Nice vs Kind
While walking my dog, a neighbor’s puppy came bounding up to me on the road. This is the third time I found this little ball of fur running wildly outside of her gate, close to a street where other dogs have met their final fate. I scooped her up and rang my neighbor’s doorbell. No one was there so I took the puppy home with me until my neighbor came to pick her up. I must admit, I was upset that this kept happening and was concerned for the puppy’s future safety. These neighbors have the time and means to secure their parameters so I wondered why this did not become a priority the first couple of times the puppy escaped. I thought I should probably approach the subject lightly and say something like, “Your little fluff ball got out again”, laugh and hand over the puppy. But when I finally did hand over the puppy I said, “If you don’t fix your fence so that the puppy can’t get out, someday you may come home to a dead or lost puppy.” This sort of confrontational statement goes against my nice girl training. I left the situation feeling a bit uneasy about being so hard on my neighbor.
Was I being too hard on my neighbor or was I just speaking with the appropriate intensity for the situation? Would a man even ask himself this question? Girls, myself included, have been taught that the highest ideal is to be like a Disney princess. Not like the new ones, such as Merida, the brave Gaelic warrior, or Moana, the Polynesian princess who courageously enters a quest to save her island (thank you Disney!) but like the 50’s princesses, such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, who are victims rather than heroines. An old school princess is never angry, remains passive, is given to singing to birds and rodents, and doesn’t question her role as she goes about her chores with a cheerful song.
Girls all over the world are taught to speak with a soft voice. Anger, talking about money, or questioning authority, are deemed unfeminine. This puts them at a great disadvantage in the home, on the street and at work. In China women’s feet were bound in the guise of creating beauty, in Africa girls clitoris are removed in the guise of creating future contentment. Although we don’t employ these sorts of physical containments in the West (unless you count high heels) we do contain and control our girls using psychological methods. We teach our girls that in order to be loveable they must be docile, manageable. Nice girls are taught that if they show their power, express anger or displeasure, confront others, step forward, or ask for a raise, they are being unladylike at best and bitches at worst.
By exploiting the need every person has to be loved and accepted we imprison our girls in invisible bondage. This psychological technique, designed to keep women “in their place”, is employed in cultures throughout the world. From Alabama to Vietnam, from Sri Lanka to the middle East, woman are maintained at a lower status then men by this one simple, effective technique. It’s a brilliant tactic. By tapping into the natural feminine impulse to nurture and serve, the motherly instinct innate in most women, and twisting this tendency for compassion into servitude, girls are molded into docile women. Girls have subtly taught, for generations, that if they are to be loved, by a man and by their family, they must be nice. To express contrary opinions, to express anger or question in a meaningful way, rocks the boat that sustains them. This nice training leaves girls at a disadvantage and can even threaten a girl’s very survival. Nice girls don’t ask for raises or stop abusive behavior or raise their hand to ask a question. Being nice is a prime contributor to the low number of women at the top of all businesses and politics and explains, in part, why women who are being sexually abused don’t always speak up.
In contrast to being nice, which merely requires not rocking the boat, being kind takes real courage. It takes backbone to stand up to those in power. It takes backbone to speak our mind when what we have to say is contrary to others, or something other people don’t want to hear. It takes backbone to stand up for ourselves. Being nice requires no bones at all. We want our girls to be strong, safe, successful and empowered. We want our girls to be able to protect themselves, to stand up for themselves and for their loved ones. We want our daughters to thrive and develop healthy relationships, both at work and in the home. We want our girls to have the courage to walk the path of awakening.
A new kind of girl is emerging today. Girls like Emma Gonzales, who speaks with fierceness and clarity while challenging congressmen and the NRA to do the right thing. There are new models of empowered women in movies as well, like Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman who is both feminine and fierce. There are new models in politics, such as Elizabeth Warren who manages to speak truth to power and while maintaining an almost 50’s princess delightfulness. Girls are learning that they don’t have to give up their femininity, playfulness and natural joy, in order to be fierce. This new model of femininity is emerging as the age of submissive girls is coming to a close. We are in good hands with this new generation of empowered girls. We need them now more than ever.