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Ruth’s Soapbox

Make High School Dress Codes Gender-Neutral

I had the pleasure to seeing Gloria Steinem speak in Phoenix last month. Geez, this woman is inspiring and knowledgeable about gender inequality. She re-invigorated me to keep pushing for equality for all genders. I would love to see our society get to the point where a person’s character and acts matter more than which bathroom they use.

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal back in 1954. That’s over 50 years ago! And yet, we still see substantial inequality throughout social norms and even formal rules – for all genders.

This inequality is pervasive in our culture, even in something as simple as clothing. Thing about quality and variety of clothes available in the men’s and women’s sections and what a person is expected to wear at certain occasions. What messages are conveyed with different looks? In general, men’s clothing is designed to show a person as powerful and intelligent whereas women’s clothing is much more focused on portraying the wearer as pretty rather than capable. Why are these norms so drastically different?

Looking at gender norms and clothing made me thing about dress codes and question why some institutions and companies have different uniforms and dress codes for different genders. When I see this in schools and industries, I have concerns that the organization has problems with sexism.

Google allegedly has the simplest (and best) dress code: “You must wear clothes.” This tells me the company cares more about your job performance than how you look, and they have confidence that their employees are responsible enough to dress appropriately for their job tasks.

I don’t endorse the Google dress code for every situation, particularly not for high school where students act more impulsively, in part due to their still-developing brains. I do, however, endorse a gender-neutral dress code, particularly after seeing how ridiculous dress codes are for females at some high schools:

These are my recommendations for a gender-neutral high school dress code. It’s more restrictive in regards to images and verbiage on garments, but that’s mainly to make the rule easy to understand and enforce. The main rule is to come to school in clothes that are clean, tidy, with no rips or stains. Here are the details:

NO: Pajamas; Workout wear (exception for socks/sneakers); Visible undergarments; Verbiage or images on tops (exception for small logos or t-shirts/sweatshirts from a legitimate school); Hats or hoods in the building (exception for religious wear); Visible cleavage – chest or butt; Excessively baggy or tight garments; See-through garments; Sleeveless or backless tops

Shoes: Must be worn, closed toe, closed heel, socks must be worn except for open top shoes (flats, heels, etc.)

Pants, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem can’t drag on the floor

Shorts, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem must reach tips of fingers when standing with hands at sides

Shirts, Sweaters, and Sweatshirts: No midriff shown when raising arms above head; Entire shoulder must be covered

Hair: Must be clean and reasonably styled (meaning you at least ran a comb through it, purposely messy styles are ok)

This dress code may be more challenging for students who wear women’s clothing because more garments are designed and created that violate these rules. For those who want to express themselves with these garments, they can – on their own time.

The next time you’re confronted with a dress code with different expectations for men and women, ask yourself what these expectations say about how that situation views the roles of different genders. If you see inequality, I hope you’ll challenge it.

I Ripped the Ads Off my YouTube Channel

Earlier this month, I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio and I attended podcaster Jay Acunzo’s talk entitled “Unthinkable Marketing.” He told a story about a time he wanted to show a video to his roommates and their anticipation was jilted by a YouTube ad. He had gotten them excited about this video, and then he had to work even harder to keep their enthusiasm up while they waited for the ad to play through. The lesson I got from this story was “Don’t put barriers between your target audience and the content they want.” We live in a world where having to sit through a 30-second ad could be enough to make someone leave the site in annoyance, instead of watching your work.

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jay’s story made me think. Why do I have ads on my YouTube videos? I make little Question Of The Day videos where I respond to questions the people ask me via email or the weird stuff people Google and end up on my website. Some people ask me about some really messed up situations – both hilarious and cringe worthy.

I monetized these videos because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, just a lease I got enough views to earn a few bucks from it. Here is the reality: these videos are never going to get enough traffic to make running ads worth it. These are videos are only valuable to people who have a specific question at that time and my friends who just like to watch me pontificate to my web cam. There is no reason for me to run ads on any of my videos. If anything, they annoyed or confused my audience over the years, which doesn’t do anything to help my desired reputation for creating knowledgeable and accessible resources about legal issues.

Vehemently, I grabbed my pen and scribbled myself a note to rip my ads off of every video on my YouTube channel. They contribute no value to anyone or anything I care about. After I got home, one of the first things I did was sit down and edit each of my 272 videos, removing the ads from each one. (YouTube should create an option to un-monetize every video on the channel with one click. That would have saved me an hour.)

I support the idea of people being paid for their work. They deserve to be compensated for adding value to others lives. However, I don’t support the idea of doing it in such a way where it creates an obstacle between the artist and their audience.

And if you are an artist who relies on YouTube ad revenue, be careful about your business plan going forward. Many YouTubers recently learned how easy it is for YouTube to disrupt their expectations with its monetization policies.

Un-Caffeinated People Can’t Read

Stardate 94202.47

Dear Hyatt Hotel:

I enjoyed spending my last night in New York at your establishment, including the complimentary breakfast. In the future, please make the distinction between the regular coffee and decaf coffee more obvious – with the visual equivalent of glitter and sirens.

I’m sure Seattle’s Best Coffee put significant time and energy into making the labels on their dispensers beautiful, but the verbiage and coloration of the decaf coffee is too subtle for blurry-eyed un-caffeinated people. Before my first hit of caffeine all I can think is “Coffee-There-Gimme.” I barely had the mental capacity to properly put cream and sugar in my cup. (Shut up you people who drink it black.) I opened one of the mini-cups half-and-half and proceeded to pour its contents into the trash instead of my cup.

Morning Coffee - My Vision is Too Blurry Before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Morning Coffee – My Vision is Too Blurry before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Your coffee is delicious. (Thank you for not carrying that Starschmucks swill.) Thank goodness I came by the coffee counter to top off my cup before heading back upstairs. (What is this “thank goodness” crap. Everyone knows I need more than 1 cup of coffee to start my day. I’m just being nice.) By then the smell of coffee and the carbs from your delicious pancakes connected my cerebral synapses long enough to detect the subtle green “decaf” sign on the dispenser where I poured my first cup. (I would have been hurting by 10am if I didn’t get my daily caffeine fix.) I immediately threw that first cup in the bin and pour myself a cup of real coffee.

In the future, please make the distinction between the real-deal coffee and decaf so obvious that that that actual reading of the dispensers is not required. Put a space between the dispensers and label them with big signs – a neon rainbow-colored sign on the “Real Deal Coffee” (it will be a beacon to your caffeine-addicted patrons, something like “This is the coffee you’re looking for.”) and “I don’t know why anyone wants decaf but here you go” sign on the decaf.

What’s in a Name?

“I’m trying to reach Ruthie Carter… Ruthie has been recommended to me by Mary and Jeff. If she could give me a call back …”

Yup – that was the message that was left on my law firm’s voicemail last night that went to the firm’s partners and our receptionist. I wonder if any of them are going to notice that the caller used my nickname and not my legal name.

When I was in my 20’s I was much more strict about only using “Ruth” in my professional life. I worked at an agency where it wasn’t uncommon to see friends and acquaintances who called me “Ruthie.” If I met you in a social setting, I didn’t care which name you used, but with work colleagues, it was always “Ruth” never “Ruthie.” On more than one occasion, I had to correct our receptionists who tried to get away with using my nickname.

As a lawyer, I always refer to myself as “Ruth” and everyone seems to go with it. This voicemail may be the first time a non-friend referred to me as “Ruthie.” In the caller’s defense, Mary and Jeff call me “Ruthie” so it makes sense – but it was weird to hear. I had to listen to it twice to verify that she said what I thought she said.

Who hires “Ruthie the lawyer?” While mulling this over, I was reminded of the Buzzfeed videos where men shared their impressions of common feminine names and women share their impressions for masculine names.  It was interesting to hear their views of variations of the same name:

So what does this mean for me and all the Ruths of the world?

  • Ruth is an old stuff Jewish woman (but she also might be the one who mutters the funniest things under her breath). (We’re sassy.)
  • Ruthie is a four year-old child with pigtails.

My friend said if Dora the Explorer had a lawyer character on her show, her name would be Ruthie.

Which Pronouns Do You Prefer?

Have you ever thought about which pronouns you prefer? In the U.S., a child is referred to as she/her or he/him based on their biological sex. Why does this culture feel the need to divide people based on genitalia? It’s weird.

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Would you be offended if someone referred to you as the opposite gender than your biological sex? Why? I asked my neighbor Ana this question, and she said it would be offensive because she would interpret it as someone not acknowledging what she knows to be true about herself. That made sense to me. Asking a person which pronouns they prefer is really asking the person, “What is the respectful way to refer to you (including when I talk about you behind your back)?”

At some LGBT groups, including One-n-Ten in the Phoenix area, at the beginning of each meeting, everyone introduces themselves by first name and what pronouns they prefer. Including this information in the introductions not only provides a platform for each person to disclose their pronoun preference, but also acknowledges that gender is a non-binary social construct.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I’m somewhat gender non-conforming socially (always have been, always will be), but biologically speaking, I’m female. One of the advantages of being bisexual is I don’t feel obligated to conform to any social constructs regarding gender or sexual orientation. In my wardrobe, I have beautiful dresses and neckties (yes, I can tie a full Windsor knot by myself); and my underwire bra is right next to my chest binder. My appearance ranges from very feminine to androgynous, and I don’t feel obligated to act any particular way.

I considered the pronoun question for myself. Given the option to be referred to as she/her, he/him, they/them, I’m fine with any of those (as long as the person is speaking respectfully), though I prefer she/her/he/him to they/them because they acknowledge me as a singular person. Although they/them are used as plural pronouns, they can be used to for individuals too. Perhaps this is the best option we have in American English for a gender neutral pronoun.

And of course, as a Starfleet officer, I prefer “sir” over “ma’am,” though I won’t correct a person if they’re just trying to be polite.

Which pronouns do you prefer?

Every Post Is Not About You

Yesterday’s blog post focused on posting with integrity. If you have something to say, say it. Otherwise, it’s better to be quiet than to make ambiguous statements.

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Let’s look at the flip side: Every vague statement on the internet is not about you.

When I became a blogger, I learned early on that I had to grow a thick skin. By sharing my thoughts and ideas, I became a target. It hurts every time someone attacks me, and not just my perspective.

Whenever I read a vague post, my default is it’s not about me because the people whose opinions I value, don’t make vague posts. If they have something to say to me or about a community I belong to, they say it. Likewise, I try to do the same for them.

This and yesterday’s post was inspired by a person who was confronted by their supervisor at work because a coworker assumed a vague post what about them. If you insist on making unclear posts, you can expect that sensitive people may assume it’s about them – which shows their insecurity more than anything. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to respond to such an accusation.

A fellow prankster had an awesome sign at one of Improv AZ’s Fake Protests that said, “Stupid Should Hurt.” I love that saying. The world would be a better place if being thoughtless were physically painful. If this was the post that upset a coworker, I can think of two ways to respond to a confrontation by a superior:

“What makes coworker think this is about them?

“Does coworker think they’re the only stupid person on the planet?”
“So you admit the post is about them?”
“No, but by complaining about such a vague post, coworker revealed that they think they are stupid or have insecurities about being perceived as such.”

I’m not sure I would be so bold to respond so audaciously, but there’s a reason I don’t work in corporate America anymore. I would hope that the supervisor would respond to the complaint by challenging the coworker before asking the commenter about it. Managing a team includes managing feelings and being a rationalizing force, not just overseeing job tasks.

That being said, this situation highlights why it’s imperative to treat every post as if it will end up on a billboard. There is no expectation of privacy in anything you post online and you never know when you by be confronted with a past post.

Post with Integrity

Someone made a comment on a blog post I wrote about the importance of having a social media policy at work:

I posted something to my FB page not mentioning any names or directed at anyone in particular. It was also vague on subject. Today my supervisor brought a printed picture of it to me because apparently someone saw it and thought it was about them. It has nothing to do with them or work. Can he control what I say on my own page especially if it makes no reference to specific people or work or subjects?

I have two thoughts in response to this comment:
1. To the upset coworker: Don’t assume every vague post on the internet is about you.
2. To the commenter: Why are you making posts that are so ambiguous that there is confusing what message you’re attempting to convey?

Honesty. Trust. Respect. Love. Good rule to follow in business and in life. by Zaneology from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Honesty. Trust. Respect. Love. Good rule to follow in business and in life. by Zaneology from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Here’s my rule for myself:

  • If you have something to say, say it.
  • Otherwise, keep your thoughts to yourself.
  • If what you want to post is so unclear that the reader cannot discern who or what you’re talking about, you’re essentially making noise.
  • It’s ok to be quiet.

My mentor Rocky instilled a strong sense of integrity in me and my teammates. He taught us to be willing own what we say in every situation – don’t lie and don’t hide the ball. He was not always gracious with his words, but everyone around him knew where he stood. His lessons on integrity formed the basis for my personal rules about what I post on social media – I’ll own anything I’ve posted in any situation.

By being succinct and direct, posts have more impact. It’s possible to take an opposing view without calling out a specific person – like my fervent posts about people who don’t return their shopping carts and how people who don’t vote forfeit their right to bitch.

Post with integrity. If I’m tempted to be nebulous about what I’m trying to say because of potential repercussions, that’s a sign to keep my thoughts to myself.

“Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen,” and keyboard.

Tomorrow’s post will present the flip-side view: Don’t assume everything you read online is about you.

90 Days of Hustle

Last year, I declared that June-August, 2015 would be the 90 Days of Awesome. That was a good exercise for me – helped me maintain perspective. This summer, Rosie and I are staying in Arizona again (at least that’s the plan so far) and we’re calling it 90 Days of Hustle.

In case you missed it, I shaved my head. Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

In case you missed it, I shaved my head. Photo by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

By “hustle” I don’t mean the Gary Vaynerchuk work 18-hours/day hustle, though I admire his tenacity and work ethic. My hustle has more of a holistic focus – personal and professional development – working on being the best version of myself.

More and more, I realize the most valuable asset I have is time, and I want to use it well. I want to get up early and go running at sunrise. I plan to read more books and see more friends. Even though I say I hate it, I want to do more stretching so, if nothing else, I can do more as a model. (I did two awesome photo shoots over Memorial Day weekend. I can’t wait to see the images.)

I’m going to be working on new creative projects this summer. I’m not being obtuse by not telling you what they are; I’m still mulling over where I want to put my energy first. I am giving myself the gift of time and space to develop ideas and write more.

This summer will be about quality, not quantity. (This also means I won’t do daily posts like I did last year, but I still want to do weekly posts.)

And, of course, during the Olympics, everything gets put on hold when I’m watching the gymnastics . . . because it’s gymnastics.

End Gender-Based Socialization & Segregation

We can all pee in the same bathroom.

With the recent wave of anti-LGBT laws considered and passed in the U.S., and people losing their minds about which bathroom people should use, I’ve been thinking about the concept of gender. Besides the fact that sperm and egg are needed for reproduction and biological, hormonal, and chromosomal differences between the various sexes (there are more than two you know), why is gender even an issue? Why do we have social differences, segregation, or even gender identity in any aspect of life?

Why can’t we just be people?

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy. Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy.
Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Look at babies. If a baby is wearing clothes, I can’t tell what type of genitals it has – and I don’t care. All babies have the same basic needs: food, shelter, care, and love. The only difference I can think of between the sexes, is the location of their urethra because some brands of diapers have extra absorbent sections based on that. Beyond that, there’s no difference between a male and a female baby. I’m going to carry it around like a football until it cries, and then it goes back to the parent.

It’s amazing to see how kids are socialized differently based on gender at such a young age. Looking back, I wonder why schools make students line up by gender. Why segregate when we can integrate.

Speaking of segregation, prepubescent kids have the same body shape. Why do we have different sections for boys’ and girls’ clothing? Just have a children’s section and let them wear whatever they want regardless of color or style. There’s nothing wrong with a boy wearing a dress or a girl wearing a Spiderman costume. Ditto for toys. I’m so glad Hasbro adopted gender-neutral marketing for its easy-bake oven because a little boy who loved to bake was too embarrassed to play with a “girl” toy.

I’m pleased to see that some people are more progressive and accepting. My friend’s sons go to dance class and for the performance, each child got to pick their costume – pants or a dress. One boy opted for the pants, the other picked the dress – and he was so cute!

And does anyone else think it’s weird that was have different size charts for men’s and women’s shoes? There are gender-neutral shoes – like my Converse Chuck Taylors – and apparently stores have to re-label the boxes to help customers avoid confusion. It’s strange that my foot is a size 8.5 but if I had a penis, it would be a size 7. I have no issue shopping in the men’s section for any garment or accessory if that’s where the store put the product I want.

To circle back to the “bathroom issue” (as long as you wash your hands, I don’t care which bathroom you use), I think every public place should have gender neutral bathrooms with water closets for stalls. Each stall has walls that extend from ceiling to floor and regular lockable doors. Liberty Market restaurant has this arrangement and they have one of the coolest bathrooms in the U.S.

Gender-neutral bathrooms will eliminate problems related to helping a loved one in the restroom, men’s room without changing tables, and long lines for the ladies’ room while there’s no wait for the men’s. We’ll also reinforce the notion that boys and girls, men and women, are equal.

Living ADD-esque

In the last year, thanks to the makers of my anti-depressant medication, my depression is more under control. What’s emerged as my depression subsided, is that I have significant attention deficit tendencies. I was tested for ADD/ADHD and I’m not ADD enough for a formal diagnosis, but without deliberate external forces, I am ADD-esque. My psych nurse calls it “ADD lite.”

Twirl by pixxxie_girl from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Twirl by pixxxie_girl from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Being ADD-esque can be problematic since I also have anxiety. I can be easily distracted and too much stimulation is overwhelming. I have a low threshold for large crowds, rush-hour traffic, and shopping malls. I mentally and emotionally short circuit if I’m in an environment with too much input.

I’ve noticed that I already employ several behavioral techniques recommended to people with ADD. Last year, Peter Shankman did a webinar called ADHD Superpower about how he uses his ADHD for professional and personal success. This was eye-opening to me towards acknowledging that I can be somewhat ADD when I don’t manage myself.

Peter compares ADHD to the engine in a sports car. It can be a lot of fun when you know how to use it. When your brain is faster than the average person’s, you have to harness that power to use it to your advantage or it will cause problems. Here ae some of the techniques I use to manage my ADD-esque life: Here are some of the tricks that work for me.

Eliminate Choice
I’ve always struggled with indecisiveness. In high school, I burst into tears on two occasions buying sneakers because of the internal pressure around picking shoes. Now I eliminate choice whenever possible. In regards to my clothes, I decide what I’m going to wear that day before I get out of the shower. That way, I can walk into my closet, grab what I need, and get on with my day.

When it comes to what I eat, I cook on the weekend and that’s what makes up the bulk of my meals throughout the week. My meals are redundant, and I don’t care. Many nights, I pre-pack my lunch so everything is portioned out before I go to bed. If I’m going to a restaurant, I look at the menu online and decide what I’m going to eat in advance. Otherwise, there’s a high probability that I’ll hem and haw over choices, and it’s agonizing for me as well as my dining companion.

Mandatory Exercise
For me, not exercising is not an option. I shouldn’t skip a workout unless I’m sick, injured, or too tired to the point of exhaustion where working out will cause more harm than good. I suspect my years of being a gymnast, training three hours a night plus my perfectionistic nature, kept my ADD tendencies under control throughout high school. I’ve seen a running shirt that says, “I run to keep the crazy away” and I get that. If I go more than two days without doing cardio, I start to feel “off.” It helps burn off the excess energy so I can sit down and focus.

I don’t always like going for a run, but I see it as important as taking my medication.

I wouldn’t get half as much work as I do done if I didn’t have lists. I have a goal list for the month that breaks down into to-do lists for each week and each day ends with me writing my list for the next day. Lists give me a visual reminder of my goals, they help me break down big projects into manageable chunks (or else I’ll freeze up with anxiety), and I get the validation of crossing the item off when it’s done. Lists are a big part of what keeps me productive – it’s not that I don’t have goals, but I need reminders to keep myself on task.

Peter Shankman started a podcast called Faster Than Normal where he interviews all types of successful people who have ADD or ADHD. They talk about their stories and the tips and tricks they use to unlock the secrets of the ADD/ADHD brain. I listen to it during my workouts and I love it. Every episode has useful suggestions and validates my ADD experience. I recommend it if you have ADD/ADHD or want to understand it.

And definitely check out the ADHD Superpower webinar if you want to hear what Peter does to make his ADHD work for him.