Sometimes We’re a Little Too Willing to Sacrifice

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Claire Colvin -Sometimes too Sacrificial3

There’s a story going around Facebook this week about a woman who was asked to take notes in a work meeting. One of her male colleagues started his presentation and out of nowhere said, “Martha, you take notes.” He kept going without even waiting for a response. At the end of his presentation he asked Martha, “Did you get all that?”

As the story goes, she replied, “I’m not your secretary. Literally all I wrote down on this piece of paper is ‘I’m not your secretary.’”

I have not met Martha personally, so I don’t know if it really happened, exactly like this, but as a woman who worked in a corporate office for almost 15 years, I can guarantee you that it happens exactly like this all the time.

I have no issue with helping out, but when a task gets assigned to the women simply because they are women, I have a problem with that. I remember the excuses I used to hear when I started pushing back against the automatic “girls take the minutes” rule. One guy told me he couldn’t take the minutes because he didn’t bring a pen to the meeting. Another suggested that his handwriting was terrible and one of the ladies in the room had much prettier handwriting. One time a guy looked at me and said, “I really need to focus on what’s being discussed in this meeting and it’s harder to do that if I’m trying to take minutes.” Oh really? Imagine that.

The thing is, sisters, sometimes we’re a little too willing to sacrifice.

In the grand scheme of things taking minutes can seem pretty trivial. It’s not tragic like human trafficking, or child marriage, or domestic violence or a culture that doesn’t believe women who were raped. But the idea that women are a little less than men starts in little seeds that sound a lot like, “I’m more important than you and so I shouldn’t have to take the minutes.” Requiring the men around us to see us as fully equal and acknowledging these small moments when we are treated as though we were not, can be a step toward tackling the big, giant issues where women are not seen as people at all.

As Jen Hatmaker said on Instagram this week we have to, “stop paying someone else’s bill, or they will never learn there is a cost.” As women who love we should be willing to serve, willing to do the hard thing, willing to show up, willing to work, but we are not required to grind our own bones for flour. Being female does not mean that we’re supposed to get smaller just so someone else’s life can be easier. That is not our role. I think we confuse good sacrifice with sacrifice in general and we need to stop doing that.

For many women, motherhood is steeped in holy sacrifice. Motherhood is a sacrifice, a good and worthy one, and one that hugely benefits the children involved. But sometimes the good sacrifice of motherhood spills over into other areas where we were never meant to give so much, so often, to so many.

We are not required to parent the guys at work—or the guys at church. They are adults and yes they work hard; we work hard too. I’m not saying that we should start “stomping around in big boots like Gaston,” making demands and refusing to cook dinner. But we need to require the people around us to treat us as adults deserving of respect. We need to break this idea that if there’s a job no one really wants to do, one of the girls should do it.

It’s hard to stand up and be heard if we’ve sacrificed so often that we’ve taught the people around us we don’t need to be listened to.

The first step to ending child marriage just might be one woman in a conference room forcing the men around her to acknowledge her as an equal. How can we stand up for marginalized women and girls around the world if we haven’t first practice standing up for ourselves?

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

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