”Bitches get shit done.”- Tina Fey
(The following excerpt from Women Should Worry Less About Being Liked And More about Being Effective recently appeared on theguardian.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
My grandmother, Ann, did not take shit from anyone: she raised five kids, dealt with an alcoholic spouse and once threatened to stab the abusive husband of one of her daughters. You did not want to get on her bad side. She was also warm, hilarious, a beautiful singer and a doting grandma. But if you didn’t know her – if you just heard her cursing up a storm or saw her complaining to the grocer – you might find her a bit harsh.
Grandma Ann has been dead for years, but I wish I could ask her how she remained such a loudmouthed badass during a time when, for women, being that way could mean social ostracization or acceptable physical abuse. For most women, we’re so keen on being likeable that just the idea of people actively hating you or finding you “disagreeable” can be brutal.
Women are taught from the time that they’re girls to be pleasing, cheerful, and cute – so much so that men feel entitled to tell women they do not know that they should “smile” more, or that we should demonstrate boundless joy while doing domestic work (I’m looking at you, Kirk Cameron). Women are even expected to be fun-loving while running for public office, lest they’re painted as a ballbusting harpy or nags or bitches; there’s no lack of words used to mean “threatening woman”. Men in charge are bosses, women are bossy. Men are all-business, women are cold. Men are insightful, women are depressing.
And, when the default expectation for women’s personalities is sweetness and pep, it’s easy to mistake seriousness for nastiness. For women of color, almost any personality trait is labeled immediately as “angry”. Too many people don’t seem to understand that women – who are human beings – contain multitudes and are able to be serious, fun, grumpy, and loving within a short period of time (if not all at the same time).
It’s a mistake to confuse women’s solemnity with anger; it’s an even bigger one to disparage angry women. It not only teaches young girls that legitimate feelings are somehow “undesirable” – and that they should plaster a fake smile on anytime they’re hurt or angry – but it also diminishes the importance of anger and taking serious things seriously.
In the immortal words of Tina Fey: “Bitches get shit done”. You might, in fact, catch more flies with honey, but what if you’re more interested in raising your kids and keeping your daughter’s husband from hitting her again? Angry and ornery women are strong and capable and smart and aren’t keen to be walked all over.
And there’s plenty for us to be angry about! It’s not as if the world is a joy-filled wondrous place for for us – we still have to deal with discrimination and violence at epidemic levels.
So instead of worrying too much about how I come across to other people, I try to channel my grandmother and embrace my most caustic self instead. I come from a long line of pissy, sarcastic women who I know would be proud of me no matter what – but even more so if I didn’t take crap from anyone.