The Strength in Female Entrepreneurship Traits

(originally featured in Dairay: http://dairay.com/female_entrepreneur_traits/)

 

Don’t reject, but embrace your femininity. Entrepreneurship is primarily seen as a male activity, if you look at pop culture, history books, and media. However, as the world is changing, women are stepping up and beyond, and there in an increase in female entrepreneurship. In tandem with this increase is an increased interest in gender differences between skills and traits, and what makes a “successful entrepreneur”.

The myth that women entrepreneurs need to combat is that traditionally feminine traits are a detriment. Many women mistakenly feel they need to adopt “traditionally masculine traits”, such as aggressiveness, competitiveness, and independent work ethic, to be considered competent. We often feel we have a lot of prove, just by virtue of sitting “at the boys table”. We feel compelled to present ourselves as devoid of any of our feminine characteristics; we might feel the need to compensate by over-stressing certain behaviours, like interrupting or cutting others off. Often we forgo our normal responses and swap them for a “more masculine” response, thinking it will appear more credible.

However, it’s important to note that something inherent is lost when we mask the unique skills we bring: the traditionally feminine traits. Traditionally feminine characteristics such as collaboration, receptivity, patience, and showing vulnerability. While these qualities aren’t openly welcomed, they have a lot of value in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is about the relationships you build; investors, partners, the people around you are more interested in the person sitting in front of them. Practice becoming more comfortable in your authentic nature and your natural responses to situations instead of pushing them aside for their “masculine” counterpart — and make that narrative your brand. The most compelling thing an entrepreneur and a leader brings to the table is their own personal brand.

Adopting forced characteristics that don’t truly belong to you will dilute your message and eventually drain you. There is a great value to the inherent skills and capacities in the gender differences, and in incorporating both ends of the spectrum as the situation requires. Effective leadership is successful when you are true to your own self. Whatever table you are sitting at, never feel the need to negotiate your identity.

to all that is new york.

I read Joan Didion’s essay ‘Goodbye to all that’, I read ‘Goodbye to all that: writers on loving and leaving New York’, I tried saying my own goodbye; yet, here I am, still thinking about it. Three years later.

In ‘Goodbye to all that’, I noticed that almost all the essays start with a proclamation of a ‘starry-eyed youth’ moving to New York, or a native New Yorker describing what it was like growing up there. It is as if there are only two kinds of people: those who have spent their past imagining the life in New York and then moving there (only to leave), or the ones who are from there and need to get out.

My story is as similar and as different from these stories, as stories can be. I was not a starry-eyed youth, already in love with the idea of New York, when I arrived. I was not burnt-out and anguished when I left. I lived in New York for two years. A New York minute. Actually, I didn’t even live in New York City, I was out in one of the suburbs. Far enough not to call myself a “New Yorker”, close enough to make it there every weekend.

New York, to me, became about independence. I had never lived on my own before that. It became about being comfortable with being by myself, to spending afternoons walking around alone. It became about doing the things I didn’t like, but doing them because they are good for me. It became about being unafraid, self-sufficient, and knowing that nothing is impossible for me. It became about moving boxes and suitcases, on rainy nights; knowing that I could do it alone.  New York is where I learnt to drive on the highway and reading complex parking signs.

But it wasn’t just that. It was also where I found a different me, a liberated me. It was stepping out of my comfort zone, and realizing that I liked being out of my comfort zone. It was about hating bananas, but then falling in love with banana bread pudding. It was breaking into Bryant Park, after 2 a.m., not once but twice. Lying on the damp grass and looking up. There are places in the city where you can see the stars.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the city, it was who I became in the city  that makes me affected by its skyline. Every time I get off the plane now and drive towards the city, I watch it take shape against the sky. Every time, I am reminded of the young girl who moved there and the self-assured woman who left.

Maybe I will always stay in the process of saying goodbye.

And maybe, that is okay.

 

-e.j.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the daily battles: ungrateful or ambitious?

“what do i want out of my life?”

this is the question i ask myself, almost every day.
and every day, the answer is the same: better.

reading this you might think that perhaps my life is in dire straits, maybe i am financially unstable, maybe i have too many broken relationships, maybe i have a terminal illness and i am searching for meaning. it is none of those things; i have everything i have worked for, and many things have been given to me.  yet, i can’t shake the feeling that i need to do more and be more. 

when i tell people that, they often tell me to look at the laundry list of achievements and be grateful.   other people tell me that i am ambitious, that i should be more content and happy. my thought, in response to that, is to wonder: when did we begin to equate gratitude with complacency? When did ambitious become unhappy?

 

you can want more things, be grateful for what you have, and experience happiness, simultaneously.

in fact, you should.

-e.j.

on orientalism.

(this was originally posted on “The Belle Jar”http://bellejar.ca/2014/11/20/guest-post-on-orientalism/)

It was around 10pm on a summer night, a few years ago. I was waiting on Queen West for a friend. We were going to head out to a party like any other twenty-something on a weekend. A man approached me and asked if I worked in the ‘entertainment industry’. When I said no, he told me that I had a “really good look for this stuff”. He introduced himself as a film-producer and continued to tell me that his next project was looking for exotic, middle-eastern-looking women and that the pay would be really good (side note: I’m not middle-eastern). As I began to walk away while refusing his offer, he shoved a card into my hand and told me to think about it. I turned the card in my hands and saw that he was indeed a film-producer; he produced pornography, specializing in ‘oriental and exotic girls’. Feeling confused, my thoughts ran something like this: Am I really ‘exotic’? What does that even mean? I’d never thought of myself that way before so should I accept his comment as a compliment? Wait, or does he mean that I’m different; like a zoo animal, an ostrich amongst the crowds of pale-skinned blondes?

The idea of ‘exotic other-ness’, especially for women, exists in all areas of society where sex and sexuality are concerned. In the world of pornography, it is most visible, most at display, most lucrative. If you walk into any adult entertainment store, videos are often categorized by race and then broken down by category. A quick search online will give you the same results. Women of colour or racialized backgrounds are shown as hyper-sexualized and promiscuous. There is a sense of stereotyped fantasy based on old ideas about what a woman of that ethnicityshould be like: a black woman is ghetto and must have a “big booty”, a Latina is feisty, a South Asian must have memorized The Kama Sutra, and an East Asian is submissive yet kinky simultaneously. The plot lines, if present at all, revolve around racist imagery and situations. These fantasy generalizations also show women of colour as lusty and not having control over their desires. These are women who have to be liberated sexually and are willing to do anything. These are women who are different from the status quo, the majority of white women.

Many argue that this is just a venue for people to experience or live out their fantasies. The problem with that idea is that this is not the sexual reality of black, East Asian, South Asian, Latina or other women of colour. People who watch porn regularly argue that they recognize it is not reality, they recognize that real sex with real women is different, and that they can draw the line between sex and porn. As a woman of colour, I disagree with them. These ideas about racialized sexuality and the fantasy find their way into real-life conversations about sexuality and discussions with friends, causal hook-ups and even people you regularly have sex with. These race-specific genres of porn muddle expectations, the ones men hold of potential sexual partners as well as ethnic women themselves. It adds another layer of questioning to already present complexities women experience in asserting their sexualities. Besides thinking about what society will say about our sex lives and how our bodies look from various angles, now women of colour have to think about if they are ‘mysterious and different’ enough, if they are meeting the expectations set by porn. With so much going on, focusing on pleasure and what they want can potentially become secondary.

For the remainder of that night, I couldn’t help but wonder if every guy there saw me as ‘exotic’; that man’s thought had found its way into mine. In the years that followed, I came up against this perception more times than I appreciate. I find this frustrating because it is a fabricated element in my reality; it changes the way people experience me. Simply put, it creates an aura of objectification in every aspect of daily life. However, It’s hard to say which influences the other. Is it the seeping of porn-ideals into mainstream culture, or is it mainstream ideas finding their way into porn? I think they are two sides of the same coin. Mainstream media saturates us with objectified ideals and stereotypes of women of colour; but these ideas are limited to interpersonal, ‘regular’, or daily situations. Characters like Gloria from ‘Modern Family’, or Latika in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ speak to what life is supposed to look like for women of colour, but doesn’t really explore their sexualities. This gap is filled by the porn-industry, which provides a glimpse into what the sexual lives of these women of colour is supposed to be like. Combined, both these powerful mediums present a completely fantasized version of a woman of colour. The danger lies in the fact that when a fantasy is presented to you, already complete, it is hard to imagine it as existing otherwise.

-e.j.