Surprising Find at the Starbucks Roastery

Gender

Last weekend I went to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room which is fairly new to Seattle. I was excited to see how they roasted the coffee beans and created the different brews. All my friends have raved about it and I even know some people who go every weekend. What I didn’t expect, was to be more interested in the restrooms.

WP_20150208_13_33_25_ProI was confused while I was walking towards the restroom and saw people do a double take. Stopping in their tracks and looking around dumbfounded. When I got closer I realized why: Starbucks had unisex restrooms! You wait in line with everyone else until one of the many large stalls opened up– and this idea was so foreign to people they awkwardly looked at each other to verify that they were allowed to be standing there. You might not understand why I am so excited about this but I have a reason why. When I was in college, I was taking classes in the dance department. One day between classes I was sitting at a bench outside the restrooms and a faculty member was giving a new student a tour of the facilities. I was watching the student stop in her tracks and say “The restrooms are unisex?” She went on to tell a story about growing up and people questioning which restroom she should be allowed to use. I don’t want to share the personal story in detail, but instead this learning: Creating a space that is cognizant of diversity allows people to be comfortable and thrive. You will never understand what this entails until you learn about the trials and tribulations of all walks of life. I would never have looked at a restroom the way I do now if I had never heard that story. I still have a long way to go until I even begin to understand how she feels in those situations but I hope it helps me start to create a better world for her.

I am woman, see me do all the dirty work

Feminism, Gender, Workplace

When I find myself  in a room full of women at work, I get uncomfortable. You may be thinking, “Jenna, what are you smoking? All you do is complain about there not being enough women in tech! You should be happy!” Au contraire, mon ami. When I find myself in these situations it means one thing: this meeting is about housework and no men showed up to the cleaning party.

There are certain tasks that are outside of normal “work” work which I classify as dirty work. For example, I helped plan numerous events last year which was executed by a v-team. We planned holiday events, cultural potlucks, outreach events, etc. Sounds like fun, but it is really all dirty work. The team was volunteer based and comprised of about 12 women and one man whose job was to cook the meat at the potluck. I am currently party of a diversity and inclusion v-team for all of IT (20k people) in my company and there are about 25 women and two men.  With the current diversity statistics in tech, this disparity just doesn’t make sense. What’s even more interesting is that this extra work isn’t helping women in the eyes of their colleagues. It doesn’t even help them get promoted. Women help more, but benefit less.

The number of meeting requests I send out, emails I compose for others, events I plan– it has almost become insulting. Why should someone with a bachelors degree be spending so much of their day finishing these tasks? Especially when my male counterparts don’t. I will admit that I am the reason this has happened. I volunteer to help. Someone has to do the job. Why is it then, that it is usually women?

Gender Norms in Dance

Dance, Gender

Let’s talk about gender roles in dance.

All styles of dance have traditional gender norms. Ballet showcases the women, while the men in ballet have been teasingly called the “tote and carry,” just there to lift. Social dances have the men leading the women, while once again showcasing the women and making sure they look good. Nowadays, the contemporary styles have begun to stray from the norm and have challenged the status-quo of the older styles. For example, Fosse had his male and female ensemble members dance the same choreography with the same stylistic intentions. Look at this video of dancers from Chicago doing All That Jazz and see how every person on stage was dancing exactly the same.

Seeing this change has helped me start to think about and challenge gender norms in dance. But an important lesson while teaching has made me think differently.

A few summers back I was teaching introductory ballet and tap combo classes for 4 to 7 year olds. One week it was Prince and Princess themed. The boys were given capes and crowns, the girls were given wands and tiaras. The boys were marching, the girls were skipping. The boys were bowing, the girls were curtsying. Nothing was out of the ordinary.

Before class the next day, the mother of one of the boys came up to me. She said that her son was torn up after class the day before because he wanted to wear a tiara but was too embarrassed to ask. He was experiencing confusion around what was expected of him and what felt normal. I was dumbfounded. I had never once considered this as something one of my students would be battling.

Now I teach all my young students how to march, skip, bow, and curtsy. If we dress up, I encourage mixing and matching, even dressing up myself to make others feel more comfortable with it. I want to encourage dancers to become their best selves.

However, you have to take all of these things with a grain of salt. If you want to dance in classical ballets, you will have to learn to embrace those typical roles. If you want to dance in Chicago on Broadway, you will have to learn to let go of your preconceived notions of what your gender should dance like and learn Fosse’s style.

I don’t see these norms changing anytime soon, but as teachers we should prepare students for anything. — J