Miss Barbara, my neighbor, leans over the fence to watch me chase chickens every chance she gets. I’ve got a variety of routines. Her favorite is the one in which I wield a big black umbrella, flap it back and forth, and make hawk noises to scare “The Girls,” six beautiful fluffy white-and-tinted hens, hand raised by yours truly, back into their cozy condo.
She missed the show yesterday when a real hawk showed up and swooped down into the chicken corral. The feathers flew, but he went away with talons empty. My routine varied to include a floppy yellow dust mop and percussive “shoo” noises. My girls performed beautifully, running for cover just as they’d been trained.
My fear? Someone’s going to install a hidden camera and my 6-year-old will see me on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Heaven forbid. Of course, my pied piper clucking and my grandmama’s fail safe “chick-chick-chick-chick-UN” calls are worthy of a You Tube video or Grand Ol’ Opry appearance.
I’m known for my studious nature, but the time I spent in dance, theater and entertainment industries means I value showmanship and a good laugh in a variety of circumstances. That’s why this week when the plumbing dissolved into a swimming pool in the basement, I chose to laugh about it. That’s why this week every time the roofing job gets post-poned, I look for the sunny side up instead of dwelling on the Humpty Dumpty side of things.
Entertaining women are anything but boring. We can tap dance their way around any subject, or spotlight a personal passion. We consciously create memories weaving the fabric of the meaning in our lives. The most entertaining women, who we may know as lifelong learners, dancers, potters, weavers, painters, dreamers, and do-ers, have perfected the arts of reckless abandon, personal expression and manifestation.
Whether sharing a pot of perfectly brewed tea as we cultivate our friendships, or hanging over the garden fence with the woman next door, entertaining the important women in our lives may be as simple as recognizing the significance in our everyday dramas, then finding what makes the serious parts laughable.
But a subject we shouldn’t tap dance around is the need to respect and protect our uniqueness in our businesses. A hard-won lesson I’ve learned first-hand as an entertaining woman, whether performing, speaking, or writing with a client or collaborator, is the need to “get it in writing.” No matter how simplistic, contractually defining the responsibilities and ownership of any work for hire agreement or collaborative venture is important. The terms need to be spelled out by individuals who enter into creative partnerships of any kind.
I learned this lesson the hard way. In the early ‘90s, I pioneered a publication series which gathered and aggregated data for sale to business owners within a specific industry as a service. My co-collaborator offered to do the computer work if I’d create the information stream and do the marketing. As soon as the first month’s edition was ready to go, she copyrighted my work under her name, grabbed my marketing strategy (I’d trained her), and earned a living off the fruits of my intellectual property.
I didn’t see it coming.
Yesterday, a writer friend of mine told me the same thing happened to her. She recently collaborated on a movie script with a colleague, and the colleague took the entire work – including my writer friend’s significant contributions – cut her out of the mix, and claimed the work as her own. Now her colleague is collecting the royalties, and my friend’s significant writing contribution? Immaterial.
She didn’t see it coming, either.
So here’s the moral of this slightly scrambled and anything but over easy tale. When we know what the expectations are, it’s easier to mix business and pleasure, to share laughs and build businesses, to create networks of support and community around our work. When those expectations are in writing, and both parties have agreed, we eliminate the same-old-song-and-dance routine and raise the curtain on a new evolutionary leadership that entertaining women consciously craft.
Believe me, any actor worth her salt since Katherine Hepburn became the first woman in Hollywood to manage her own career and contracts knows that necessity is the mother of re-invention: “I have not lived as a woman, I have lived as a man. I’ve done what I damn well please, made enough money to support myself, and I ain’t afraid of being alone.”
Katie would be appalled if she knew ours is a 21st century United States in which women are not guaranteed equal rights under the law. That after burning her bridges and setting new, high standards for feminine leadership, we continue to be historic and social minorities, without equal pay for work product, or adequate legislative recourse for creative copyright violations.
She’d likely have something pithy to say about the whole mess. On camera.
Until women require contracts which favor their rights under the law, we’ll continue to give up our power to the benefit of others – a decision which makes about as much sense as running around with an umbrella trying to convince chickens you’re a scary hawk while the neighbors watch you instead of television.
Sherri L. McLendon, M.A., owns and operates Professional Moneta International, http://www.professionalmoneta.com, specializing in mindfulness approaches to marketing public relations and feminine leadership. This article originally appeared in WNC Woman Magazine in November 2012. All rights reserved. Reprint with permission.