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The Double Standard Of Politeness
Kaitlyn McQuin knows that politeness is a distinctly female quality
The other day, I was chatting with a guy friend through Instagram DMs, and I hit him with a comeback to his reply on a video I shared to my stories. The video was of me doing a Winnie the Pooh impression (please don’t ask. It made sense at the time.). His reply to my video was, “No lol.”
‘No’, as in, don’t do this, this is embarrassing, I don’t like this, etc.
I responded, “I literally didn’t even ask you though.”
Because I didn’t.
If you follow me on Instagram (which you should, for I am a hoot), you would find within literal seconds that I don’t really care if people think I’m weird or goofy. My stories are a place for me to check in with my friends and followers and let loose a little.
Instagram stories are my favorite place to virtually hang out. My stories are where I go to chat about my day, or crack a few jokes, or impersonate a yellow honey-wielding bear who doesn’t wear pants. And while my friend was just messing around with his comment, I wasn’t messing around with mine.
“I literally didn’t even ask you, though.”
His response to me was something along the lines of, “You used to be so nice, and now you’re mean,” and while I knew that, too, was another joke, it got my wheels turning.
Firstly, sometimes I can be mean. I am a human, and sometimes humans are mean, therefore sometimes I am mean. And to this I ask, and?
Secondly, my response wasn’t mean. It was straightforward, and it was factual. And here is the issue. Women have become so accustomed to ensuring other people’s feelings remain intact, that we have stopped telling the truth. And, if we do tell the truth, we construct it in such a way that it alleviates the blow to the other person’s feelings to spare them of discomfort.
I could have responded to his message with, “Lol why!” or “What do you mean?!” But I knew what he meant, and I knew what I meant, so I went with that instead. Boom. Streamlining. We’re all busy. Let’s just get to the point. If the issue is that some people perceive women who are merely being straightforward and factual as “mean” because they are not sparing your feelings, then I’d like to pose the question to the women out there currently struggling with this anomaly – who is sparing your feelings?
Are your feelings being spared in a meeting when you share your ideas only to be disregarded? Are your feelings being spared when you’re speaking in the Vice-Presidential debate and you’re incessantly being interrupted by your male counterpart? Are your feelings being spared when you post a funny video only to have someone comment basically telling you to stop?
The answer is not just a no, but a hell no. So, why should women spare people’s feelings anymore, especially if those people don’t spare women of theirs?
Why does it matter? Why is it such a big deal if women are sometimes perceived as “mean” for sticking up for ourselves? Or saying, “I’m speaking, wait your damn turn”? Or telling someone that their opinion isn’t needed on an issue? Men can do it with no problem. So, who cares if a woman does?
If women are perceived as ‘mean’ for entering a conversation or scenario with the same level of aggression, outside voice, and sternness as a man, then fine. I, a woman, am mean. And so are you. And so are men. Look, now we’re equal. *chefs kiss* Article over!
Women are taught to be amicable. We’re thrown into ballet class and taught how to have poise and grace. We’re reminded not to speak when it isn’t our turn and not to be too loud. We’re told to take small bites when we eat and to not appear dishevelled. And we’re taught that, no matter what is being thrown at us, we must remain calm as to not appear “crazy”.
But boys aren’t taught these things.
Boys play tackle football. Boys scream at the television during fighting matches or sporting events. Boys chew with their mouths open and rarely wait their turn. From the moment they’re born, they’re given the upper hand in society, through actions as small as excusing behavior because “boys will be boys”, to actions as large as being promoted to partner in a law firm over a woman who is equally, if not more, qualified… or even promoted to president over a woman who is far more qualified, only to discover the man got the job because he cheated and yet somehow has not been fired.
I think back to political debates and how women are incessantly interrupted by men who are not held accountable by moderators. I think back to every single time I was on a date, or in a meeting, or even visiting my massage therapist, and whenever I would go to speak, they would talk over me and think nothing of it. I think about every time a woman has spoken her mind or even slightly raised her voice, and men’s eyes everywhere widen and call her crazy.
I am so freaking tired of the double standards in society, but I am even more tired of women being viewed as second class citizens to men.
Men wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for women, so it would be nice if they could just please sit down, shut up, and give women peace. I know their mothers didn’t labor for twenty-four hours only to have them earthside disrespecting the very group of being that birthed them onto this planet. Women are expected to conduct themselves and react in no other way but calm. No matter what. Under any circumstance. Men get, “I understand your frustration,” and women get, “Ma’am, calm down.”
If we do step out of line, our names will be slammed in our communities and in the media. We are deemed “too emotional” to hold office and other positions of authority. We’re called mean.
But what’s so wrong with being mean every once and awhile? What’s so wrong with being straightforward and factual? What’s so wrong with not sparing another person’s feelings when they don’t think twice to step all over yours? The problem isn’t the meanness. The problem is that society wants women to be nothing but nice… expects women to be nothing but nice. But to be nice to a society that is not nice to us would be lying. And we learned not to do that either.
One thing we did learn to do over the years, however, is lower our expectations of the men this society has been built on, which is why more and more women are rising up, speaking their truth, and commanding positions of power and authority. Because shit needs to get done, and they aren’t doing it.
So, might I suggest men do the same? Might I suggest men lower their expectations of a woman’s niceness so that when she is truthful to you and not just buttering you up in the name of the patriarchy she’s forced to live under, you might be a little less offended by her actions and begin to examine your own?
Let’s try that.
No ‘please’. No ‘excuse me’. No permission. I am telling you that we are going to try that.
And if that’s considered mean, then so be it.