I am a feminist – and proud of it. I have taken my girl power attitude into my job at an advertising agency. I also love to bake. I have shared this passion numerous times with my office and have gained so much joy from it. Growing up in a world where I was told I could do and be anything I wanted, I never would have thought that these things would be mutually exclusive.
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I just finished Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In.” Upon completing it, I explained to my parents what I had learned from it. In response, my father said, “You know, you really shouldn’t bake for your office. It makes you look like Betty Crocker, not the CEO.” I was stunned and hurt by this. I couldn’t imagine how it could be wrong to combine my passions of my job and baking. What was the harm? I immediately became defensive and wouldn’t hear any more. Soon, I started to see what he meant.
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A co-worker of mine is the life of the party. A fellow baker, she always provides the birthday cupcakes and plans the happy hours and office parties. She is also an incredible copywriter and the only female on the creative team. But, nobody thinks about her talent or her accomplishments. Nobody fights to give her a promotion or a raise. She goes unacknowledged unless she is being complimented on her cream cheese frosting or congratulated on her successful party planning.
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This was what my dad was trying to explain to me. By becoming “baker girl,” she ceased to be talented “writer girl” and, as a result, her career growth has stalled. She went from being passionate about her job to completely disenchanted and frustrated with her lack of progress.
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I have stopped baking for my office.
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You could argue that her situation is unique. If she weren’t afraid to ask for a raise, or if she planned less parties, maybe it would be different. Regardless, it is incredibly sad to realize that the world I believed in – the one in which I could do and be anything I wanted – is not what it seemed.
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I can still do anything, I can still be anything, but only if I follow the unspoken rule of not appearing too stereotypically female or doing stereotypically female things. I am a feminist, but somehow that has translated to a reason for why I shouldn’t bake for my coworkers. That seems wrong to me.
A true feminist should believe that women can do anything without their gender being a factor. So, I am going to hold on to this belief and continue to hope for a day when women can be in the workplace without the gender baggage.
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But, until then… no cake for you.