Pixar made a short film about toxic masculinity in the workplace. But what about us women?
Pixar posted a new short film last week, written to make us think about workplace equality. In the film, yarn ball Purl starts work at an all male start-up and, being a pink ball of yarn and all, does not fit in with the guys. She quickly decides to change her appearance and demeanor in order to change this. Purl rethinks her strategy when a second ball of yarn joins the company and the film ends with a workplace with a lot more variety. Where everyone gets along, being themselves.
The film is described as a film about workplace equality. But to me, another point stood out: Purl being so quick to change everything about herself to fit in.
I think it is something every woman recognizes: if we want to fit in and get ahead, it is best to be seen as 'one of the guys'.
Whether we want to get ahead in our company, or if we want the friends of a new partner to like us: we are used to changing how we look and behave to be more like the men. Hoping to be included in their little group, like 'hanging with the cool kids' in highschool.
And becoming a slightly less feminine and empathetic version of ourselves in order to please the alpha male is only part of that equation. Often, step 2 is to make sure that our new position is not threatened by other females. So we join in on the jokes about other women. We even start making them ourselves, carefully at first, but a bit more cruel when we see results.
And before we know it, we have changed into someone who don't really like all that much.
But since it is so effective: we are getting the promotion we were after, our guys' friends really like us, we don't think about it for too long.
We feel it though. It costs a lot more energy to play this role, than if we could just be ourselves. And by distancing ourselves from the other women, we have also lost their support.
We tell ourselves it's not our fault. It's the workplace that does this to us.
And not just to us: all women play the same game. It would be stupid not to participate, because you would never get ahead in life if you didn't. You're simply a victim of this culture that existed long before you got there, and will be there long after you're gone.
But if we persist in pretending that we can't help it, that it is not up to us to change, nothing ever will change.
The workplace will remain a hostile place to women who just want to be women. A place where women are mean to each other in order to get ahead, instead of giving each other the support we all so desperately need. And meanwhile, we complain about not getting the same opportunities the men get.
Don't get me wrong: I believe a lot needs to change before our workplace is completely gender equal.
And that gender inequality is only part of the problem.
But I also believe that us women need to take the lead in making those changes. We need to stop being afraid to be ourselves. We need to help other women grow, without feeling threatened by them.
So, starting today: start living the life of a feminine leader. You are a woman, with all the superpowers that are attached to that pair of X chromosomes, so use them!
And help another woman get ahead today. Start by just giving her a compliment. She can really use it.