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Defining Feminism, with Wade Davis

Defining Feminism, with Wade Davis

Episode 62: Defining Feminism with Wade Davis

Former NFL player Wade Davis II is a feminist, and he’s not afraid to shout it from the rooftops. He is a thought leader and activist for equality and an educator on the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality. In this episode, we talk with Wade about the stigma around the word feminism, why making mistakes is important for growth, and how we can include men in the conversation about gender equality. Wade brings a male perspective on the harmfulness of “masculinity” and the importance of feminism for both men and women.

Episode Transcript

00:00 Rachel Griesenger: Welcome to the Ellevate podcast, conversations with women changing the face of business. And now your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.


00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hi and welcome to the Ellevate podcast, this is Kristy Wallace and I'm here with Maricella. What's going on Maricella, how's your day going?

00:21 Maricella Herrara: Hey Kristy, it's going well... We are... We are very close to [chuckle] D-day. And by D-day I actually mean our summit next week, so I'm doing well, I'm tired. I'm excited, and I'm really excited about our guest today.

00:40 KW: Yes. Yes, we have an unbelievable guest today. I had so much fun interviewing, da da da da, him as our second guy on the podcast, which is important, we are not anti-men. I think that's so important to always stress, we love them.

00:58 MH: We like them.

01:00 KW: We... Yes we do. And they're a huge part of conversation around gender and gender equality. So we are excited to have Wade Davis Junior as our guest today and hear all about what makes him a feminist, and why he identifies so much as a feminist, and all the other great things that he has to share.

01:20 MH: Wade is really someone who, I'm gonna be honest, I didn't know much about. He was at our event, Manning Up, that we did a few months ago. He is such a powerful voice, I would say, for gender equality, for intersectionality, and for just including men in the conversation. I think he's our woke-est guest. [laughter]

01:48 KW: Alright, I like that. I'm sure he will like that too.

01:52 MH: Also, at that panel that day, I was wearing my wild feminist T-shirt and he came up and he said he had the same one. [laughter]

02:00 KW: I love him. He's so great, he really is great, and you're gonna love him too after, when you hear the interview right after this. We do want to remind you if you're interested and haven't gotten your ticket yet for the Ellevate Action Summit to be held in New York City on June 21st, please get your ticket. You can find it at Also if you can't make it in person, check out the live-stream, we will be live-streaming the major action speakers, panels, fireside chats. We have 30-plus top guests, everything from Zainab Salbi who you heard last week to Wade Davis, Jr., we have Sallie Krawcheck, Amazon Eve.

02:38 MH: Jessica Bennett, Craig Newmark.

02:42 KW: Yours truly.

02:43 MH: Kristy Wallace, [chuckle] Michelle Waterson, aka Karate Hottie, awesome MMA fighter. So we have everything and more. [chuckle]

02:52 KW: It's gonna be great, it is going to be great. So we're excited. We hope you are too. We really want you to be a part of the event with us because we feel it's so important to talk about not just the current state of gender equality, but what we're all gonna do to change it, because it's 2017 and we have had enough and we're changing it.

03:13 MH: We're changing it.

03:14 KW: Yeah, so do you have any data for us, Maricella, some stats you wanna share?

03:20 MH: I do. So as we said, Wade, our guest, is really, really, really passionate about how to engage men in the conversation about equality. We did ask our community what they think was the best way to do this. Do you have any thoughts on this? I know you do.

03:36 KW: How do we engage men in the conversation...

03:37 MH: Men in the conversation about equality?

03:39 KW: We just do it. Just do it.

03:41 MH: [chuckle] Just do it.

03:43 KW: I think... It's partially, I think, understanding that many men kinda share similar problems, concerns, complaints, and those that they maybe don't identify with or aren't fully knowledgeable about, they're open to having those conversations and that awareness. So it's just really about opening those lines of communications and working together.

04:07 MH: Yeah, I agree, I agree with that. And it's interesting what our community says, 60% of the Ellevate community said that the best way to engage men in this conversation about equality is by getting buy-in from men in leadership and/or influencers. 13% said show hard numbers of the value of gender equality, so actually the datum. 10% said formal training at work, 8% informal conversations at work, and 6% said talk to them at home. So I think it's a combination of everything.

04:40 KW: Yeah.

04:41 MH: But it is true that the more we have leaders and influencers and people out there showing by example and talking about this, the more we can get everyone engaged.

04:52 KW: And one thing I would say which was missing from this, is the, how do we engage men and boys in the conversation?

05:00 MH: Yeah.

05:00 KW: 'Cause that for me, especially having a son, is huge, and I talk to him about it all the time. [chuckle] It probably like will be on my tombstone or something, but I mean, about just awareness. And it's awareness about gender, it's awareness about religion, it's awareness about cultural differences I think, the more we can open our kids' eyes to the power of diversity and to the strength of that, the better. And we're very fortunate, we see a lot of that in Brooklyn, but it's something that I engage with, my son on quite a bit.

05:35 MH: That's awesome.

05:36 KW: So let's hear my conversation with Wade, which I know you're gonna love, and then check in with us next week.

05:44 MH: Yeah, next week, Summit.


06:00 KW: So I'm here today with Wade Davis. I'm excited, you're only the second man on the Ellevate podcast.

06:05 Wade Davis: Wow, yes! Who beat me?

06:06 KW: Yes. Adam Quinton.

06:08 WD: Okay. Okay. I don't know Adam.

06:10 KW: And he is a big advocate for investing in women-led companies and startups.

06:15 WD: I'm liking him already.

06:17 KW: He's great, but so are you and I'm really excited to have you here. Around the office, all the team here talks very highly of you. [laughter] They absolutely love you. And they love what you stand for, and they love how you really talk about feminism and equality and the pathways to equality. And as I was preparing for this interview, I was thinking about that, and in a way it's a little depressing, because you are such an anomaly. I mean, I think everyone loves you so much 'cause they're like...

06:49 WD: There's like, three of them! Yeah.

06:49 KW: "Yes, there's a man on our side. This is great." And why is that?

06:54 WD: So, I'm reading this book right now by bell hooks, it's called Men, Masculinity, and Love, and what she talks about is that historically, the term feminist has had a very ill-formed definition or ideology and men have always ran from it. And men, I'm speaking in the generalities, we haven't done the work to investigate what it actually means to be a feminist, and I think once you actually do the work, you realize that, "Oh my God, this actually benefits me too." And it's not just some issue that is centered around the rights of women. And even if it was, we should still be for it, but it also is a space where it creates the possibilities for men to show up as our full, authentic, complicated, vulnerable, lovers of intimacy, and all of these things as well, and I think that we just haven't taken the time to understand exactly what feminism is, and it's frustrating for me as well. Yeah.

07:50 KW: Do you know other guys that are good feminists?

07:53 WD: Yes. I'm close friends with two guys, Matt McGorry from How to Get Away With Murder, and he introduced me to Justin Baldino. And I know a lot of other great feminists, from Darnell Moore, who's a business partner of mine, to Mychal Denzel Smith. There are a lot of us out there, we don't get as much attention as, let's say, those men who aren't feminists, or who are afraid of the actual word. And there's a part of me that wants to make sure that we as men don't get slaps on the backs or high fives for being feminists. It should not be something that should be celebrated. It should just be what it actually is. My partner always says, "Don't throw flowers on yourself." So I don't wanna throw flowers on myself for doing something that's just human and seems very natural to me. But I'll be very honest, I was an idiot before. I was an idiot who didn't think outside of myself. And I'm gonna brag on bell hooks again, but I was given my first feminist book was, it was, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, and I was reading it and I was looking and I was like, "Oh my God, she's talking about me. I'm the problem here."

09:10 WD: And it took me to humble myself, it took me to not feel like I was a bad person, or to desire to be a good person, I just had to really be human and say, "Hey, you have a lot of internal work to do," self-interrogation, to realize that a lot of the issues that women have are caused by men. And I've been... This book that I'm reading, she's really pushing me to think about using the word patriarchy a lot more. And not just say toxic masculinity, but say patriarchal masculinity. And I'm really trying to wrestle with, what does it mean to start saying that word and the weight that it carries? But it just proves to me that I have so much to learn, and this journey that I'm on is never really gonna end, and I'm grateful that I have sheroes like you who I can learn from, who I can listen a lot more to and just shut up and just say, "Kristy, what's happening in the world? How am I still a barrier to your success?"

10:13 KW: Yeah. And I'm loving this conversation in part because, fortunately or unfortunately, the dialogue around bias, around awareness, around intersectionality, and just looking outside of yourself has really been elevated in the past couple of months. And it's my bad if it's always been at this level and I didn't hear it as much.

10:43 WD: [chuckle] You can't be everywhere, right?

10:45 KW: No. But I think that that's part of the self-awareness, is opening your ears to hearing these conversations and to wanting to have those conversations. 'Cause it's not always easy. It's not easy to say, "Well, you know, I'm a privileged, middle-class, heterosexual, white woman, and I have it much better than the majority of the people in this country and in this world, and how do I step outside of my privilege to be aware of others, to take action to help others?" We're not always just born that way, right? It takes that action on your part to say, "Okay, I'm seeing something and it doesn't seem right to me. Let me learn more and let me figure out how I can change it."

11:33 WD: No. I 100% agree, and I also think it takes a little bit of luck. If I didn't work at this LGBT youth serving organization called the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and I had a supervisor, her name is Lilian Rivera. And she challenged me all the time. She didn't round my edges, but what she did was she kept dropping little nuggets of wisdom on me and just saying, "Just think about it and come back. Don't try to have an answer now." And I think if I didn't work there, I'm 100% sure I would not be the person that I am now, and I think that we have to sometimes get a little lucky and have people come into our lives who can drop those nuggets of wisdom and challenge us in ways where we can feel heard.

12:19 WD: 'Cause when I was in the NFL or in high school or in college, no one was talking about sexism or misogyny or patriarch, they just weren't been had, so it was almost a 0% chance that I could've ever thought that I would end up here having this conversation with you. And I think it takes a little bit of luck, it also takes a little bit of humbleness, I've been humbled a lot and, as you said, like I'm the most privilege person that I know. I am a former NFL player, so that gives me a certain level of access and privilege just by virtue of being that. I have male privilege, I also have a certain level of gender performance that people don't read me as gay, so I have a responsibility to expand what it means to be gay, but also not to elevate my certain type of performance of gender over another gay man. So all of these things are very complicated and I have to do my best to own my own stuff.

13:21 WD: And then also just be open and curious. One of the the things that I get sad about is that when I was a kid... And I think I was taught to be a critical thinker. I don't think that I was taught to challenge. I think the times that I did challenge and question, my hand was kinda smacked, so I decided to just kind of take everything as face value, and it took, again, just having the right people in my life to allow me to enter the conversation at a space where I could consume it and welcome it. And the work that you all are doing, I think, is doing that. When I was at the Man Up conference, event rather, I found myself once again frustrated that there's always women, therefore a conversation that you already know everything about, there's nothing I can ever tell another woman about what it's like to be a woman, or what's it like to work in a corporate environment. And I wish I had a magic wand to get men to just sit there and listen and not feel like that they're being attacked.

14:26 WD: But to think about, "How can I be a partner? How can I humble myself to a point where I can just listen and not have a dog in the fight?" And that's, I think, my greatest challenge, is how do I get men just in the room? And not to listen to me, just because I look like them or my performance is like them, but to listen to you? And not get our back up and get defensive, and just say, "Actually, this is true"? And that's where it took me... It took me to realize that this is true of me, and it's not the full story of me, but it's a part of me, and that's what I try to own the fact that I identify as a feminist, I'm grateful that women have named me a feminist, but I'm also sexist. It would be impossible for me to think that I've read all the Gloria Steinems and Judith Butler, and bell hooks, and Tamar... I'm no longer sexist. No, I still have times where I say something and I go, "Ah, right there." Like that's stuff that you've learned has been ingrained in you, it's still there.

15:29 KW: I have had this conversation with my husband quite a bit actually, and he's great and he's very open to this where, as simple as talking about pay leave. Right? Which you would... I would imagine that everyone's like, "Why yes, women are having babies."

15:49 WD: [chuckle] Why are we having this conversation?

15:49 KW: "Why don't we give them some time to recuperate from that? They're having your babies." [laughter] But we were having this conversation about the role of companies, and he owns his own company, and subsidizing that and what it should be. And it took for me to kind of, to put it into terms of, I've had three children, if we were not paid for that time that I took off for three children, what would be the economic impact on us as a family? What would you think of me as your co-breadwinner and partner, not being able to contribute during those times? And we rely on that. And he was like, "Yeah, yeah, I get that." It's hard to immediately understand what it means. And you may never fully understand.

16:41 WD: I think you highlight a very important thing, that there are men like your husband who don't want to have these stereotypical jobs, where they are seen as the breadwinner, and they're working from 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night and then there maybe only on Sundays. And even those types of conversations help to push the narrative forward, and to say men are starting to think differently about their roles in the house and their roles as caretakers. And one of the things that I've yet to have an answer for, is how do you get women to not be punished for when they go on maternity leave? And I don't think that there's anyone who will tell you honestly that they're not. Whether it's consciously or subconsciously, there is a punishment that happens when you go away for X amount of weeks, and there is a pre-punishment to assume that women are always going to want to have a baby at some point as well. And those are discussions that we as men aren't having, because it's not salient enough to our lives. And one of the other things that I'm really... I'll use this language, I'm pissed off about, and I would love for you to push back, as when men say that I became a feminist or for corporate gender equality when I had a daughter.

18:00 KW: Oh, I hate that.

18:01 WD: 'Cause I'm like, "Oh, so women should just wait until you have a girl? And maybe you have nine kids and all of them boys, so they just have to wait until then for you to get it." And what does it say about us as men? What does it really say... And to me it actually says that we still don't get it, if that's what it takes.

18:20 KW: [chuckle] Agreed. No, I agree. If you become a feminist, "Oh, because I have a mom, or a wife, or a sister, or a daughter, and it's like not just because I think men and women are equal." Right, and it's like, "Oh yeah, I'm not racist 'cause I have a black friend."

18:42 WD: Exactly, right. Yes, it's the same argument.

18:43 KW: You know, like, "Oh, 'cause I have a black friend now, it's cool, it's cool. I'm totally not racist." That doesn't make sense.

18:48 WD: How do we get around that argument? Because I've heard so many CEOs and corporate folks use that thing, and I've been on the panel with them, and I'm very conscious of not to critique them right then and there, and try to expand their thinking, but I really believe that most men think that it's okay to say that, "I became aware of gender equality after I had a daughter." I was like, "You know what? You had a mother, you had all... "

19:12 KW: I think it's... This isn't the right word, but it's like feminism without shame. We shouldn't have to qualify why we feel the way that we are. We shouldn't have to say, "I can say I'm a feminist because I have a daughter." You can just say, "I'm a feminist. I believe in gender equality." It's still a dirty word, it's still something that people, particularly men, feel like they don't have the right to be, or they can't be... And frankly, there's those that call themselves feminists and probably are truly not, as well, [laughter] and they're using it for other purposes, and so it's such a loaded term.

19:51 WD: To me, oftentimes when I'm doing an interview or write something in the acts for my three line, my sub, a bio or whatever, I always say NFL player and feminist. If you don't put that on there, then you're not... And I do that with intention. I want someone to question me, I want someone to challenge me on why that's really an important label for me. And it's important because it's really what I want to embody. I don't always live up to the label of feminist, but I really want to, but I also want to take a little bit of the stigma out of it so men can see, wow, there's a former NFL player, he also shows up with all of the archaic ideas around what it means to be black and all these things and say, he can still openly identify as a feminist. And maybe there's a chance that someone sees that and thinks about it for just a second. And if we can just get men to think about it and to relax around it, I think that we can make some real progress.

20:51 KW: So I wanna touch on a few things that you've said. So of course talking about the NFL has, does not have a reputation for being [laughter] the most gender equal, or appreciative, whatever the word is. And you also talked earlier in our conversation about how we're raised to not ask questions, to not challenge. And we're surrounded all the time by societal norms and we see it at school, and we hear from our families, and it kind of gets to just this pathway where we start to engage in deeper levels, oftentimes with other genders, sometimes with the same, we're having relationships what does the dynamics of that look, we enter the workforce, what does that dynamics work, we're in major sports leagues, and what role does gender play in that, and then you get to, and not to get political here, but you get to... Obviously the Trump and Billy Bush conversation about, "I'm gonna disparage women and I'm not gonna say anything about it." And so it's this whole cycle of behaviors that we live in a society that supports it.

22:14 WD: You've said a lot. [chuckle]

22:16 KW: I know. [chuckle] I'm just like...

22:17 WD: No, and that's beautiful, because what you made me think about is that... So I remember when I was like seven or eight. And I'm a Southern Baptist kid, I grew up heavily in the church, and I remember my mother used to sing in the choir. And I was a huge mama's boy and I loved the fact that my mother had this platform in the church because she had this really beautiful voice. But I remember asking her one day, "Why are there no women in the pulpit?" It was like my first question, and I remember she told me shut up. And I don't think she told me to shut up because she didn't agree. She didn't have an answer for it. Or she had an answer and she wasn't ready to engage me in that conversation, 'cause I think that she also knew that the church, whether it's black church, white church, is still a very patriarchal place. But I think from that moment was when I started to stop, I didn't ask questions as much anymore.

23:12 WD: And then I also think as a male in the sports world, but just as a male in general, you're taught about control and dominance. That you can dominate the conversation, you don't have to ask question because you are the answer. Like your maleness, your dominance, your control, your your ability to show up as violence, is the answer to all of these things, and I don't think that we as men have been taught how to show up as anything but that. I'm intentional to create a group of friends around me where we can have these types of conversations, where we can literally be vulnerable, be honest, talk about the desire to be loved, and the desire to give love, and and I think that expanding the ways that men can engage in really intimate conversations with other men, will create the conditions also for us to engage in these types of conversations where we're not always thinking about women as objects.

24:12 WD: I wasn't out as a gay man when I was playing in high school, in college, or in the pros, but what I did know, without anyone telling me, is that if I wanted to prove myself as a "man," I had to dominate and objectify women. That was a rite of passage. That was something that is handed down from generation to generation, from man to man, and it's unspoken. Right? So I knew that if I wanted to be perceived as straight, I just had to surround myself with women, and talk about women, and claim to have sex with women. Those types of hand-me-downs don't exist in the inverse, where people are passing down ways and reasons why we need to love and respect and show up for women, and be partners to women. And I think that that's a real part of the problem, is that we aren't given those other tools, and no one's giving you books by Judith Butler. No one's giving you books on Ida B. Wells. These books aren't given to you. I just bought a book by my friend Brittney Cooper, and I was just reading the acknowledgments, and just seeing her just thank other women.

25:29 WD: You're never given books where women are talking to women, talking about women. As men, people assume that you don't have an interest in that, so it shapes the way that you show up in the world, and I'm saddened by the fact that it took me until my 30s to start to appreciate the humanity of women. You've mentioned sports. One of the things that drives me crazy is when an athlete praises his mother for being strong, because that's all that we praise women for. "She's a strong woman." I'm like, well, we should just praise women for just being human, and give them the full capacity to show up as all of these things, but patriarchy is still demanding that women be strong, too. So it's this really interesting space where we subconsciously, and not even knowing it oftentimes, reinforce these ideas onto women, and then they mimic it back and say that, "I wanna be a strong woman." No, it actually takes a lot of work and effort to always be strong. When can men and women just be human, and they're embraced, loved, and valued for that?

26:32 KW: Because strength and dominance is such a integral part of our storytelling, of our history, and our society, we create, and we're raising children to think that that... When someone's like, "Oh my mom was strong," because that's what we're being taught is...

26:52 WD: That's what we value now.

26:52 KW: Is what is valuable, what makes somebody valuable to us.

26:57 WD: I don't have kids, but I often... There was this article in the New York Times that talked about how to raise a feminist son. And I liked a lot of the article, but one of the parts that I didn't like is that it said that single mothers can't raise a son in a certain type of way. So I think even when we're trying to have these really beautiful dialogues, that are always gonna be imperfect, I'm sure someone's gonna hear this interview and say, "Wade was wrong on that!"

27:26 KW: Sure.

27:27 WD: And I'm okay with that, but I think that we're in a space where, as you said, that there is no inherent value, even for women to a certain point, to show up as feminine. That we don't put value on being feminine at all, unless it's for the enjoyment of other men. That you have to be strong in the boardroom, and if you do show up as your feminine self, then you're using that to get ahead, and that's not... And it's not okay. I love Gloria Steinem. And she made this comment, and it's so true, that if we don't allow women to move up the corporate ladder and redefine it, then all that they're gonna be allowed to do is recreate the same types of gender norms and characteristics of men. And I think that that's where we're still at, is that women still can't be stereotypically, as we define them as, emotional. As if male anger isn't an emotion. You know what I mean? I think there's so much work that we have to do to redefine all of these terms and ideas and norms, and the only way that we can do that, is truly, is if women lead. Not more than men, but just are allowed to lead differently. I think I've learned the most in my lifetime about how to be the most human from women.

28:58 KW: Yeah.

29:00 WD: I've rarely... I do have some male friends, so I don't wanna say that it's full, but most of the people who have taught me to be more of my full self have been women. And I think if we create a society where women are allowed to lead just as much as men, more than men, you will see a shift in the amount of violence. You will see a shift in so many different things, and history has proven that.

29:28 KW: So I would... I will slightly disagree with that.

29:34 WD: Yes! That's okay.

29:35 KW: Which is that, yes, we need women to lead, but we need men to change.

29:44 WD: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

29:45 KW: The culture of companies too.

29:46 WD: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disallow that.

29:49 KW: Because, one, we know men wield the power now. So unless men wake up and are a part of this conversation and really engage in...

30:00 WD: We'll both be dead.

30:01 KW: Nothing's gonna change. Nothing has changed for decades, and we've been talking about diversity in the workplace for 20, 30 years now. All the programs that are currently in place have been in place for years, nothing is changing. We're not seeing the metrics change, and it's not changing 'cause you have senior leaders that are predominately men, that are not actively engaged in the conversation. They don't value diversity and they're not fully engaging their companies around solutions to create a different culture, a different environment. I mean, all of the... I can't tell you the reviews I've had where a subordinate would... The three six reviews and the subordinate would say, "You're too mean, you're too tough." And then the manager would say, "You're not mean enough, you're not tough enough."

30:48 WD: It's a closed circle.

30:49 KW: And I'm like, "Why is it about being tough? Why isn't it, 'are we hitting our numbers?' Why isn't it about the numbers and however you get there is how you get there?"

31:00 WD: No, I agree with you and I'm sorry, and I didn't mean that when women have to leave the movement, I meant that women have to leave businesses and stuff like that. But you're definitely right, that men are in power now so we have to be a part of it. The firm that I work for, YSC, one of the things that we're... And we do a lot of coaching and assessing of hiring folks in the Sea Suites. And one of the things is that we've found is that women do exist in a closed circle, that they say, "You aren't tough enough, you're aren't mean enough," but then they say, "You know, you're too mean and you're too tough." Right? So there is no way out of that to move up, and what we're trying to get organizations to do is remove language that is inherently patriarchal and sexist by nature, that the idea what it means to be tough has never been situated on the woman body, it's always been through a male lens, so the only way that a women can be tough is to mimic what men do, and that's actually, again, recreating the same type of trauma and violence that we don't want women to have to go through.

32:05 WD: So it's how do you strip the language out of organizations? And how do you create parameters that don't say, "Well, she doesn't have executive presence"? A woman can never have executive presence if it's always seen through the lens of a man. Right?

32:18 KW: Sure.

32:20 WD: And I don't think that companies are doing enough to make sure that how they're evaluating talent is free of all of these stereotypical norms that are typically male.

32:30 KW: And it gets back to what you're saying, the NFL players, "Thanks to my mom, she's so strong," as we're constantly trying to push women into these strong and tough and dominant, and that's not...

32:44 WD: Because we think that that's the key to being successful, because that's what we have been taught. I was never taught that, "Oh, if you're vulnerable, you're gonna get ahead." [laughter] "Oh, if you desire forms of intimacy with men that are making bonds and stuff... " I was thinking about this, the only time that an athlete specifically is allowed to be vulnerable is after they lose a big game or after they win a big game. Then it's okay for you to show that emotion. But it's not okay in that big gap between winning and losing to ever just be any of those things, because that is not seen as strength. And when I wasn't out as a gay man, I knew without anyone telling me that being gay had no value, that being gay was associated with being like a woman. So therefore I didn't wanna be any of that, because I didn't think that anyone would ever reward me for doing that. And I think that, that's what the corporate world is like too. We don't reward women, and we don't reward men who show up with any of the characteristics that we deem historically woman.

33:48 WD: We don't think of empathy as a positive trait in the workforce. So I would imagine that leaders don't put merit or value associated with a certain level of empathy, because it's associated with a feminine or female quality. A colleague of mine, Toni Harris Quinerly, was talking about how a friend of hers... So there's this term out there called "Black Girl Magic," and I used to love the actual term, and she was like, "Actually, I'm not magic. It is hard as hell for me to show up as a woman." Like, "No, I'm human. And by you wanting me to show up and have this magic, you're actually putting more on me." She was like, "Just let me be me." And I think that we do that, and I totally get the reasoning behind the language of Black Girl Magic and why it's important. But I think that what she helped me realize is that we still create these things that don't allow human beings, absent of gender, to be that.

35:00 WD: So when we think of certain terms, certain ideologies, we have put them in a female box or a male box, and we don't wanna mix the two at all. And I've been thinking a lot about what's talk I'm gonna give at the summit, and I think that that's gonna be it. The mixing of terms, and how do we start to associate terms that are historically assigned to one gender to the other?

35:28 KW: Yeah. We need to be restructure, redefine our human language.

35:33 WD: Because language matters, language is really important.

35:37 KW: It does matter.

35:37 WD: It's how we talk to each other, it's how we make different types of connections.

35:41 KW: We've seen how certain words can be so harmful and so hurtful, and so empowering. And that's where even empowering, Sallie Krawcheck talks about the term "Empower" because it's to give power. And so when you say, "Oh, this guy is so empowering," it's like he's giving you power, it's you not taking it or you not innately having it.

36:09 WD: Yeah, it's interesting to think about, yeah.

36:10 KW: And it's a bit loaded, and it's interesting, but I think as we start to... Yeah, I love that topic for the talk, and I can't wait to hear it on June 21st.

36:20 WD: [laughter] Me too.

36:20 KW: But it's... And I'm English major, so I'm giddy over language too.

36:25 WD: Oh no, I'm not an English major, so I'm nervous. [chuckle]

36:28 KW: No, but I think, but that's at the core of what it is, is we have words that are used to describe people, to describe cultures, behaviors, traits, characteristics, expectations. And that you could probably take all of them and put them into, "Well, this is the male bucket, this is the female bucket, this is non-binary." And when you think about it that way, then it's, "Oh, well, I'll associate strong with a guy, and I'm gonna associate bitchy with a girl," or whatever that is, and we saw a lot of that also during the election. But how do you start to define people who... In terms that can be very hurtful.

37:11 WD: I do think that one of the things that's beautiful about young people, specifically young people who identify as LGBT, genderqueer, or what have you, is they are already starting to screw up language. I have a friend, Katie Barns, and Katie Barns goes by "they."

37:29 KW: Yup. Or "them."

37:30 WD: And I struggle to not screw up their gender terms. Their pronouns, sorry. And what I love about it is that Katie's forcing me to think constantly. I just can't relax into my normal way of thinking, and I think that that's the work that we wanna do, is start to get people to actually put thought behind it and not be on autopilot.

37:54 KW: Sure.

37:54 WD: Often times whenever I do interviews, I don't let them send me the questions. 'Cause if they send them to me early, I will go on autopilot. I'll look at it and I'm just gonna give you my thirty-second spiel of what I wanna say, and it's gonna sound perfect. I actually wanna screw up a little bit, be more... I want to mimic how the world is, like that I've been really successfully but I've also got many more failures. And I think that we have to try to just get into the muck and not want to be so comfortable.

38:24 KW: Mm-hmm.

38:24 WD: And I think that that's what you're talking about. And I really think that that's what Ellevate as an organization does. It really makes us uncomfortable. It forces us to think. We have to stop and pause and go, "Am I really doing the work that creates the conditions for women specifically, but other individuals also, to be successful in the workplace?" And that's what I think that feminism is also about. It's making you stop, think, think critically, challenge your own assumptions, expectations, needs, values, morals, and all of that. And that's exciting to me.

38:58 KW: I can't wait to hear more about it [laughter] at the summit, and thank you so much for joining us. This was great.

39:03 WD: Thank you for having me.

39:04 KW: I had a lot of fun.

39:04 WD: Me too.

39:07 S1: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate podcast on iTunes, give us five stars, and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @ellevatentwk. That's Ellevate Network. And become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E network dot com. And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller. She rocks. And to our voiceover artist, Rachel Greisinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.