...this wasn't always the case.
I’ve had moments in life where I just wished I could have been a dude. I feel like a traitor saying this, in fact, I don’t think I ever fully admitted that to myself until right now, but I feel that it needs to be shared.
I remember when I had my first music mentor, a really powerful guy in the music business. I felt so lucky because while I knew a bunch of guys who had a roster of mentors, I didn’t really know any other girls who did at that time. And there I was, for months on end, sitting in a big fancy building in NYC looking out on a million-dollar view, playing my EP for my big-shot mentor, dissecting each song word by word, note by note. We spent hours and days strategizing my career; the meetings he would set up, the events that I would play. I was so used to taking on the hustle by myself, trying to figure out how to negotiate pay rates at 20 years old, working several jobs on the side — then suddenly I had an experienced businessman who wanted to teach me everything he knew because he believed in me.
I was unstoppable to have that kind of experience behind my passion and drive.
Until one day, he started to talk about sex. And how much he liked sex with younger women. And how he liked to hide this from his loving wife because he "couldn’t imagine hurting her."
I remember the feeling of shock and confusion; was I one of the guys? Was he just bro-talking me? Was this how dudes talked to each other in business settings?
I tried to play along at first but the energy didn’t feel “bro-ish.” I felt sick to my stomach carrying the information that he was having multiple affairs, sitting in his office, looking at a framed picture of the strong, beautiful woman who he embraced proudly in the photo. I tried to ignore my entire body shutting down when he slowly began shifting the conversation into more detail, talking about how the women he liked to be with were all musicians. Musicians that he had worked with. He was 35 years older than me. He had spent months working with me, setting up opportunities that depended on his being there to make happen. And now…he was testing me. I may have been young, but my female intuition superpower told me this was off.
What was I supposed to do? I remember turning to one of my female business friends who worked in sales to ask her how I could get him to go back to being my mentor and steer him away from the creepy vibes I’d been getting. She was several years older than me, respected in her career and quickly on the rise in her profession. When I brought this up to her she laughed, rolled her eyes and said: welcome to the world of business as a woman. She told me her tactics for how she got flirty clients to get back to focusing on the deal, sharing her skills — survival skills — that she’d figured out along the way in order to be taken seriously.
I listened to her, perplexed while taking in the information. I took mental notes. I had watched so many of my male entrepreneur friends successful meet with investors for their business ideas, artwork, and never have to deal with this strange negotiation of turning uninvited sexual energy back to business.
My “mentor” and I met up several more times, but each time just felt like a stretch of what he could get away with. Like I was living out some weird power trip fantasy for him no matter what I said, how cold I acted, how I always shut it down. My final straw was when he put his arm around me and told me he liked my dimples. I left the meeting immediately and I never spoke with him again.
Instead of doing anything about it, I just pretended it never happened. I didn’t warn other women about him. I didn’t report his strange behavior. I just let it go. Because I felt like maybe I was crazy, maybe this was just how the music business worked; I was young and confused and I had no idea that this was not only a normal situation that professional women have to deal with at some point, and that many deal with on a day to day basis.
But I’ve learned from that experience, from the many experiences that followed. I’ve learned to stand up for myself immediately, to walk away from people and “opportunities” when they feel off. I’ve now built a network of powerful men who would never dream of power-playing me and strong women who know their worth, and because of that, demand they be taken seriously. It took me a lot of painful situations to get here, but shit, I sure wish someone had told me about this when I was 20. I wish I’d had a strong female mentor that could have guided me along the way. I wish that when I went to guy friends to ask for advice they didn’t downplay it by saying things like: “ I wish I was a chick, I’d be using my boobs to get so many meetings.” I wish…but...
…now I see that it was all perfect because it lead me to where I am now: Now I am devoted to helping empower younger girls and women with the tools they need to be a badass, to be true to themselves, to believe that their work can speak for itself and to know that the right people will get on board with their vision as long as they can trust in themselves enough to walk away from the wrong ones.
I’m proud to be a woman today, because I now feel the immense support and network of us rising together, of the encouragement to speak loudly against disrespectful behavior, the having each other’s back, the men and boys who are as dedicated to equality as we are, and the opportunity to see more and more women take on strong leadership roles every day.
I am so proud to be a woman because I love being able to play some small part in the way our future will view women and girls, and because through the emerging female leaders I see on a daily basis I trust that we are our own mentors and so incredibly powerful, especially when we come together.
This Saturday I will march for women, with women and men, and I march for the chance to unite all of humanity: I will march arm in arm, side to side, stepping forward together into the possibilities of the future. (ORIGINAL FACEBOOK POST LINK HERE)