I was excited when I started my first full time job out of college. After spending years being paid minimum wage, which was then around $4.25 an hour, I was thrilled to have my first salaried position. I had health insurance, dental, five days paid vacation and I liked what I did.
This, in my eyes, was a win. Until…
Until one day when at the fax machine and handling an intense negotiation for a client, two male colleagues who were in management walked up and decided to include me in their conversation.
“Katie, why do women get upset about marriage vows?”
I was newly engaged at the time. Me: “I don’t understand what you mean.”
Management Guy: “Some women get upset because the marriage vow clearly states to obey your husband. When you get married, aren’t you going to do exactly what your husband tells you to do?”
I snort laughed because I thought he was joking. The snide way he said obey made me think he was about to whistle and call me over like a dog. He wasn’t using the word in the love and honor and cherish way. He meant it in every negative way possible.
It only took me about a second to realize that they were very serious. I sobered up and announced that I wasn’t a dog to obey. The management guy became very angry and explained that “obeying” was a woman’s job and that women should only work until they are married.
I was young, and I remember being red-faced with tears in my eyes, and how my stomach bottomed out to the point I felt sick. This was a person in a position of authority over me, and I felt helpless and powerless.
A year later, I felt sick again when a male younger than me, with less experience than me, was hired for a position beneath my own and was paid more than me. I was then sickened again when within a few months, he was promoted over me. Once again, with less experience and less business knowledge than me.
I was sick to death of men having conversations with my breasts instead of my brains. I was sick to death of men speaking to my fiancé as to what my future plans were instead of talking to me (though they were shocked when my fiancé told them I could speak for myself). I was sick to death of doing more work for less pay and men taking the credit for what I did. Within a year of working there, I was mentally and physically exhausted and my soul was dying.
Honestly, I’ve thought about this experience and thousands of others I’ve had over the years because I’m watching as my daughter is growing into a woman and while some things have changed, there are many things that haven’t.
For my daughter, I write. I wrote the Pushing the Limits series. I wrote the Thunder Road series. I write stories where girls are free to ask questions about themselves and their bodies. I write stories that show girls can save themselves. I write stories where boys treat girls with respect. Specifically, for my daughter, I wrote Long Way Home. I wrote about a girl raised in a male dominated world and how she, through standing strong and owning her voice, becomes one of the most powerful people in the book.
I did this because I do believe society can change. I do believe that women should receive equal pay for equal work. I do believe that women should be given the same opportunities as men. I do believe that there are many men who feel the same way I do, and I know this is true because I’m married to one of these men.
Last night, I wrote this in my work in progress: “If someone doesn’t start speaking up, even in the smallest of ways, life will never change.”
I’m speaking up. Twenty years ago, I wasn’t brave enough to truly stand up for myself to management. Now, I’m a writer and I’m doing my best to write strong female characters who do stand up for themselves. If you are a man—stand up for us. If you are a woman—stand up for yourself and for all of us. I believe in you. You are strong and you can take on the world.