job in politics.  

The change starts here and now.  Please women, don't let up, don't take it anymore, fight for it otherwise, this entire sad election will have been for naught.

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