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  • Siria Contreras

Equal is as Equal Does



photo by Jordan Whitt


On paper, it’s no secret that I’m highly supportive of my fellow women.

From my four year old niece to pre-teens, college students, to those established in their careers--I’m highly involved in and/or lead initiatives that empower them, most of which you all are familiar with by now.


As for my niece, all of which goes into empowering the generations before her is already in her and due to her age has not yet been diminished. Lucky for her, she’s growing up in a day and age where girl power is very well-exemplified and no longer just a novelty nor gimmick.


So for now, I just reinforce that we can accomplish anything we want even while wearing cute dresses--because to my delight, she also happens to share my love for dresses (you’d be surprised that I have had zero influence in this). What I love most is that as far as I know, she doesn’t associate wearing a dress with having to because she is a girl or because it will make her feel or look prettier. In her head, the dress serves a purpose-- as she once surprised me by asking me “why don’t I put on a dress, so that we can twirl?”


Twirling? Here I was all of these years blaming my love of dresses on the fact that being a Taurus, I’ve been told that I’m ruled by Venus never even once considering the fact that yes, indeed a dress is much more fun to twirl in. Also, why don’t I take time out each day just to twirl?


I help empower and support others so that she never loses that magic and “leadership ability” and self-confidence that already exists within her.


All of this female empowerment, wasn’t entirely intentional. It actually started by trying to help open up more opportunities for women in specific areas where I wasn’t seeing them, primarily for my friend’s circle. I myself have had no problems in working with male counterparts and bosses even in the midst of “boys clubs”. Some of my favorite go-to collaborators are men.


However, I would absolutely agree that there has been a lack of gender equality in the workforce in every area across industries.


If you were to shadow me for a few days, you’d actually find that I’m actually highly-supportive of anyone doing great things regardless of gender. I myself have never wanted nor expected special treatment for being a woman. I enjoy challenges and figuring things out myself, but definitely welcome insights and assistance from others.


Yet, in my day-to-day I spend a fairly equal amount of time encouraging my male friends and colleagues to accomplish, create, and grow as I do my female friends as often-time I am who many of them come to for bouncing ideas off of or to chat through a “stuck” period. The same goes for future generations. I just think of everyone as people, not focusing on gender, ethnicity, age, etc.

I want to see my friends doing great things out in the world. All of them, not just those that identify as female. Actually, I want to see people I don’t know doing great things in the world. Diverse perspectives and ideas are what really make the world go round and provide the best solutions and innovations.


It is because of this desire to support others and their ideas, that for the past year I’ve also been working with author Liz Lewinson as she gets ready to publish and release her third forthcoming book, The Power of the Loving Man.


Liz & I met through a mutual acquaintance and became fast friends after she’d approached me around a rebranding/marketing/creative strategy effort on a different book of hers focused on millennial women, titled “Women, Meditation, and Power”. At the time I was quite busy launching Consciously Studio, wrapping up some high-profile entertainment industry campaigns, and working on other projects like the non-profits I manage and/or support. However, I somehow found some time to meet with her to get a better sense of what she felt she needed help with and so our collaboration began. I warned her early on that I was the worst at meditating so might not be the best fit in that arena, but quickly found that her book was so much more than the title insinuated.


Since then, we’ve continued to work on her projects together and over the summer I enlisted the help of my friend and colleague, Aliethea D’ Angelo who at the time headed up our originals team, to help me direct some of the video content that I was conceptualizing and producing for Liz as a supplement to the books and her speaking engagements.


Making worlds collide over the course of an approximately eight hour day (I run a tight ship sometimes…) in early July we shot (and later edited) both Liz’s videos as well as the 2019 grant video for the non-profit Arts & Literary non-profit, Beyond Baroque, which I also support as I can (I don’t talk about it as much, but I also serve on their board) who had also asked if I could help them execute for a fast-approaching submission deadline. We shot both simultaneously as both had similar deadlines, scheduling all of the testimonials and literary readings as well as Liz’s “talk/overview” for that July date. (When I said in earlier posts that July was busy I wasn’t kidding as these projects were completed right in the middle of the two Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls L.A. sessions that were also underway as well as other projects I had taken on at that time and right before the 4th of July holiday).


Although, the initial ask was to rebrand that second book, upon thinking through the strategy we decided to focus the bulk of Liz’s video content around the new book, which she’d also intimated to me as focusing solely on Millennial and Gen Z males.

She shared with me that she had conducted many interviews with young men as she worked on the topics and flow that would construct the book and was generous enough to share those with me at that time. The stories they’d shared with her mirrored much of what I’d seen first-hand with many young men that I’d known throughout various stages of my own life--from high school, college, and in my career.


Although there are many great areas of focus and relatable stories: I won’t spoil by

oversharing content in the lead-up to her book release, but come mid-Februaryish the book should be available for each of you to peruse at your leisure.


What I can share, is that part of the book’s intent is to help empower men as much as we empower women. Which was what really piqued my interest and I wondered what her approach would be.


Liz explained that while with women there is a need to reinforce the “fierce” and “capable” “assertive” attributes, with males it is the opposite--this book will serve as a tool and reference guide to help bring out their more “vulnerable”, “compassionate”, and “loving” side. The stories shared from a broad range of males of varying backgrounds, ages, and varying stages of their careers are what really help create those through-lines and running themes that should help any man who picks up the book find at least one relatable example.


The primary reason as to why I championed Liz in this effort, is that I did feel that this was something that is truly needed in the world at this time.

Someone asked me recently, “So how do I get Siria to want to work with me on my project. It’s actually not that hard, you just have to pitch it to me.


I typically choose projects that I will work on personally or that I bring to our Consciously Studio team by asking myself if they are something that I want to see out in the world and what new perspective or value are they bringing to the world? In what way do they already exist, if at all? Lastly what makes this different?


This topic that Liz was tackling had actually been one that I’d thought about all of this back when all of the #MeToo(s) were first surfacing, but in all honesty even before then I wondered what could be done to help shift the “boys will be boys” behavior.

Most women that I know have had to deal with at the very least an instance or two (most many, many more) of inappropriate behavior, it’s something you just learn to deal with.


Although I have many examples that I could share, one instance of dealing with clusters of men all at once, that I can recall is being 19 or 20 years old and becoming so annoyed each morning as I would walk from my car into the office that I was working at the summer right before college. Our office was next to a pest control office/dispatch location and most mornings all of the “pest control” guys would “happen” to be outside as I was parking and proceed to “watch me” walk from my car into the office (I just got the irony that they were pest controllers pestering me). I definitely didn’t get what was so interesting about watching me walk those few feet every single day. Everyone in my office used to tease me about it. Although, I wasn’t exactly amused I got over it and started parking on the other side instead. There have been so many of those instances before and since then, but you learn to ignore them.


The one thing that I am glad instances like that didn’t do was skew my view on males as a whole, as I knew plenty who would never behave in that way, including those that worked in that office with me, who had I needed them to would’ve intervened. So, just like I can share many additional examples of scenarios like that first one, there are also some positive interactions that should also be shared.


An example of more positive behavior would be an evening late last year when I ran out of gas--yes, I did that. I thankfully have roadside assistance and was on the line with them, but before I could finish the call a police officer was at my window checking to see if I was ok.


I assured him that I was.


He was about to instruct his fellow officer to block the lane behind me until my roadside assistance arrived, but instead decided that they would push my car to the gas station located down the street. I expressed that they really didn’t need to, but they insisted. The next thing I knew a second set of officers had arrived and I now had 4 or 5 police officers willing to help. I was a little embarrassed that I was tying up two squad cars for such a small thing. They couldn’t have been nicer. I later told a friend about what happened and their response was “of course they helped you, you’re Siria.” I know exactly what they meant, insinuating that they might’ve been flirting with me, etc. but I would still like to believe they would have helped anyone. I know there are many issues that plague law enforcement, but my experience was not a negative one. Yet, I found it interesting that this friend immediately judged the “males” in the situation in the way that they did, immediately jumping to a more negative conclusion.


As the fore-mentioned movement first started, I did feel as though many men were left in a bit of a holding pattern as they were no longer entirely certain how to behave around women, in terms of what was appropriate. Common sense and the golden rule would serve as good guides for moving forward, but I understood why they were a bit hesitant to interact with women. Most had nothing to worry about though. I did appreciate, however, that younger generations of males were getting to see this shift and I hoped that they were more aware of the way they behaved on their own and within groups of other males.


Around that time, I had a few conversations with friends and colleagues who were/are raising boys of all ages. Among many other things, they were worried that their sons would not be empowered in the same way that women were without having done anything offensive in nature. They themselves were working extra hard to ensure that their sons knew right from wrong and the correct way to behave around women, but they were worried about what would happen to their teachings once their sons were out in the real world.


I had to agree with them, to a certain degree. There is no question that men have been at an advantage for most of our lives in many areas, but historically I also have to hold both genders responsible for that trend as usually there are two parents raising a child.


What I recall telling them and still stand by it, was that they should teach them right from wrong by giving them a good set of morals and values and not only teach them how to treat women with respect but to treat EVERYONE with respect. Including each other. Instill in them enough confidence that when they see other males acting inappropriately they will be the ones to call them out on it. Teach them to hold not only themselves accountable, but also their peers. I also suggested that they advise them to be respectful not just of women, but of those who are of different ethnicities, socio-economic status, levels in their careers, or those with disabilities, etc. When they learn to treat everyone with respect they will be less apt to exhibit the more negative behavior towards women.


I hope that more and more parents as well as society move over to that mindset where it becomes about treating everyone equally and fairly. Just like when we as women state that we want equality, it should also mean that we don’t want preferential treatment just an equal opportunity to perform our best in whatever area we choose to do so.


I see a good balance and hope for gender equality in a lot of Gen Z youths, as they themselves are not only having to hold equal space for male and female peers/colleagues, but also for those who identify as non-binary, etc. Shifts that I hope will lead to more evolved, tolerant, and empathetic future generations of humans in this world.


I also hope that more writers and educators like Liz will continue to help provide some guidance to the male demographics that choose to explore their more kind, loving, and empathetic sides understanding that bringing those qualities out doesn’t lessen their strength, in fact it does the opposite.


More information on Liz Lewinson and her existing and forthcoming books here.

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