The art of negotiation

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By Danielle Jones, Contributing Writer

Negotiate (verb, used without object): to deal or bargain with another or others, as in the preparation of a treaty or contract or in preliminaries to a business deal.

On September 21, the Eisenhower Institute hosted a debate amongst six of the political groups on campus. The debate was daunting enough in that I had never done something like it before that day. Going into the day, I knew that there was a strong possibility that I would be the single female representative on stage.

As the room began to get more crowded and the other club representatives arrived it became astonishingly clear that I was in fact the only female debater. I was challenged directly and indirectly, as was every other participant on stage. Once the original questions were finished, the moderators allowed for audience questions. The moderators approached the front and gave the first question.

“As made apparent by the representatives on this stage, woman’s issues are still a topic that needs to be discussed. What role, is any, should the government play in closing the wage gap, funding planned parenthood, and allowing abortion?”

The question rang close to home, and rightly so. I was busy formulating my response when the first group of participants began their response. To this group, the wage gap was a myth. They also believed that the government should stop subsidizing women’s health, take money away from Planned Parenthood to put into women’s health clinics, and that women should look more into being a part of the STEM field.

When it came time for me to respond I had plenty to say. Planned Parenthood is a women’s health clinic. Women work different jobs because society has taught us that we should only work in fields traditionally associated with women. Society has also taught us that we must choose between motherhood and being career women; to be both is impossible. Society has taught women that we must be meek and mild-mannered, lest we risk the wrath of man. Our government is 80% male, and 80% white – where is my representation in this?

As the debate continued, this group was allowed a rebuttal. They wished to clear up their previous statements, and after naming the top 10 newspapers in the country, informed the crowd that the reason the wage gap existed is because women worked different jobs, but more than that, because women did not know how to negotiate. And again Monday night at the first presidential debate Donald Trump said he believed Hilary Clinton could not be president because she lacked negotiation skills.

That’s it. Centuries of systematic oppression of gender by a predominantly white, male dominated society, boiled down to one skill most people learn before entering kindergarten.

Enough is enough. My contributions to society will not be boiled down to a single skill. You may try and put me in a box and tell me that I can only make it so far in life because I am a woman, but from now on I am taking back my womanhood. From now on, I will do everything in my power to act, think, and speak ‘like a girl’. I am no longer going to let society dictate what it means to be a woman.

I, and only I, can decide what it means to me to be a woman. I will not sit idly by and let people who can walk down the street at night without fearing attack, who can have friends without being accused of leading people on, and who are lauded for being involved with lots of women decide my future. I who, like so many other women, convinced herself that it was my fault, my actions, and my inability to express my wants that led to my being sexually assaulted, will no longer take the blame. Society tells me I cannot negotiate; therefore, I will not negotiate.

I am tired of being told that I have to work twice as hard to get to a place where I can even consider negotiating. I am tired of compromising my beliefs so that a system that continues to look down on me can benefit. I did not negotiate my way into this school. I did not negotiate my way into leadership roles. I am not going to negotiate with a society that dictates my abilities because I am a woman.

I am going to stand up and fight to have the same respect and representation as a man would, and I will keep fighting until I earn what I deserve, I can make choices that benefit myself, and I have the same rights that the white men of this country have had their whole lives. I am standing up for those who do not have a voice, and I will stand on whatever chair, ladder or stage I have to until the world becomes equal for all.

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