“So many female friends of mine feel like they have to be overly gracious and nice to compensate for their ambitions, because there’s this sense of having to swap one form of femininity for another. And honestly? Not every woman is warm. Not every woman is friendly. And they don’t have to be. Some women are reserved, some are biting, and some are mean. Humans are weird creatures. There are a whole lot of different personalities.” – Maddy Foley, 6 Backhanded Compliments Every Ambitious Woman Is Tired Of Hearing
In the last week, I received some interesting feedback related to my reactions about Donald Trump being elected President. I’ve heard things like I’m overreacting, I’m embarrassing myself and I’m not operating at my best. These comments are coming from people that clearly do not know me very well or know me at all. If you do know me, you would know that social justice runs in my veins. It also runs in my family. My grandmother is an avid fighter for social justice and my grandfather had planned to go into politics before my biological grandmother fell ill.
I’m a woman and women are allowed to be angry, pissed, frustrated, rage filled. We are also allowed to say fuck. If this makes you uncomfortable – it makes you uncomfortable but I will not compromise my values or shrink to fit into some mold.
That being said, I am also in love with my life. I am hosting a Thanksgiving Celebration with friends and family this weekend. One of my best friends is driving in to spend time with us. I plan on seeing some Harry Potter movie that I know nothing about. ESPN will be doing Game Day here on Saturday and I can’t wait for my brother to get to participate in that.
You see, I can be a fighter for social justice and go to work and love my friends and family and laugh and cry because I’m fearful for the people I love. It’s just all so complicated being a human.
What follows was the original post which I think captures this complicated woman stuff in a little more detail.
A few days ago I was reading an article about backhanded compliments made towards women and I encountered the above quote. I think it is perfectly written and it captures an experience that I have long struggled to articulate. I don’t have to be nice. I don’t have to smile. I don’t have to be friendly. If you can accept that I’m a complex person and not a Stepford Wife, I think you can get what I’m talking about.
Let me back up a bit. I believe being kind and compassionate are healthy ways of interacting within the world. In fact, pages of research support living a compassionate life. And, it simply feels better for me to go through the world with as much kindness and compassion as possible. However, there are days and situations where I just can’t be kind and kindness is not indicated.
If I were able to adapt Foley’s incredible string of words to better fit me, I would add: all the time. I think that I try my best to be good, nice, kind, warm, and compassionate. Be that as it may, it is impossible (and ridiculous) to set the expectation to be that way all the time. There have been times and there will be times when I am reserved, cold, and biting. It is part of being a complex human being.
I’ve been in a number of situations where I needed to be “biting” to get what I needed, or what a family member needed, or what a friend needed, or what a client needed. In those instances some people had no trouble calling me a bitch. I don’t believe I’m a bitch. I believe that saying that, is a way of trying to shut me down or shut me up. Frankly, if you do feel like I’m being a bitch, I’m not too concerned. I don’t know a woman that hasn’t been called a bitch, so I’m in good company.
I really struggle with the sweet and quiet aspect of femininity. I identify as a woman, and feel it is absolutely impossible for me to be sweet and quiet on a regular basis. I would explode and, more importantly, it would mean living dishonestly. For this aspect of my personality, I’ve paid social consequences (e.g., been called a bitch, told to be quiet, asked to shut up, been threatened by men, been called butch, told I don’t know what I’m talking about, and openly mocked). I find it extremely hard not to be resentful of people that want me to “be quiet“. It feels like you are trimming away at parts of who I am. At this point in my life, I have much less trouble distancing myself from people that don’t appreciate these unique and integral parts of me.
The idea that women must be kind and warm all the time is absurd. No one is warm and kind all the time. Even more, some women are never sweet and kind. It is how they are put together. This does not make them bitches or bad people. If I’m being completely honest, I think “mean women” (aka, strong women) can be wonderfully intimidating. Sometimes, I am jealous of their ability to speak up and speak out about things without the (noticeable) incessant worrying related to perception.
So, Maddy Foley, thank you for your words. You gave voice to thoughts I’ve had for a long time.