There are certain attributes of women’s organizations that give me the heebie-jeebies. Have you ever noticed that very often, women act strangely in groups? See if your experiences with women’s groups square with mine…I was on the phone with my friend Ruth, located in Boulder. I was arriving at a women’s business conference in a large city, and as I came through the revolving door into the conference hotel, I said to Ruth,”Listen, I see the conference organizers. I need to put the phone down for a moment, but I’ll be back with you in a second.”
I stuck the phone in my purse while I greeted the conference-ladies. When I picked it up again, Ruth said “Wow! It sounded like a Friday the 13th movie! What was going on there?”
“Oh, you know women’s conferences,” I said. “Shrieking.” I can only imagine what Ruth heard through my cellphone. At these women’s conferences, when women meet old friends, they shriek. Don’t ask me why. It’s habitual.
I’ve never been much of a shrieker, myself. If I’m happy to see you, I’l say “It’s great to see you!” and give you a hug. I don’t know what distinguishes shriekers from non-shriekers, but I’m always a little bit more comfortable in a non-shrieking crowd.
I had lunch with Carol today, and I asked her what it is about shrieking groups of women at conferences that weirds me out. She said, “It’s the inauthenticity. You fear that the shrieking is too much, that it’s part of an act – the ‘women-atwomen’s-business-conferences’ act.”
“That’s right,” I said. “I fear that she who shrieks in delight at the site of my smiling face one moment may be stabbing me in the back the next.” I hate to say it, but we know that’s a fact of life in women’s organizations, too.
We host a women’s leadership conference every Spring, called Camp WorldWIT. It’s very low-key, always in a rustic setting, amid trees and nature. We stay two to a room so the cost is very low, and the content is amazing, and the networking is warm and supportive. We have yoga and belly dancing and all sorts of fun things to do, but mainly, we learn from and get to know one another. It’s a no-shriek zone, too.
The first year we held this Camp WorldWIT event, we got appreciative letters from our Campers. “I was afraid it would be like so many women’s events,” wrote one woman, “with inner circles and cliques and all of that.” That was good learning for me – I had never thought to promote the idea that we wouldn’t be doing that traditional women’s-group stuff with In people and Out people and levels of hierarchy – we wouldn’t know how! That stuff gets taught in the same schools where women learn to shriek as they encounter one another. I missed that class entirely – must have been doing some geeky thing like taking photos for the yearbook.