why it's ok to be called a bitch
Life is a bit like the kansas city shuffle, and by a bit I actually mean a lot. There are many things that happen which we are distracted from, intentionally I believe. Things which go unspoken but that many people, with a mild degree of reasoning, can see. At my ripe old age of 29, I feel that certain things should be spoken about more. And this is part of my tiny contribution.
Trying to navigate the blurry lines between being nice (and being accepted) and doing what I believe in (which often has resulted in me being viewed as hard, blunt and/or bitchy) has been a tough journey for me. I believe in authenticity above all things. And having to try mould myself into someone who is more socially acceptable is really hard for me. Particularly when it goes against my moral fibre.
I doubt that I am the only woman who feels this way and so I wanted to talk a bit about why women need to get comfortable with not being liked.
sugar and spice and all things nice
I think the best place to start is with children, who inevitably grow up to be adults. When we are young, girls are taught to be nice above all else. They are not taught to be autonomous and independent. But rather to try and fit in as best they can by being likeable and polite. To behave within these parameters, girls have to restrict themselves and take on a more passive role.
But little boys aren’t taught the same. Boys are encouraged to explore, be active, assert themselves and manipulate the world around them (this is meant in a physical way of learning and not in an emotionally manipulative way).
Girls are taught to be nice so well that many of them won’t even report abuse for fear of being impolite and hurting the abuser’s feelings. There are many other factors here too, such as shame, fear of consequences etc. I am not ignoring these but that is another topic which extends beyond the scope of this blog.
being nice is not the same as being kind
Although often treated as synonyms, “nice” and “kind” actually describe different states of being. Being nice is more closely related to being polite than to showing kindness. It describes behaviour which makes us more likeable in social situations, which can even be to our own detriment.
Being kind has more to do with compassion. It’s more of a feeling which results in action, as opposed to a set of rules which outline “acceptable/correct” behaviour. You can feel kindness. You know when it’s there and when it’s not. If you don’t, listen closely to what your tummy says. It never lies.
encourage autonomy through kindness
As parents, teachers, caregivers etc. it would be most beneficial to the children in our care (both girls and boys) to encourage kindness rather than niceness. By encouraging children to be kind to one another and themselves, we help them develop the skills to function as independent beings in society; without causing harm to others.
When we teach children to be kind, we also teach them self-kindness. This gives them the courage to stand up for themselves when someone is crossing a boundary. Instead of being concerned about how they could be punished for being impolite to someone (especially if that someone is an adult) they will have the confidence to say no.
the dangers of being nice
The result of teaching young girls to be nice is that many of them grow up to be women who are overly accommodating and who don’t have the tools to set boundaries and voice their opinions.
Furthermore, being nice can put you in more danger than you could ever imagine. I know of many women who have found themselves in dangerous situations because of not wanting to be rude to someone who was overstepping a boundary. Rather, they allowed the intrusion and had to deal with the emotional trauma afterwards.
We need to understand that setting a boundary is not being rude. By setting boundaries you are actively showing kindness to the self. We also need to help young girls get comfortable with not being liked. As one of my favourite writers on feminism states “...if someone does not like her, there will be someone else who will. Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like or dislike” - Chimamanda Ngozi Andichie.
Teaching ourselves that it’s ok to be disliked helps protect us from abusive relationships by empowering ourselves to cut ties with someone who isn’t treating us correctly. We are allowed to say no, in whatever form. We are allowed to choose our own happiness, safety, whatever; over being polite to someone else. And we must show our children that they are allowed to do the same.
be a powerful bitch
We cannot live our lives in a continuous loop of people-pleasing. In doing so we will only be reinforcing that our wants and needs matter less than those around us. I say this from experience. I am by no means perfect, nor even very good at setting boundaries but I try, really hard, to teach myself that my voice matters too.
Do not be afraid of being disliked, of being called a bitch even. Keep your heart soft, and keep kind. But by no means be nice just to be accepted. Especially if it counters what your values are. You matter, and your voice matters too.