I recently sat on a panel, RE: Pay Equality, along with 2 other women in my current home state of Alabama. I absorbed what they had to say, agreed with much of it, and disagreed with a healthy portion as well. (This is America, so we can do that kind of thing.) There was one moment, however, that I still can’t let go of 2 weeks later. One of the young women in the audience raised her hand and asked with complete sincerity, “How do you avoid being seen as a bitch?”
I don’t have the time or bandwidth to unpack how society views women, but if you’re a human that identifies as female then reading that question alone probably took you on a roller coaster of emotions rivaled only by the week preceding your period.
As my colleagues regurgitated generic advice that all Southern belles seem to abide by, i.e. play mind games like a lady, bless your heart, etc., I sat stewing in a pile of Midwest emotional repression one can only learn through years of feminist propaganda preached by stay at home soccer moms with the best of intentions. When it came to my turn to answer this question, what I should have said was to develop your leadership skills, ignore the naysayers, you are powerful beyond measure…
Instead, my frontal cortex internally said fuck it, and out came my golden nugget of advice:
“Be the bitch.”
Seriously, be the bitch. For one second, forget the negative connotations you immediately conjured when the b-word was dropped, and embrace the assertive boss you were meant to be. As the wise Urban Dictionary once stated: “you do you.”
I was a bitch when I told 300 lb linemen to do their rehab exercises, when I informed Athletic Director’s that no, they couldn’t wear Nike on a sideline, and now to my contractor when he attempts to overcharge me for drywall installation. If I had been afraid of what they were going to say about me to their coworkers later that day, I would still be taping ankles in a cockroach infested training room.
By all means, continue to develop your leadership skills and empower those around you; kickass at your job and give no one a reason to discount your worth because you aren’t giving the task at hand 100%. But when it comes to creating a space for yourself as a woman at that boardroom table, never be afraid to back down out of fear of what you may be labeled as.
You do you, be the bitch.