We want to extend our thanks to the NW MN Women's fund for their support of recent listening sessions with women in northern MN. For National Women's History Month they were looking for projects that were centered on:
“NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”
In February and in March Heidi Holtan and independent consultant Laura Connelly held focus groups to listen to women. They began with these questions:
What impact has the media portrayal of women had on women's lives, in-particular as working women?
Has the collective consciousness changed in the way it views the value of women in our society?
They facilitated four focus groups and talked with approximately 50 women between the ages of 18-75.
Here's some of the themes that came to light in the groups.
There's a higher expectation on how women behave and present themselves in society. Women felt like they were taken less seriously, that they were supposed to look good physically - but questioned if they "looked too good", and women apologize constantly even for things they didn't do.
There's a fear that makes women feel like they aren't free in the world. Whether it's abusive relationships, safety being alone at night women felt like they were always negotiating their next step in order to stay safe.
Many talked about harassment in the workplace and some described the official steps they had taken to only have the accused get a few days off of work. Almost all the women had felt some sort of harassment where they felt like "prey". Women felt they weren't listened to in work conversations and said "I told a man today I wasn't done talking yet because he kept interrupting me".
In the end there were conversations about what women could do to change and what came up in each group is the need for women to support each other - to vote more women into office and support women in leadership roles and do the revolutionary: be kind to each other. Many felt isolation, especially in rural areas with children and a busy work life.
We want to hear from you - do you have a group of women you've come to rely on? Are you thinking of running for office or working towards new leadership? Have you experienced harassment in the workplace? Send us your stories email firstname.lastname@example.org.