Today is the day. Back in October, we featured Lindsey Meyers, one of the strongest, most interesting women we know, and even then we knew we’d have to post the rest of her interview to share all her wisdom.
Lindsey is an artist, mother of two and owner of Beauty and Brawn Art Gallery & Think Space in Chicago. When we chatted, we talked about everything from her business to her thoughts on art and women in the workplace. The last part is what I want to share with you today.
Lindsey and I were talking about how oftentimes, it’s a man’s world out there. And that as much as we don’t want to emphasize the differences between women and men, it can happen anyway. In this part of the conversation, I was telling her that a lot of the people we interview really like that we focus on women for People with Panache. She agreed.
Lindsey Meyers: Since the beginning of time, if the men are off hunting and gathering, the women are holding down the fort. They’ve got it all worked out, whether they’re a cavewoman or a woman today. But you find you’re always up against men anyway; it’s definitely a man’s world and you’re always separated as a “female” business owner.
People with Panache: I know, I’ve been struggling with that because I love that we’re featuring women but I don’t want it to sound like you’re awesome because you’re women. I don’t want to make the distinction. You’re awesome because you’re doing something you’re passionate about… and you just so happen to be women.
LM: Yeah, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Or it’s going to take a long time. Do you know how many men I meet who shake my hand like a fish? I’m like ew. I’m going to go in there and even if I’ve had to do 20 pushups before I get in that room, I’m going to take you on as a man. Because we are totally still, no matter what, sexualized instantaneously.
PWP: And it doesn’t necessarily bother me until it’s obvious I am respected less because I am a woman. Sex and respect aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. But it can make doing business more difficult than it needs to be.
LM: That’s a tough one to come up against. Even in the logistics of opening a business, people consider you a minority as a woman, so there’s minority funding but there are very few options out there for women business owners to get together and to get operating capital.
PWP: What do you think the differences are between women and men in positions of power?
LM: Men in power are so different than women in power. Men butt up against each other instead of help each other. It’s silly because many women just have a centeredness. This really primal part of us that’s nurturing and creative like both the soft and the hard; like you have a hockey stick and a tutu. That’s kind of how I was raised and how my girls are. To be fierce like that, hence beauty and brawn. I don’t want to be frail. Male or female, I want to go head to head with anybody that’s going to come in my way.
PWP: You are so tough! I love that you’ll fight for what you want but are still yourself. Because at the same time, no matter what the perception is, I don’t think women need to change who they are or become something different to work with anyone of any gender.
LM: Exactly, you should be able to do your thing while being as feminine as you want at the same time. I don’t feel like I need to wear a manly power suit to look as powerful as a man. No, I’m going to wear some amazing heels. That’s the thing, I’m raising two daughters. They look at what people are wearing, and I tell them they can show a little cleavage—be beautiful, be sexy—but to figure themselves out first. We should be able to go put on gorgeous heels and be seen as strong and empowered and not be wearing a tie.
Another thing that I explore in my work all the time is the workload women have historically taken on. Nobody really gave us an option. It’s been a dialogue with a lot of the women I know lately because whether they’re married or single, the woman is doing triple-load. I don’t know if society is condoning this, but women in public have dumbed themselves down almost. They feel like they need to. I don’t watch television, but when I do… I just can’t believe what people are willing to intake. I think it has a negative effect. How many women role models do we really have? Most of the art gallery owners… if they’re women, then they’re not the artist. They might run the business, but they don’t do both. But I don’t want to say this is all pro-women, I mean I like men.
“Be strong, be beautiful, be educated.”
PWP: Yeah, it annoys me when women say they hate men. No you don’t, you can’t just hate men. You can hate specific men! But you can’t hate all men.
LM: You can hate the way they behave! I’ve mellowed in my old age about things like that or things in business that used to really bother me. I just do my own thing. I’m sure when you go out, you see gaggles of women whose sole purpose that night is to get the attention of men. No, go out and look beautiful for yourself. Easier said than done right?
PWP: I know, but it’s so hard because I can see both sides. And it’s hard to tell sometimes if I’m being me or if I’m influenced by what’s around me. So I often have to stop and think, no, this is what I believe.
LM: Yeah and I’m not buying this bullshit about like oh men are scared of an intelligent strong woman. Well then he’s a pussy. Let him be scared. Sorry, I cuss like a sailor.
PWP: I agree! What’s your best advice for any woman of any age?
LM: Be strong, be beautiful, be educated. Go out there. Be yourself in the world before you’re anything to anybody else. It’s not easy, but it’s still the most important thing.
[Photos by Lindsey Meyers.]