“You were being kind of bitchy.”
That’s what a manager told me after a brainstorming session years ago. Someone had suggested a marketing initiative that was not only outdated, but completely out of tune with our core audience. I said as much; apparently I had offended a few people’s delicate sensibilities in the process.
I was flabbergasted when he took me aside and accused me of bitchery in the first degree. This was the same manager who had completely lot his shit on several occasions, acting completely unprofessionally towards his subordinates. He prided himself on “getting results” and asserted that it sometimes meant “stepping on peoples toes…hard.”
The majority of my career has been spent in Sales which I don’t recommend unless you like being surrounded by people who suffer from delusions of grandeur. It’s a male-dominated field predicated on having a commanding presence, and a “do what you have to do” approach.
I’ve seen men go into meetings, guns blazing. They are at liberty to speak freely, and are praised for their overzealous and aggressive demeanor.When a woman goes into a meeting with that same attitude, you can feel everyone’s eyes roll as she speaks. It is assumed that she is: (A) Menstruating and/or (B) A stone cold bitch.
When a man points out the flaw in a system, he is rewarded for keeping his eye on the ball. When a woman points out a flaw, she is a Negative Nancy.
When a man stands up for himself, he is being assertive. When a woman stands up for herself, she is being overly sensitive.
When a man loses his temper, he has been pushed to his breaking point. When a woman loses her temper, she is unable to check her emotions at the door.
I’ve worked on several projects recently where this has come up. My constructive criticism is being seeing as an antagonistic response rather than the professional opinion of someone with more expertise.
I’ve spent a great deal of energy defending myself, trying to explain that I’m not the mean-spirited person people are trying to make me out to be. I spoke to a friend about this, a woman I deeply admire, and who has fought her way up the corporate ladder.
She laughed when I told her I was bothered by this.
“Take it as a compliment. I always do.”
“How is being a bitch a compliment? Everyone thinks I’m a jerkoff.”
“A B.I.T.C.H is just a Broad In Total Control of Herself. Some people don’t know what to do with that.”
She then regaled me with workplace horror stories, ones that started with her good intentions, and ended in her tears. I could relate to a lot of what she was saying, and walked away from that conversation feeling significantly better.
I’m learning that my voice does matter, and that speaking my mind (respectfully) is okay. Nobody has the right to accuse me of being an overly emotional basket case simply for stating my opinion. The problem isn’t with me, it is with how we’ve been conditioned.
I’m not trying to vilify men; I don’t believe in holding all men responsible for the acts of a few. I’m simply hoping that if there are other women out there who have been accused of being a bitch, or who hold back for fear of coming across like one, that they let go.
Stand your ground.
Take it as a compliment.
After all, you’d be a broad in total control of herself. I know I am.