Despite the advances in women’s rights that we have enjoyed over the past decades, many women in business are still figuring out a way to break free from the patriarchy that still plagues the business community today. In this pilot episode of Feminist Visionaries, I introduce the concept of the feminist visionary and share my journey in business and feminism and why I decided to start the podcast.
Coming from a conservative background I am all too familiar with the mental cage women put themselves in as a product of their culture and upbringing. My mission is to maximize my impact on the world, and this podcast is my way of generating conversations in areas where feminism and business overlap.
Listen to the podcast here:
What Feminism Means To Me
Ask someone if they identify as a feminist and you’ll either hear a rallying war cry or an insulted, “Absolutely not.” Whether you identify as a feminist or not, feminists are here. We’re tired of the status quo and we’re ready to show up differently in the world. We’re going to explore what a feminist visionary is, why women deserve a seat at the table, and how we can use the core values of feminism to change the world of business.
I am looking forward to this episode’s topic because starting this show has been on my heart and mind for a while. This show is born from a pivot in my business. I am an online business strategist and I own an operations management agency. We’ve made a couple of pivots and this show came about as part of many conversations to do with all of that.
Starting this show takes a lot of courage because my business is built on being the person who’s good at thriving behind the scenes. This show very much throws me into the front of the house. That’s a restaurant reference. Plus, I love a good excuse to talk about feminism. I’m not going to go into the whole history of feminism in this episode. That would take forever.
The fact that feminism is defined as a theory in the dictionary is a huge clue as to why we even need it in the first place. Click To Tweet
I’m going to save that for future episodes, but I do want to start with a definition of feminism, and Merriam-Webster has two. They are the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes and organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. The fact that feminism is defined as a theory in the dictionary is a huge clue as to why we even need it in the first place.
How I Came To Be A Feminist
For a quick background on me, I was raised in an all-white Southern Republican family. I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be noticed. I wanted everyone to like me and approve of me. I didn’t want to be out of place. Because of that, I never questioned the beliefs of my family and the people around me. In fact, in an effort to fit in, I generally repeated whatever they said as gospel, which isn’t very helpful in learning or exploring new ideas.
My environment didn’t set me up for a lot of feminist’s success. I remember, because of something my mom said, that my family had this intense dislike for Nancy Pelosi, which I don’t understand. I couldn’t even tell you why they have this intense dislike of Nancy Pelosi, but they do still to this day. It wasn’t an environment in which different opinions could thrive.
Even my family who all pretty much agreed with each other, as they’re all Republicans, I remember politics being brought up at family dinners or whatever and they will end up in shouting matches over the tiniest bit of difference in doctrine or opinion. It wasn’t an environment where you wanted to speak up, be noticed and be different.
When I was younger, I didn’t do any of that. I was introduced to feminism in 2015. I say introduced in the fact that it wasn’t finally a derogatory term. I was introduced by my friend, Caoimhe. Shout out to her because bless her during this whole transition where I was figuring everything out and asking lots of questions, a lot of them are stupid questions about questions nonetheless.
She was so patient with me and I appreciate that she put that amount of emotional labor into patiently educating me in the way that she did. I definitely think she was a huge part of how I have become the person I am because she asked me a lot of hard questions and was willing to go there with me. Through talking with her, she opened up this whole new perspective that I had never experienced myself because she and I grew up so differently.
A lot of our conversations were heard as asking me hard questions and me regurgitating those Southern Republican talking points I’d grown up with, but never had been forced to think about critically. We had those kinds of conversations over and over again until it finally sunk into my brain that maybe this way of thinking doesn’t make any sense and it’s okay if I examine this critically and come to my own conclusions.
I remember one conversation we had about an episode of The West Wing. She watches it every year and she sucked me into watching it with her too. There’s an episode in there about the Equal Rights Amendment, and there’s a character on the show in this particular season. They call her Republican Barbie. She’s this younger, white, blonde, Republican. She makes a comment in one of the episodes where they’re talking about the Equal Rights Amendment where she’s like, “Women are doing fine. We don’t need a whole lot to tell us that we’re equal.”
I think she says in one of the episodes where this is the main focal point that it’s insulting that she would need a law to tell her that she’s equal to any man. This was a huge jumping-off point conversation for us because I agree with the Republican Barbie and I was like, “See, we’re doing fine. We don’t need a bill to tell us that we’re equal. We don’t need a law to tell us that we’re equal to men. It’s fine.”
Caoimhe was like, “We needed laws for owning property, to be able to vote, serve on juries and open a checking account at the bank without our husband’s name on it.” To point it out, that’s a law that is as recent as the ‘70s. It hasn’t been that long ago that women were able to open their own checking accounts without their husbands there.
I would hit back with something like, “We’ve come a long way,” which is a cringe-worthy statement to me now as if any amount of progress is an excuse to not continue to make more progress. She would very calmly tell me, “That’s great, but we have a long way to go.” These conversations didn’t feel meaningful at the time. They felt frustrating, annoying, and cumbersome but overall, they did help me think critically.
I remember another conversation we had. This is probably one of the big ones. This was around 2015, 2016. This was when breastfeeding in public was becoming a big movement. Whether I had a problem with breastfeeding in public, I honestly don’t even remember if I had a reason why. I don’t think I had a reason why for many of the things that I believed back then, but I was deeply offended by women’s boobs for some reason. I would say things like, “It’s not hard for women to cover up.” It’s repeating what I’d grown up with.
This is honestly probably because we’ve been taught in society that women’s sexuality equals bad. We’ve sexualized women’s breasts so much that if sexual equals bad and women’s breasts are out, then that must mean they’re being sexual in public. That’s not okay and that makes us uncomfortable.
She would repeat over and over every time I would say something like that, “The only reason we’re uncomfortable with breastfeeding is because we sexualized a part of a female body that’s biologically made for nourishing offspring. Literally, all a boob is for,” and the patience with which she would explain all this to me was mind-blowing.
I have these conversations now with people and I know that I get frustrated. I can only imagine how frustrated she was responding to the incredibly ignorant things that I would say during these conversations.
The most effective question she ever asked me during these conversations was, “Why?” I would say something and she’s like, “Why is that true? Why do you believe that?” That’s a very effective question during conversations like this because it demands that you think about your belief.
If you’re asked to justify something, you have to think about all the different facets of it. That’s such an amazing tool to use to confront somebody who’s saying something, and then to try to understand. Both for you to try to understand and for them to try to understand. By doing this, she challenged my beliefs and put me on this journey of learning all about myself and everything else.
Through the course of these years, it allowed me to do a lot of my own growth, research, thinking, and figure out where it is that I want to fall off a spectrum which is how we ended up at this show.
You can't create real change until more people believe that change is necessary. Click To Tweet
I’ve been in business since 2015. That’s when I moved in with my friend. I moved from Virginia to Michigan. I started out as a virtual assistant and then I fell in love with Pinterest and became a Pinterest specialist. I made the move to online business management in mid to late 2017 and then I got certified as an Online Business Manager in 2018. In 2019, I made the up-level into Business Strategist because that’s where my main genius is, strategizing things out.
With every pivot, I moved closer to wanting to find meaning in what I was doing. I’ve met a lot of women in business who consider themselves a feminist and I wanted to serve that community in a bigger way. In 2019, I made the decision to serve a type of business owner rather than a type of business. Everybody has their ideal client avatar, but once you figure out your ideal client, you tend to work in a specific niche. You’ll work specifically with coaches or even niche down further and work with health coaches.
If you’ve been in online business for any length of time, you’ll know that there’s a whole ideal client niche conversation that’s always happening in those circles. When I was like, “We can serve anyone as long as they meet a certain criteria of their own personal ideals, and how they’re bringing those ideals to the table in their business, then we can serve you.”
Ultimately, my mission as a human in this lifetime is to increase the amount of my impact on the world. I know that I am able to step up and do that through serving our clients who are also interested in making an impact in their communities. That’s something I’m incredibly passionate about.
Operating my business in this way allows me to make a bigger impact by supporting women who are also passionate about making an impact. Making that pivot was a little bit scary for me because I didn’t know if it could be done. I didn’t know if it was a smart business move. I had a lot of conversations with my business coach about it. She kept encouraging me like, “If it feels right, then you need to do it.” So here we are.
Making Impactful Conversations
After that, I started toying with the idea of this show. I heard nothing but good things about it and when I started doing research on other podcasts online, I admit that most of the podcasts I listen to personally are true crime and not a ton of business podcasts. I was doing a lot of research to see if there were other people out there having conversations in this space. I couldn’t find any.
I found a couple of people who were saying that they identify as feminists, but their conversations on their podcasts were giving business advice. I think those podcasts are great. I’ve listened to many of those episodes now, but no one was having conversations that I want to be having, which is how the patriarchy is showing up in business online. How we can combat that and what are some things that we can do to shift the world of online business so that we’re working from a better framework?
I’ve been sexually assaulted. I’ve been mansplained to. I’ve been told to smile more and called a bitch. I know far too many women who have experienced the same thing. All of this has certainly played into how I approach my own views of feminism. The reason I wanted to start this show is because you can’t create real change until more people believe that change is necessary.
I know that minds can be changed because my mind was changed. I’m forever grateful that someone took the time to educate me so that I have the opportunity to challenge my beliefs and change my mind. That’s what I want to use this podcast as a platform to do. I want to have these conversations so that I can change people’s minds. I want to have more conversations like the ones that helped me change my mind and shape my own views.
We’re also entrenched in the idea that we can’t change minds, and I’m living proof that we can. It is amazing that we can change people’s minds. I’m not saying that you need to get into keyboard shouting matches with people online who aren’t interested in a discourse, a back and forth conversation. However, if you find people who are interested, you wouldn’t know until you ask anyone and when do, then you find yourself in a position to help and potentially educate someone into understanding your point of view.
If not, at least to think critically about the beliefs that they’re already holding. I also want to make sure that I’m not existing in a vacuum of voices that agree with me. As long as you’re not being a jerk or saying things that are ultimately harmful to people on a broad scale, then I’m all in with having a conversation with you if we politely disagree. That’s fine. I’m here to have these conversations about where business and feminism overlap.
The framework we have for starting businesses is so male-dominated that we’re left to figure it out on our own if we want to do things a little bit differently. Women-owned businesses are on the rise. As of 2018, there are 12.3 million women-owned businesses and women own about 40% of businesses, but we’re still making less than men. The wage gap literally still exists even when we’re setting our own prices. That’s a result ultimately of patriarchy, but in the previous years or so, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 58%. Even now, women are still slightly more likely to start a business than men.
I’m here with this podcast to have conversations that are scary, that make you think and then make you consider a different perspective. Feminism means that women deserve a seat at the table. All women, women of color, trans women, non-binary folks. Women are capable of more. We have things to say and we deserve the same rights, opportunities, and freedoms that men enjoy.
A lot of men don’t understand the privilege that they have and a lot of the things that they get to enjoy without realizing that there are other humans on this Earth who don’t get to enjoy them with them until women stand up and are like, “We want that too.” Men are like, “Why do you need that?”
I want the world to understand that women are not biologically predisposed to be homemakers, mothers, or nurturers. If that’s what you choose for yourself, great. That’s fantastic, but you’re not biologically hardwired to be a mom, a homemaker, a stay at home wife or nurturer. I literally had someone say that to me and it’s so frustrating that women are pigeonholed in this way.
The Feminist Visionary
We are going to talk about feminist visionaries on this podcast. I want you to know that if you define yourself as a feminist, as someone who wants to create a change, not just in the lives of your clients, but also in your community, if you desire to shake up the status quo, grow your business to give you the kind of time and financial freedom that allows you to create a social impact, then congratulations, welcome. You are a feminist visionary.
Visionaries do come in stages. If you’re not ready to jump in with both feet and start a foundation tomorrow. Don’t worry, you’re probably in a different stage and that’s okay. We all start somewhere, as I did in 2015.
If you’re in the beginning stages, which is what I call my little baby visionaries, this means that you know that you’re meant for more and you’re starting to build the business to match. Maybe you don’t know exactly what more looks like yet, but you know that more is out there for you, and you know that you have to figure out how to support yourself in order to get there.
Once you graduate from the baby stage, you’re more in the intermediate stage and I would compare this to being in your twenties all the time because I think it’s so accurate. You’re supporting yourself. You’re not 100% sure you have your things figured out, but you’re finally getting this adulting thing. You’re finally getting this visionary thing. You’re solidly supporting yourself and you’re ready to step it up into the next level of your business.
That takes you up into the expert visionary where your business is doing well. You’re consistently supporting yourself with your business. Now you have the income and the mental bandwidth (because starting a business and growing it initially from nothing takes a lot of mental energy). You may not necessarily have the mental energy or capacity to know what that next level looks like for you and that’s totally fine. Now that you have the bandwidth because your business is on a pretty solid foundation, you have the ability to then sit down and start to create plans on how to create that social impact. You’re finally starting to take the time to dream about starting your own foundation or starting a fund at your local university.
Feminism means that women deserve a seat at the table. Click To Tweet
There’s the final one, which is the goddess visionary. This is like you’ve hit a peak in your business and your business runs itself. You have an amazing team that’s supporting you so that you can step back even more. When you’re able to do that and step back and know that your business is effectively run without you, which should ultimately be everyone’s goal for a highly profitable business, then that’s the point at which you have plenty of literal time in your day to volunteer. To sit on the board of a foundation, open your own foundation or nonprofit, fund a local youth program, or whatever your dream thing is. Now you have the time and the resources to go and do that thing, which is amazing.
Some visionaries who have inspired me personally are Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo Movement. This movement did a lot for me. I did a lot of growth when this movement first started because I had internalized a lot of guilt for myself for my own sexual assault in college. It had been my fault. I was at a party and I was drinking. It’s not a new story, unfortunately. I found this movement to be very empowering. Not only that I could speak about my assault with friends, but also that I could rest assured at the knowledge that it wasn’t my fault and also that I wasn’t alone. It is both sad and heartening that you’re not alone in your experience. A lot of survivors of sexual assault feel very alone in that.
Another one of my favorite visionaries is Liz Plank. Shout out to her because I would love to have her on this show. I read her book called For the Love of Men. It’s an absolutely amazing perspective on how men are important to the actual achievement of feminism. In her book, which I highly suggest that you go pick up a copy and read, she discusses how we’ve given girls and women so much permission to act and exist outside of their perceived and assigned gender roles. Although, we haven’t done the same thing for boys and men.
The message at large is that it’s not okay for men to be emotional, have more feminine jobs like nursing or other feminist-leaning perspective professions like that. The conversation that she’s having around this when I first started the book, I bristled through it like, “I guess we need to focus on men again,” but the more I read the book, the more I was like, “This is good because she’s having an important conversation that makes you uncomfortable.”
If something makes you uncomfortable, it’s usually because you have some work to do around it. I thought her message in that book was amazing. It’s something we’re going to be addressing in this show, which I’m excited about.
I don’t think my friend, Caoimhe, would consider herself a visionary, but I definitely do. I’ve always admired her so much for being able to be completely, unapologetically herself even when that was deeply uncomfortable for her. I admire the courage that takes to do that.
I am beyond excited to be on this journey with you. If you’ve ever felt frustrated by those feel-good phrases that you see floating around Instagram, if you hate hustle culture, if you want to eradicate toxic positivity or if you’re passionate about smashing the patriarchy, then this show is exactly where you want to be.
We are going to be having conversations about all of that. We’re going to be exploring all those topics and more. Plus, I want to interview some amazing guests who have created movements, have changed the culture, and are building their own legacies. If you have topic suggestions, if you want to be interviewed, or if you know someone we should interview, email us at Podcast@FeministVisionaries.com. We will add you to the list or reach out as the case may be. Until next time, bye.