Girls, you don’t have to smile.

In fact, disagree, state your opinion, prove your point…..feel free to be difficult, disagreeable and  loud if you want to that day. 

There’s this strange cultural conditioning that women are taught. It’s the idea that you must always be agreeable.  If you dig a little below the surface of it you’ll see that the idea of acting “pleasing” to men is something women are conditioned to believe is the “right thing” to do.  And that men are not just expecting women to behave this way, but get down right angry when we don’t.  This is not an expectation that men have of each other, only one that men have of women. I’d like to give you some real life examples.  

“Smile”.  If you are a woman, there’s a good chance you have been told this by a man before. There’s also a very good chance that this man is a stranger.  In all my life, I have never seen a man say this to another man. I have also never seen a woman request this of a man.  Have you? Of course not, want to know why? Women are expected to be pleasing to men.  Smiling is more pleasing. 

Now listen…I could be one of those girls that grants the man’s request, offering him a smile and great relief to the terrible stress of a woman minding her own business and not stopping what she’s doing to offer him a smile.  But I’m not one of those girls 😉  I’m not agreeable, I’ll take any chance to make a point and I can be difficult and loud with the best of them.  So I say instead: “Only if you make the most scared face you possibly can first”.   Please feel free to use this girls. It has never let me down.  Sometimes they do it, and that makes me smile naturally because it’s so weird and funny.  Most often they stumble over their words, sort of realizing how weird their smile request was and unsure of what to do.  What, do you feel uncomfortable being told what facial expression to make by a stranger….huh, look at that.  One time I said it and a women within earshot at a restaurant spit her water out and came over and gave me a high five.

Last week, a man made a joke to a group of people I was standing with. I did not find this joke funny.  When asked about his assistant he said he just slapped her around a little if she didn’t get things right.  It was a joke, I could tell he wasn’t serious, I just didn’t think it was funny… I didn’t laugh or smile.  The man found this off putting.  He made continuous eye contact with me, waiting and expecting me to grant the smile or giggle, he even said “come on” in that way people do when they think you’re being unreasonable. I just lifted my eyebrow, showing my distaste. I was not agreeable.  He said, “it’s just a joke, lighten up”.  I said “I didn’t think your joke was funny.”  He could have left it there….I was prepared to..but he said “oh you’re one of those”. 

My response:  Yes, I’m one of those, those difficult women who won’t laugh just because a man wants her to.  For my work, I spend my days talking to, listening to and guiding people to success in life. A big part of that is healing from past abuse and trauma that can hold us back and cause us to write stories about ourselves that are damaging and painful.  There is not a single week that goes by that I don’t speak to a woman who has been abused by a man or is currently being abused by one.  In fact, one of them women standing within earshot may have been…there’s a good chance. I would never let her down by laughing at your joke.  I also won’t let you down by shying away from showing you where a line is.  That’s not a funny joke, be more creative.

He walked away saying “geeeez!” Good comeback buddy. 😉

I was at the baseball field recently when a man coaching young boys accused one of the boys of throwing like a girl, implicating that the throw was weak.  My father, who was sitting next to me went “uh oh”.  The throw from the boy had gone off course and landed near me.  Now I was a Junior Olympic Softball player, and a shortstop…I can throw a ball. So I picked up the ball and I said “hey coach” and threw the ball as hard as I could right to his glove.  As he was wincing in pain and shaking the hand that he caught the ball in I said, “now you throw it back as hard as you can and we’ll see if your throw like a girl theory has any merit”.  He said “no I’m good, point taken.”   My two boys were their watching….no way I wasn’t going to make that point in front of them….no way.

Listen, there were women there who rolled their eyes.  There were men in all instances who found me difficult. And you know what….that’s ok. 

Listen, I’m really lucky. I was raised by a man who encouraged me to speak up, to be difficult and had my back whenever I did.  My brother has stood behind me many times when I was being difficult, waiting to make sure I didn’t need any back up, letting it be my fight but making it known that he wasn’t afraid to step in.  I’m married to a man who celebrates these traits in me. Recently I stood up for my son when he was upset to a group of men, my husband stood behind me and grabbed my son by the shoulders and told him to watch.  Those men are out there and they are a crucial part of helping women feel safe being difficult. 

So my dear girls, be difficult, be loud, be disagreeable, be opinionated and stand up for yourself and each other. Men, when you come across one of these difficult women, take a moment to thank your lucky stars that you are in such a magical presence then cheer her on. Girls, if you see another women being difficult, go be her back up.

Cheers to difficult women,

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