Capacity Policing Is a Thing

I could fib and say I’ve had a day, but the truth is I’ve had an awesome set of days. That awesomeness doesn’t take away from the very real moments that punch me right in the gut and activate all of my senses as if I were on high alert. Some would call that the “fight or flight” response, but for me it feels even more basic than that, and I’m talking basic in the complex form because I live in that oxymoronic, grey area, nepantla, borderlands of an existence.

Somewhere in all of that, I came across this article about women and work: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/01/women-and-work

Most likely I was trying to make sense of that punched in the gut response, trying to find answers for myself –some kind of proof that I was not off base with the five different directions my mind shot off into in an attempt to dissect, analyze, and connect all of the dots. All. of. the. damn. dots.

The article poses a question that has been explored from so many angles, publicly debated, privately acted upon, and to which the answers are often attached with a predetermined end goal in mind. The question is this: “What’s holding women back?” A fair question. Not exactly the phrase that I was looking for toward my own immediate need to self-sooth by way of selfish and self-less validation (because sometimes meeting your selfish needs can indeed be in the service of others – amazing, right?).

Anyhow, this question helped me connect all of the dots floating in my head, blasting in my heart, and activated by my gut. In short, I think the answer to this question is in our perceptions and assumptions about women. I had a series of interesting conversations about this today, so humor me, engage me, or ignore me as I publicly process some of my thoughts.

The quote that spoke to me most loudly and resonated most directly with my web of thoughts was this: “Mothers are often seen as less committed to work than non-mothers. Fathers, meanwhile, are not only viewed as equally competent as men without children, but also significantly more committed to work. As a result, while mothers are often penalised for their family commitments, fathers tend to be “recommended for management training more than men without children.” Researchers describe this phenomenon as a “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood bonus” (http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/01/women-and-work).

I feel compelled to shout from the mountain that my kids have never been a barrier to my work. Better stated, my kids are an asset to my work. I have also observed there seems to be an expectation that as women, we should be committed to giving our time more freely, and that is where the internal negotiations and self-regulation of my time factor in. In those instances, I have to consider whether an opportunity is a good fit, whether the compensation will actually translate into a cost after factoring in expenses incurred to do that work. Here is where you can throw my kids under the bus by pointing to the prohibitive cost of childcare, but I guarantee you none of them will go out without kicking, screaming, and biting. Here is where I factor in how much capacity an opportunity will pull from my other roles/jobs/projects; whether that will shrink or enhance my ability to serve effectively (because I’m all about service y’all); what the ripples in both numbers and the quality of that service will potentially look like for my communities (because I carry and am carried by several of them as I go about bout my daily business); and at the end of the day, I also have to consider whether I am accepting a fair wage for what I’m capable of delivering while taking into consideration the level of experience I bring to the table.

So, no its not my role as a mother or the fact that I’m a woman; it’s the assumptions about me and all women, as well as the assumptions about our reasons for saying yes and for exercising our right to say no to work, to people, to opportunities that devalue the full breadth of our worth in all of its forms –and those issues are loaded with layers of funk.

Capacity policing is a thing that desperately needs to go out of style. So, please take a minute for a self-check and be aware of your assumptions. Beyond that, take proactive steps so that this is not the norm even among conscious feminists. Let us have those difficult conversations about how we participate in penalizing women in ways removed from their actual abilities and let us be at the damn table where those discussions are taking place.

c/s

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