Success is often a team sport, and many times allies of successful women are not female. Although I’ve been focused on the Hero Project this year, which is dedicated to women in our field, it doesn’t mean we think guys or non-binary people should be left out of the party. Because a lot of you all are a blast to work with. And while most women are frustrated by the legacy system of patriarchy that treats them as second class citizens by default, a lot of them don’t feel that way about the men in their lives. Some of you (…cough…husband Nash gets an award here) we actually like a lot and hope to work with for the rest of our lives. We also see many of you working hard to change the status quo. Which is maybe an important point to make in this era of division: working together and having fun respecting each other as friends and colleagues does not require everyone to be exact carbon copies of each other or perfect people. In light of events this past week, with Kate Spade’s suicide and this really heartbreaking post I read by a trans man on how hard he finds it to bear the brunt of many feminists’ anger towards a larger system, I thought I would change this week’s post to talk about the person I most respect and love as well as offer some practical steps I see people taking who work across the gender divide. Got any good tips of your own of stuff that’s worked for you? Shoot me an email. My goal here is to maximize fun and value creation for everyone.
Perhaps this will help some of the men in my life struggling to figure out how to thread the needle of having good relationships with women without destroying an internal sense of worth.
For those of you who don’t know, Haus Page is a husband-wife run production design team. We’re gender equal and have happily spent most of the past decade carving out a life from the messy chaos that is life, love, and living in general on planet earth. It has not always been an easy ride. Growing up as a mix of Irish Catholic and Protestant latchkey kid, I saw a cultural division. Half of my family treats women like they’re awesome, valuable, and equal players worth respecting and have decades of solid marriages behind them, while the other half are like total nutcases who are basically walking gigolo advertisements for flaky loser guys whose only interests are chasing wine, women, and hard drugs into their own demise. And I watched my own father, someone I admired greatly as a small child, basically have an affair and destroy most of his personal relationships as well as mine post my folks’ divorce. It left a bad taste in my mouth towards men in general because my primary role model was someone I could no longer respect or trust, and who in return didn’t seem to respect me either. Or want me around.
That didn’t change for me until I met my husband. They say that marriage is one of the hardest and most wonderful things you’ll ever do. In that respect I believe they’re right. My husband is a blacksmith and metalworker who my friends like to call the Viking. Hook him up to anything electronic or metal and he’s a happy beast. It might be hammering away at a forge making medieval 15th-century theatre armour or resurrecting the latest piece of industrial equipment someone in our shop or a friend has managed to break. But he likes the art of making things with metal. While I could probably talk about all the things he crafts around our place and the fact that we’re both pretty horrible at household chores, the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from him are about how to work together as a team. The name for this is called operation management, but it’s basically the idea that people are imperfect and human, so systems are put in place to help the business function regardless. It also massively reduces stress levels on repeat projects because he likes to build in a framework for success.
This doesn’t always mean things go perfectly. But we have a system in place, and it’s been really helpful for navigating events or partnerships year after year, serving as a springboard to improve on over time.
Which brings me to a hard truth: since men and women often see things differently and even have different experiences in business, systems traditionally set up by men include certain biases that may or may not hold true. Men want to be seen as competent and respected in their career. To leave a legacy. Competent women often struggle to be seen as likeable. Which brings me to the obvious solution many partnerships I know are based on: men and women working together to support each other’s career. In fact, many successful fashion marriages are created on the backbone of this.
We can play a role in helping coworkers become better versions of themselves by telling their story in a way that expresses the things they care about and helping them overcome the problems they personally face to being successful. Unfortunately, many smart and competent women who get things done are often rewarded by hate and active isolation from the group or society. One of the key phrases I use for pushback when this happens, because I frankly like working with other smart and hardworking women, is to say, “You know so-and-so is really a lot of fun to be around, and she’s clearly passionate about what she does. And you know I like that.” Salary negotiations can be especially problematic because if a woman asks for recognition for her hard work, she’s often denied on the basis of not being a “team player.” If she pushes the matter, she may be replaced. One of the reasons I launched The Hero Project this year is to reach out across the field to women I believe to be brilliant and give them visible recognition for their careers. One of the biggest positive actions some men are taking in the film industry right now is when lead males like Benedict Cumberbatch insist their female co-stars be paid equally. Nash has actually taught me valuable lessons on how women can overcome the traditional stigma we face in negotiating raises. He’s treated me with respect and invited me to male group business meetings I had been previously excluded from. Which brings me to the other half of this, as a woman if you want the men in your life to know how to advocate for the women in their lives, you need to understand what they need on a core level, which is being seen as competent and respected. If you feel that way about someone, especially a man, you have to actively tell him that. And in a group setting is EVEN better, preferably to a girl or guy they like. You cannot assume a man knows what you think of him if you don’t open your mouth and say that DIRECTLY. I have had my mind actively blown on several occasions where someone I thought the world of had ZERO clue I felt that way about them or their work. This is like guys in high school being clueless when girls liked them. Using the words “respect,” “legacy,” and “competent” mean a lot to a guy. Or clearly state your requests as “in order for me to see you as competent at this task, I need you to master x or y technique. And that involves going it repeatedly like in martials arts, not thinking about it or doing it once.” Once it gets done, follow it up with “Good job.” Which brings me to another point, while competence is an attractive quality in a man for long-term relationships or men advocating for women in groups as allies, it’s not the same as physical attraction. Women telling you they admire and respect you means they want to hang out with you and they think you’re cool. It’s a two-thumbs up positive review. Guys wanting to hang out with is the same. Take this for what it is, a recognition of you being awesome and saying it in the language that has meaning to you because they value you as a person of the opposite gender. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of a virgin on the second date planning her wedding with someone she barely knows. That just ruins an awesome moment by making you seem desperate and creepy. I generally find a good laugh and saying, “Hey, you took that a little more seriously than I intended,” can go a long way if wires get crossed.
So let me end this by telling you some of the things about my husband, Nash. He’s great at sales. He’s fantastic at on the fly, coming up with last minute logistics for group events. He’s a great operations manager. He likes fixing things and constantly tinkers to improve stuff around him. He’s one of the best sewing mechanics I know, and he gets better every year. He’s pretty good at IT and technology in general. I have yet to see him meet a piece of industrial equipment that didn’t like him, which has earned him the title of Technomage among friends. He’s a great blacksmith. A fun propmaker. And a decent scene shop person. And no, he’s not perfect and I don’t know if he’ll ever learn to do the dishes, but all the other stuff…yup he’s an awesome business and life partner. If I was in any foxhole, anywhere in the world, facing any situation, he’s the person I’d pick to be with me.
Note: These photos are snapped from when Nash ran Animazement’s Cosplay Repair Booth 2 weeks ago with myself and a bunch of friends. We had a great time and that is really a credit to him and his management skills because we doubled the foot traffic we had the prior year and filmed a tv show on Amazon which was insane. But it all worked out. A team of men and women having fun together fixing almost 800 costumes over the space of 3 days and being successful at it. Nash also split the tip jar so EVERYONE at the booth male and female, got an equal cut of the cash which was pretty cool. I’m sharing this in hopes it brings joy to your life too and maybe gives you some practical ideas of what works in the real world.