My aunts are amazing and strong women. They are at or near the top of their respective fields– one of them runs a hospital system, the other is a high-level bureaucrat. They both drop names of politicians that the rest of us just read about.
They’re not necessarily universally liked. They, like most of the women in my family, have very strong personalities (and well-deserved egos almost commensurate with their abilities). They tend to be right about things. They tend to make decisions and to boss people around. They don’t mince words, and they don’t worry about how other people feel about them. They worry about results. I’m sure many people refer to them as bitches behind their backs, even though that characterization would be “leaders” were they born my uncles instead of my aunts. (My actual uncles are all pretty milquetoast. Nice guys, except the jerk, but not so much with the ambition.)
It turns out that people like to be told what to do. It’s hard to make decisions and nobody wants to be held responsible if the wrong decision is made. A person with a take-charge attitude, some ambition, and enough confidence can go pretty far in life. Especially if she’s usually right. (But even if he’s not!)
My partner was wonderful recently at a party. It was a vegan Canadian Thanksgiving in one of the blue coastal cities. Full of upper-middle class folk.
There was a little girl there who was bossing around all the other kids. She was telling them what to do and making up stories and games that they were characters in and telling them what their parts were and so on. But they didn’t mind. Most kids seem to like to be told what to do too, contrary to what children’s literature might suggest.
Unfortunately her mom was fretting and fussing and apologizing to anybody who would listen about her little girl’s behavior. “She always does this,” her mom told DH.
And DH told her that her daughter would grow up to be a strong woman. And she would change the world for the better.
It’s not always the most likeable people who make changes. Conformists don’t tend to become leaders– they tend to be the led.
We can push people into quiet, feminine boxes. We can force them to go against their nature. We can add doubts and uncertainty. We can marginalize them and take away any threat of them ever making more than small ripples. Indoctrinate them into the patriarchy’s whispering campaigns where they reinforce the idea that no woman can do everything, or anything really. We can break them.
Or we can train them up. Teach them math and science and medicine and politics and economics and programming and communication and management and everything else under the sun. Give them the education they need so that they first do no harm, and then can do some good. Let them know about the problems in the world. Give them the tools they need to protect themselves, and do our best to change society so they have less to be protected from. Tell them that the haters are fools, though sometimes fools must be suffered (and ultimately educated, deflected, or manipulated for the greater good).
Let’s stop apologizing for our daughters. Let’s encourage them instead. Let’s help them change the world for the better.
Because strong women make things happen.