TEDxGlenEcho – The Future of Women

Posted on December 13, 2010. Filed under: Events, storytelling | Tags: , , , , , |

Here’s a video of my story for the “Future of Women” event for TEDxGlenEcho.

If you prefer to read the script, or just want to read along and see where I messed up, here’s the text:

“I Am Not a Girl”

By Jessica Piscitelli

There are more women in the world than men, more women than men enter college every year, and 85% of all purchases are made by women.   Women rule!  So, why doesn’t it feel like it?  Why don’t I feel like my needs as a consumer, a business owner, and a culture junky are being met?

I have come to believe that I am not a girl, and I am willing to bet some of you are not either.  I am a woman.  In purely biological terms, I am female, but in terms of the world we live in, I have never really been a girl.  At least, not the kind of girl society tells me to be.

I grew up in the 80s.  My mom and dad got divorced when I was three, so she raised me and my brother and sister.  Back then, there were a lot of liberated women raising children, women who had grown up in the 50s and 60s and had to overcome a lot to gain equal rights.  My mom raised me to feel like there was no difference between little boys and little girls.

When I hit puberty, I kinda got that there were differences, but we’re not gonna go there.  My mom did all the housework.  She fixed the broken plumbing or light fixtures.  She took out the garbage and mowed the lawn.  As we got old enough, my brother, and sister and I took over the chores, though my sister would argue, and often did, that my brother got out of doing most of them.

My mom worked, fed us, occasionally even home cooked meals, and took care of the house.  In turn, we all did our parts – and our parts were treated as equal labor.

For fun, I spent most of my time running around and getting dirty.  When I wasn’t climbing trees or making forts, I was watching TV.  I loved cartoons, especially GI Joe, Transformers, and Thundercats.  Cartoon time means lots of advertising so, for Christmas, I’d ask for Robotics and Tonka toys.  I am sure if I had wanted to watch girl shows, I would have ended up asking for perfect looking dolls, hair styling and makeup kits, and play jewelry, but that was never where my interest lay.

In fifth grade, I got my first boyfriend.  Joe lived around the corner from me and, every day, after school, we’d walk up to the park and play on the swings or ride the see saw.  That’s not code, btw the way, it’s just what we did.  Joe was from up North and was a big Yankees fan, so he decided to teach me to play catch.  He gave me a glove and we tossed the ball back and forth.  After a couple minutes, he started laughing at me.  I said what’s so funny?  He said you throw like a girl.  I said no I don’t.  He said yes you do.  I said no I don’t.  He said yes you do.  We went back and forth like that for a while before he gave up on the fight and on our future together.  As he snatched his glove back, he said, “Jeeze, all you had to do was say I AM a girl!”

In high school, I started a lifelong love affair.  My high school had a TV studio and produced shows for local cable.  Even though it meant taking three periods a day for class and working after school most days, I had to do it.  I was in love and have known, since I was sixteen, that film and video was going to be my life.  I graduated from NYU Film School and went to work in the feature film industry.

On set, life is different.  It’s almost like you live in a fantasy world.  You are not talking to or working with civilians, only other entrenched crew.  You’re on set 6 days a week, 18 hours a day, so relationships don’t matter, where you live doesn’t matter, and you don’t need groceries cause they feed you on set.  If you do a good job, when one movie wraps, another one picks you up.  You’re rarely off between movies, and never have to experience reality.

I started my own production company because I wanted more control in my life.  When I left the film industry, I knew nothing about the real world.  Dressing up for work was new.  Having to wear makeup or do anything other than a ponytail with my hair was foreign.  Finding clients and networking for business was something I had never even conceived.  I needed help.  I could learn a little by doing and asking questions, but I wanted a simple answer to the problem of how to run a business so I bought some educational books, looking for wisdom.

Books written for women in business come with one of two answers.  They say, in order to be successful, you have to choose – between being a nice girl or being a bitch.  When’s the last time you were putting a proposal together and thought, hmm, should I be a bitch or a nice girl this time?  Never?  Yeah, me neither.

Prospective clients sometimes ask me for little things like, say, a fifty percent discount.  When I say no, it’s not because I am trying to be a bitch, but because I am making a business decision.  When I throw in extra Blu-Rays for great clients, it’s not because I am trying to be nice, but because I want more business from people who are great to work with.

But the world seems to think women only want to learn how to behave, sweetly or sourly, so that companies will hire us.  Publishers think women business owners are not interested in facts or strategy, but just in others perception.

In the last 11 years, I have managed to figure out how to run a business.  But as much as production will always be a great love of my life, at some point, I had to face the other kind of love.

I met my ex husband in film school.  We separated after a few years, which is why I had to learn about dating in my late 20s.  When I started looking for mister right, I waded through a few mister wrongs.  There were a lot of men out there who didn’t have what I was looking for like maturity, kindness, a sense of humor, and a purpose.

When it came to dating, the self help books for women told me that it would be good to have a hobby, or something you could be interested in, so you don’t spend all your time waiting for him to call.  I read books that suggested you shouldn’t just drop everything as soon as a man comes along.  Men want you to have a life of your own.

I found it fascinating that these books, supposedly written for me, assumed I didn’t have a purpose of my own.  Why would I need to find a hobby in order to appeal to a man?  I don’t know about you, but I am so busy trying to accomplish everything I want to in this life, I don’t have time to worry about what men want me to be.

Pop culture turned out to be an even worse source of dating feedback.  Obviously, I love movies.  But when it comes to love, movies tell us all men want is beauty, slim and buxom, ditziness, a la the girl who walks into doors and makes lots of, oops, social faux pas, or the nice girl who saves them, from depression, lack of direction, or inability to grow up.  Movies, today, rarely show us women who are strong, independent, and smart and, when they do, they’re bitches.

I watch stand-up, but get upset with male comedians whose acts come out like another popular stereotype.

I used to date, but it got too expensive.  I mean, girls say they are looking for love, but they are always looking for it in my wallet.  Now, when I see a girl I want to sleep with, I just take out whatever cash I have, light it on fire, and go to bed alone, and I still wake up with more money than if I had asked her out!

My parents did not have much.  I started working when I was sixteen and never stopped.  As a result, I am pretty good with money.  Most women want to know the guy they’re dating is responsible with his money, and capable of holding down a job.  But in a country where only 12 of the top 500 companies are run by women, in which women still only make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make, but where women comprise 46% of the work force, you would think we could expect a little more respect.  We don’t have time to chase men for their money.  We’re too busy working hard for less pay.

Women rule, but we don’t make the rules.  A recent study found that the more TV people watch, the more dissatisfied they become.  There was no study of the cause, but if you look at what’s on TV, it’s pretty easy to figure out.  For women, all we see are beautiful actresses, playing at real life, in their size zero jeans.  In a country in which 60 percent of the population is overweight, we spend our 2 – 6 hours of TV watching a day looking at actors who don’t even know dress sizes go all the way up to 10.

A lot of shows have girls playing cops, but they wear ridiculously sexy outfits, or playing doctors who spend all their time pining after men instead of focusing on their careers.  Reality shows are about girls trying to find love while viciously competing with other girls, bragging about how much money they can blow, or acting like dirty girls or bad girls while getting drunk in various seaside resorts.

It’s hard for most of us to live up to what we see on TV, or, to reconcile what we want in life with what we’re told we are supposed to want.   Movies are just as bad, where the ditzy blonde is still a staple of romantic comedies, the movies women are supposed to love.  Comedy often focuses on girls as money grubbing bitches, and self help guides assume we don’t have goals of our own, just concerns about how we are perceived.   Even though we are the largest population, with the majority of the market, the core of womanhood, what we all are on the inside, is rarely addressed.

I am not a girl, if a girl is someone who wants money over love, obsesses about her appearance, can think of nothing other than chasing boys, is a ditz or has to act like a bitch to get ahead in the world.   I am a creature who is not represented in educational books, tv, comedy, or movies.  I am not a girl, but I am a woman, and women rule.


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[…] “Dirty Girls and Bad, Bad Boys.”  As I have never really been much of a girl, see my TEDx story about that, I decided to tell my bad boy story – only I was the badass in this […]

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