In this post, I am going to explain a little about where I am at now in this journey of writing. A lot of really amazing and unexpected things have happened. There is a little voice with many writers that says, “who are you to write? why are your words important? what do you have to offer?” This voice tries to trick us into silence. The truth is, writing is a big part of how I process and understand life. It is important for me to write. Part of writing is sharing. Not everyone is going to resound to my voice or messages, that is okay. There are some who need to hear it just the way I say or present it. There are others that feel less alone or supported by shared experience. Some people also think I’m funny and need a laugh. That is why I write and why I read, to share in our mutual humanity through this medium. To connect. In this post, I will also share some of the challenging experiences and how I have learned to deal with them. I will give suggestions on how folks can support the messages and content here and beyond.
As many of my long-time followers know, I started this blog for a few reasons.
1. To keep my friends and family updated on my sailing shenanigans.
2. To practice writing and have a creative outlet.
3. To advocate for folks who feel marginalized, particularly women.
4. To sublimate my fear and rage against sexism, racism, and homophobia.
When I started I thought eight people would read my words, so it felt safe to take risks. To date, and still surprising to me, 18,400 folks have visited with 35,400 views. I have received messages from countless women saying they are grateful for the content here and can relate. I have received messages from many men saying it has helped them understand sexism and gender inequality better and helped them to create changes in their lives and sailing programs. To say the content here has been needed is a gross understatement.
When the World Sailing Trust came out with their women in sailing strategic review in December 2019, it showed the disparities and experiences of sexism in sailing clearly. I had more data to back the need for these discussions about sexism. In January 2020, Charlotte Kaufman reached out to me to join the admin team of Women Who Sail. She had a dream of her and I working together to amplify women’s voices in sailing and thought I was a good fit thanks to my blog and Women Sailor Wisdom series. Women Who Sail recently launched the official newsletter in August, of which I am the Editor in Chief. Also thanks to the blog, I received requests for coaching, training and consultation. I am very much looking forward to being the moderator of the US Sailing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion panel for women on October 14th.
All of this came about quite accidentally—I never had a brand in mind or a mission, I was just doing my thing. It’s one of those scenarios where you show up, name stuff, people find you, and the flow of things takes you where you are needed. This is not my day job; this is my creative and advocacy outlet. I like it this way because it allows me to keep my voice authentic and give fewer fucks about push back. Getting to swear more here than in my day job makes me happy.
I will always keep my online content free. I will always be thinking of weird shit to do for a laugh and upping my mad video skills. I will have swag, because farting unicorns need to be more present in the world. I have no grand sailing vlog ideas of making a living and sailing away off of this work. I donate a 10% minimum of any money I make from writing, coaching, training, and consultation to charity. In fact, I got my first writing check ever from 48 North and was thrilled to turn it around to Black Lives Matter. It is my great privilege as a highly educated white woman and the least I can do.
While the responses here and in my increasingly public role have been mostly very positive, I want to speak about some of the challenges. Specifically, I want to share some things I’ve learned from being targeted since this blog took off and I stepped into greater advocacy leadership roles. This is not about me personally, although it certainly can feel like it. This is about how women in leadership roles are treated in general.
Sexism and racism hurt everyone, and the push back experienced by folks calling it out is both blatant and predictable. In fact, these are big reasons why women do not go into leadership, or drop out of it. Not only do you get shit from men, but you get shit from other women as well. I also want to share my policies on dealing with this type of discrimination and how you can show support regardless of your gender. I want to thank the many other women in leadership who have been mentoring me and helping me figure this all out as I grow in exposure. Particularly Charlotte Kaufman and Ayme Sinclair.
1. Trolling: Sadly, this is to be expected, especially by angry white men. Hateful and threatening comments, messages, and—my favorite—a stalker, have all been part of my past year.
My policy: Delete, block, and restraining orders if needed. I have learned to take precautions against doxing and hackers and was sad I even had to think about that stuff. What these men don’t realize is that they are proving my point and just giving me more fuel for the work. That is what sublimation is, taking shit and spinning it to gold through productive action.
Solidarity and Support: If you see a woman speaking out and folks coming at her like this, report it. Say something. Have a sister’s back. Also: if you like a woman’s message take a second to click like, follow, share, or comment. Amplify her voice. Your online engagement is like a vote for the message. It’s especially cool to see men sharing feminist content and stepping in to help shift cultural norms.
2. Bullying: Most of the bullying has been in the form of gossip. This shit always somehow makes rounds and gets back to you. Sadly, it is mostly from other women, as gossip is a big part of how women bully.
My Policy: Folks: if you don’t have something constructive or kind to say, and you aren’t willing to say it to someone’s face, perhaps you shouldn’t say it at all. Except for your therapist, we all get a pass to vent there. If you have a good therapist, they will bring it back around to you anyway. I find high emotional intelligence and gossip don’t go hand in hand.
Solidarity and Support: One thing you can do here is to call this shit out. You can do it kindly. Here are examples of how:
· “It seems like you really don’t like her and what she is doing, have you considered reaching out and talking with her about it?”
· “What is it about her and her message that really triggers you here? What can you learn from that or want to change?”
· “I appreciate you wanting to vent, but this feels like gossip and I am not comfortable with that as it is part of an oppressive system. I don’t do gossip.”
· “Let’s lift women up instead of tearing them down, how can we give her constructive feedback or help lift her up?”
· “If you don’t like her, and don’t want to engage her, why don’t you just ignore her and stop giving her bandwidth. Let’s talk about something else, this is a waste of my energy and time to discuss.”
3. Judgment: Classic tactics of the gossip and trolling with women are almost always along these themes:
· She’s full of herself.
· She’s power-hungry.
· She’s shrill, loud, and opinionated.
· She’s a bitch.
· She wants attention.
· Let’s critique her appearance or style, not her message.
· She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
· She’s not qualified.
· She needs to prove herself.
· She made a small mistake; we should all focus on that instead of the rest.
· She used her looks and sexuality to get where she is.
· She is too much.
· She is not enough.
My Policy: I am always open to constructive feedback and definitely make mistakes. I am evolving and learning to do better all the time. I have no problem listening, apologizing and adjusting. I also only do this when it is coming from someone I care about, or who is being constructive and thoughtful, or is kind. Otherwise: private eye rolls and sarcasm. Nobody has time for this shit.
Solidarity and Support: I have found that besides typical sexism and bias, many times folks are trying to shoot the messenger because they don’t like the message. Steer the conversation back to what she is saying or doing, keep it on topic to the content. Most leaders are not there for themselves, they are there for the mission, keep it on topic. You also can get curious and ask, “Have you ever considered that these same complaints are lodged against most women in power?” Get a conversation going about it, maybe you can impact some growth around bias. Use some of the tactics above on gossip. Call the person in to more thoughtful dialogue.
4. Playing the Victim: Some folks take great personal offence when you point out they have said or done something racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic. In these scenarios, folks will proclaim fervently that they are not racist while also not being willing to look at why their actions are perceived that way. They have not examined their privilege or understand systems of oppression and bias, which is easily accessible online on many platforms. They take it personally and make the issue about them, ignoring the opportunity for connection and growth. They play the victim saying that you are being mean or even bullying them by calling out the hurtful or inappropriate behavior or setting a boundary. Sometimes they even take a self-righteous stance and start to loudly attempt to prove how they are not racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic—insert performative activism here. This is where a person tries to look good by posting and shouting loudly they are not racist, while clearly not understanding the real issues or doing anything about it.
My Policy: While my intention is always good, I still do fuck up. I appreciate my followers and friends who kindly call me out on it when I do—that’s how I learn and change. At the end of the day, I have to live with my own integrity, and I work hard at being congruent. A good call out is not about shaming, but more of a calling in toward learning and growth. We need more of that in the world. No one is perfect, we all have blind spots and biases. I learn something new every damn day. When folks play the victim, it is exhausting emotional work and difficult terrain. I always feel sad for these missed opportunities of connection and growth for both of us. Being seen as the bad guy by folks unwilling to examine their racism, sexism, transphobia, or homophobia is part of the work. If you want to effect change, be willing to let go of being liked by everyone, because you won’t be. Be willing to lose friends, because you will. There is a line in the sand in advocacy work, you cannot and should not be making everyone happy in your endeavors. Hopefully, you are pissing off the right people.
Solidarity and Support: You have to be discerning on when to place your efforts elsewhere because the other party is not willing or does not have the capacity to engage. Boundaries are part of this work and blocking people bringing bad faith arguments to the table is necessary. Only debate open and worthy opponents, otherwise it is a big waste of your time and a distraction from the work. That is a huge part of playing the victim, they suck your time and energy away, they take you further and further from the mission because they are deeply uncomfortable with the message.
Please folks, can you not see how unoriginal this all is? Look at any woman who has ever been in the spotlight and tell me you haven’t heard all this before or even thought it or said it yourself?? This is sexism. It is a distraction from a woman’s capacity to do a job well by focusing instead on bullshit expectations, toxic gender norms, and prejudiced bias. What would the world look like if we had a generous view of women in leadership? If we recognized they have worked hard and been through a lot of shit to get there? That maybe they genuinely care and have many things to offer? That women shouldn’t have to be perfect and are worthy of kindness as a human? What if women didn’t have to expend so much energy having to non stop prove their spot at the table? My biggest question, what if women stopped competing with and shaming other women when they feel threatened or uncomfortable? What if we stopped the mean girls shit? What if we genuinely supported one another to learn and grow even if we don’t agree? Sisters, we gotta stop fighting each other and put our efforts to the bigger issues. If not, sexism wins.
My Policy: I am not interested in tearing others down. Lift one another up or get out of the fucking way.
Overall, I wish I had more time to learn, write and volunteer. Alas, I do not. My day job as a therapist and culture change consultant and trainer are ramping up in 2020. I have been putting more effort into my writing though, and am strongly committed to this blog. In the past few months, I have hired an amazing editor, Kaitlyn Hatch, who is a buddhadharma and social justice sibling of mine, and a dear friend and cheerleader. I am already learning a ton from her and becoming a better writer, and I hope that shows. Grammar and form have never been my strong suit, although I do have prolific content running through this very neurodivergent brain of mine. I have been reading a lot too, mostly black queer women authors and books on the psychology of change and mob mentality—more to come on that shit as I find time, it’s fascinating.
None of the success of this blog would happen if it were not for many other people. We get nowhere alone, always together. My writing, as always, is dedicated to all the hard working and amazing folks out there trying to make the world a better place. It is dedicated to those who have a hard time finding or expressing their voice and can relate with the experiences shared here. It is dedicated to science, human rights, and kindness.
I cannot speak for every woman, for every queer person, for anyone but myself, really. Everyone’s experience is unique. With that said, I know that I am not alone and that contained in these words are common experiences that need to be addressed. Overall, I hope you see that I constantly try to have one main message: BE KIND. And also: TAKE NO SHIT.
May we all sail in peace.
3 thoughts on “What I Have Learned in Two Years Writing This Blog”
That meme at the end. Love. It.
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Hell yes. Thanks for writing this. It very much resonates with me as a writer, sailor, and human committed to standing up for what matters. Thank you.
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Oh! So sad and happy to hear that Janna! Happy it’s validating and sad we have to go through this bullshit. ❤️❤️