Amy Talks Sportsball
Amy Writes Words #5
Hello, welcome to June.
June is my birthday month. I once called my birthday “the gateway to hell” because it comes just before July, typically a terrible month for me. June itself, though... well, June is something else.
I opened up my journal the other morning to find this sticky note I had written to myself in the middle of the night:
In June I think I can do anything. In June I’m not just going to start a newsletter that is essentially Taylor Swift fan art, I’m gonna be as big as Taylor Swift.
Luckily I have put a lot of guard rails up in my life, like that sticky note.
Anyhow, I’d already written this week’s newsletter, which I thought was SPECTACULAR AND BRILLIANT, but which, in light of that hot pink and extremely clear admonition, I have put on ice. Leaving me here on Friday morning with no newsletter content to speak of and a self-imposed deadline bearing down on me.
As a result this newsletter will be short, which should be fine, because my mom told me the last one was way too long.
I have been thinking about sportsball.
Friends will find this amusing. I once attended a Red Sox game at the behest of the government of Northern Ireland, who wanted my employer at the time to open a branch office there. There was a fancy box and I met a pitcher named Luis who signed a baseball for me. At the 7th inning I texted my friend Adam Darowski (an actual baseball expert, to whom I eventually gave the signed baseball) in absolute confusion as to why everyone in the stadium suddenly broke into song.
I also attended a Bruins game, this time at the behest of a recruiting firm I worked with, and my colleague Brittney had to shake me to stand up for the national anthem.
When I play Trivial Pursuit the hardest slice of pie to earn is always sports and leisure, and basically I just cycle through Wayne Gretsky, Shaquille O’Neil, Tom Brady, and Alex Rodriguez until I get the answer right.
I am somehow nevertheless fond of saying “full-court press” in business contexts, sometimes even when it makes sense to do so.
Anyhoo, here are some sportsball things I have been thinking about this week.
This brief video of the final seconds of a WNBA game crossed my timeline this week, and I was entranced. One member of the team (Kia Nurse of the Phoenix Mercury) does a seemingly impossible thing and wins the game, and then everyone in the team all pile on top of her with incredible joy. Seeing all these women delighted with one another, delighted with an amazing accomplishment, really celebrating not just the one who made the shot but the group all together -- was moving. I immediately texted the clip to my wolfpack and reminded them how much I loved them all, how incredible they each were, and how even though we no longer work together we’re somehow still a team.
The absolute faith that other folks have your back. That the folks you love, the ones you work with, the ones you’re teaming up to get through life with -- those people are not going to fuck you over for their own benefit because they understand that we all stand or fall together. On the small scale we call that partnership or teamwork.
On the large scale, the scale of politics and justice, we call it solidarity.
Anyway, now I want to go to an WNBA game.
Also in sportsball news this week was Naomi Osaka, dropping out of the French Open because the powers that run tennis flipped out when she bowed out of a press conference for mental health reasons.
I only wish I’d had the understanding of my own needs and the maturity and strength of will to assert them when I was her age. There was predictably a lot of bullshit about how she had gone about asserting her boundaries in the wrong way, and if only she’d said or done it differently it would have been fine. And then a lot of thoughtful commentary about how it would not have mattered how she’d done it, there was never going to be a right way, because she was asserting autonomy, the right to make choices for herself and her own body, she was asserting that the powers that be do not control her, and, well, that’s unacceptable to them.
Finally, I’m thinking about Megan Rapinoe:
It was almost two years ago that internet misogynists flipped out (this is not at all an original thought, but it’s always so interesting to observe how easily men lose their shit over the tiniest things while insisting that women are too emotional to hold power) because of the pride in her own excellence that she expressed so freely on the field. I was awed by her strength and her confidence. It inspired me to change how I showed myself to the world. Before Megan Rapinoe, when I posted pics of myself, it was all smiles. I still smile out at the world through my Instagram selfies, but I also scowl. I sit with my legs wide open and I stare into the camera and I assert my right to take up space in the world, not in order to take up others’ space, but to claim the space that others would like to take from me.
What’s the difference, you ask?
Well, here’s Taylor Swift as The Man, taking up space:
I’m not kneeing anyone else. I’m asserting the basic dignity of my own existence and my right to wear a bikini and combat boots and stare you down surrounded by a bunch of broken dishware.
Yes, obviously I have to watch myself. The line between taking up my rightful space and taking up too much space, of having confidence and delight in my own accomplishments and in using my own voice vs. using up all the air in the room and leaving none for anyone else -- that line is hard to walk.
That’s why you need the partnership, the teamwork, and the solidarity. So that in refusing to shrink yourself into some form that is acceptable to those with more power you don’t simply start taking up space in the same way, edging everybody else out.
So, one more sportsball thing: I mentioned my wolfpack, above. I read this article about Abby Wambach and Glennon Doyle the other day and now I’m fascinated.
Speaking of Pride, It’s Pride Month.
If you’re in charge of a business’s observance of Pride or you sell Pride merchandise or if you’re just interested in thinking about the consumerification of causes, why not read Katie Martell’s blog post about Rainbow-washing? I saw a talk she gave about this at a LesbiansWhoTech event a couple years ago, and it has really stuck with me. But, I still want these rainbow Pride stilettos:
Finally, fuck Ron DeSantis. It’s so extraordinarily evil to start out June by signing a bill banning trans athletes from participating in school sports.
If you are a member of an equity-seeking group in sw engineering, and you want free eng (or general) management advice live (on zoom) from a real human with years of experience, sign up here https://calendly.com/amy-newell/office-hours .
This is an experiment. I’m offering two free hours a week, in 30 minute increments. Please share this with people you think might find it useful. Although I’m most useful with management questions (both sw and general), I can also advise on software engineering careers generally.
If you want management advice and you do *not* identify as a member of an equity-seeking group or a close personal friend, hit reply on this newsletter and ask me about my consulting rates.
Please forward to folks you think might find this useful, and/or retweet this information.
While I’m starting to look at full-time roles in engineering leadership, I’m also taking time this summer to do more writing, speaking, and consulting. Hit me up if you’d like me to talk to your team, write an article, come on your podcast, show up to your employees, or consult on topics like engineering management, being a good ally to folks with mental illness or other invisible disabilities in the workplace, understanding power, hiring, mentoring, etc. I also am available for modeling gigs, art collaborations, and personal shopping/styling. Just smash that reply button or DM me on twitter.
Tell other people to subscribe! You love this weirdo newsletter, you know you do, you want everyone to read it! Tell the world!!!! Tell them to go right to https://www.amywriteswords.com and give me their email address and I will regale them every week with some crazy story, meditation on power, or leadership insight that I will always, always somehow tie in to Taylor Swift.
If you want management advice, are not sure whether you identify as a member of an equity-seeking group, DM to ask about my consulting rates, don’t acknowledge my answer, neither cancel nor show up to the office hours appointment you made with me, and then don’t answer the email I sent inquiring about it, you probably need more help than I could offer you in a half hour appointment, and I’m not in any mood to help you.