In Total Control of Myself

24 Nov

bette davis, quote, bitch, women, opinionI’m a very straightforward person. I don’t blow smoke, and if you ask me for my honest opinion I’ll give it to you. I always exercise tact, but I never exercise kissass-ery.

“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 Someone had suggested a marketing initiative that was not only outdated, but completely out of tune with our core audience.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.

Embrace it.

Take it as a compliment.

After all, you’d be a broad in total control of herself. I know I am.

57 Responses to “In Total Control of Myself”

  1. omtatjuanJuan Guerra 11/24/2013 at 10:35 pm #

    No one wants weak.. People don’t want weak coffee, weak tea or weak women. If B.I.T.C.H makes you strong then more power to you.

  2. Aussa Lorens 11/24/2013 at 9:03 pm #

    I’m sure someone else has mentioned this, but have you read “Lean In?” Some of it’s a little out of touch but I did appreciate a lot of what it has to say about how women are perceived in the workplace as opposed to men. Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” also talks about this. It took about a year but I’ve finally embraced being a “bitch” at work… I’m in good company though… Lots of bitches around there.

  3. PinotNinja 11/24/2013 at 7:12 pm #


    When I realize that people who I work with are a little scared of me, I secretly love it. And then I show them my nice side.

  4. jaklumen 11/24/2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Straightforward women are all I have known well, really. I’d much rather deal with a straightfoward woman than one that hopes I will pick up vague hints, or play games. I was born to a straightforward woman, who bore three straightforward women after me. I married a straightforward woman. My daughter seems poised to grow up to be a straightforward woman.

    Now, me… I beat around the bush. I’m working on my sense of assertiveness.

  5. stephrogers 11/24/2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Here’s to bitches everywhere. We will change the world *raises glass*

  6. suburbanprincessteacher 11/24/2013 at 3:37 pm #

    I find other women are often the worst. They will label anyone who disagrees with them a bitch. The older I get, the less I care. If I think (aka: know) I’m right, then I let the bitch label slide.

  7. Psychobabble 11/24/2013 at 10:08 am #

    This post really struck chords with me.
    I have a manager position, and I constantly feel torn between pleasing my boss and telling the truth, even if it’s an unpopular opinion.
    I haaaaate the double standard that you defined so well, and my hope is that I can grow the ovaries to not let it affect me in the professional world.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:42 pm #

      It’ll go one of two ways: (1) People will be more understanding than you think or (2) You’ll have to take a punch to the chin. But at least you did what was right in your heart.

      • Psychobabble 11/24/2013 at 4:03 pm #

        Yeah, taking that risk is just scary for me.
        I care what people think of me to a certain extent, but moreso at work.

  8. mariner2mother 11/24/2013 at 10:05 am #

    Kudos to you. I can’t even imagine working in marketing. Although, working in a very male dominated world of merchant shipping, I did have one occasion where a guy on my ship suggested that I’d look better, less sleep deprived and haggard, if I put on some make up. I totally blew him off. Who the hell did he think he was? I wasn’t there to date or impress anyone.

    I worked the 8-12 shift: 8-12 am and pm, every day with NO days off for the 6+ months I was on a ship. And, when we came into port, we would switch into port watches: 3 days of 4pm-midnight followed by 3 days of 8am to 4pm, followed by 3 days of midnight to 8am. Once in a while we would pop into port for 2 days and then be out at sea for 3 or 4 days before popping back into port. If I was lucky, we would either be at sea for at least a few weeks, or in port for an extended stay. You get the sleep deprived picture.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:41 pm #

      Wow, that is totally unprofessional and insulting. Let’s just say you didn’t do all of that work, who is he to tell you what you that you’re obligated to be all dolled up?

  9. JackieP 11/24/2013 at 9:44 am #

    Keep being you. Keep saying what you feel you need to say. And every time a man or anyone really tries to slap you down, don’t take it personally, it just means you are doing it right and they are insecure. I know all about working in a mens dominated field. Sales is the worse. You know you are good at what you do, if they think you are a bitch that’s their problem to deal with. Then one day when you are their boss it will make them sweat. πŸ˜‰

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:40 pm #

      There needs to be a support group for those of us who have survived Sales.

      • JackieP 11/24/2013 at 3:57 pm #

        Oh most definately! Maybe we can get one together. πŸ˜‰

  10. oldmainer 11/24/2013 at 9:44 am #

    I’m a guy, so i never experienced this personally, but observed it. I worked for a corporate wholesaler of consumer goods working with the construction trades. We had one customer that advised they would not pay for anything that was not specifically listed on their purchase order. No substitutes accepted. So when they got in a bind, our sales manager (who only suffered from delusions of adequacy) demanded I ship subs. I reminded him that a sale was only a gift until it was paid for which won me a trip to my bosses office. However, when it was not paid for, I got the pleasure of calling and asking for his concession account number so I could write it off the books.

  11. Robbie 11/24/2013 at 9:28 am #

    Yep. I am loving your definition of bitch. I’ve always worked in a female dominated environment and its jsut as one might imagine it to be-cliquey, backstabbing, etc.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:39 pm #

      That can happen too. You’d think with all the problems we face we’d band together instead of tearing each other down.

  12. daniheart21 11/24/2013 at 9:19 am #

    R E S P E C T. GIGGLES. My experience in the work place has played out largely how you describe here that women are treated differently than men. Good for you for standing strong. If we don’t stand up we will just be rolled over. Go Jen!

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:39 pm #


      Thanks for listening to me vent (somewhat) about this last night.

  13. michellestodden 11/24/2013 at 8:10 am #

    Makes you go all Jack Nicholson on their ass, doesn’t it? In my workplace, I never feel like I’m going to crush a male ego with constructive criticism. I guess I’m lucky I work with some pretty decent, respectful men. However, I do feel the need to tiptoe around many of the women at work.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:38 pm #

      I’m really happy that you work in a place which respects the talents I’m sure you offer in spades. And yes, there is another side to business in regards to female energy. I’ve been there too.

  14. -Pille- 11/24/2013 at 7:38 am #

    I work at a very male centered field. It has taken me a few years, but by now those who know me know I’m good at my job. Yet almost every time I meet someone new I have to prove myself all over again – just because I’m a woman. Oy.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:37 pm #

      ACK. That’s terrible. As if your credentials shouldn’t just speak for themselves.

  15. Girl Dans la Cite 11/24/2013 at 7:29 am #

    It’s SO true! And there have been so many times I haven’t spoken my mind because I’m afraid of being perceived as a bitch, when in reality my point is valid and not offensive in the least. One of the many trials of being a woman…

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:36 pm #

      Isn’t it terrible that even though we know we are being respectful, we still hesitate to say what we’d like?

  16. Muddy River Muse 11/24/2013 at 7:20 am #

    I really like this. I’m definitely going to remember the acronym!
    I work in a workplace that is dominated by women, and there’s a different dynamic there– and not necessarily a more positive one. It takes a surprising amount of energy not to have the place feel like the sequel to “Mean Girls.” I all comes down to respect, doesn’t it? If we can’t approach our colleagues with respect, how can we ever appreciate their contributions?

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:35 pm #

      I’ve heard that from others before. The last place I worked was mostly women, and I got lucky because they were all AMAZING. We all supported each other instead of tearing each other down.

      “If we can’t approach our colleagues with respect, how can we ever appreciate their contributions?” This is it. I’m lucky to now work in an environment where everyone is really receptive and open-minded. We get a lot of shit done because of that.

  17. donofalltrades 11/24/2013 at 7:09 am #

    As long as women continue to bring cakes and other snacks into work from time to time and remember to have me sign a card they’ve bought for the boss’s birthday and clean the fridge when it starts to smell like ass and such, I’m glad to have em around.


    No, I mostly kid. I would completely agree that there’s a double standard in the workplace with men versus women, especially in certain types of jobs. Having jackasses in supervisory positions can’t help. Keep at it Jen, your talents will get you far.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:32 pm #

      HA! Are you trying to look for an ass kicking? Kidding. I’ll just beat you with my hands.

      I bet you see this subject a lot in your line of work, no?

      • donofalltrades 11/25/2013 at 6:34 am #

        I did actually tame it down in case some of your followers didn’t get my personality and thought I was a total douche. Lol.

        I always think that ladies who enter law enforcement are semi-crazy. I mean, you have to be crazy to do it as a man too, but you catch more flack as a woman, and not only from coworkers, but the bad guys as well. Some women clearly try to overcompensate to show they belong, and honestly, they are awful to be around in my opinion, just like male cops who don’t give anybody any breaks. Bah to that. Most women I’ve worked with though are quite excellent at their jobs and I’ve always been proud to serve with them.

  18. Twindaddy 11/24/2013 at 6:59 am #

    I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with that, Jen. I don’t see any issue with being brutally honest. I wish I could be so blunt. I’m always worried about hurting someone’s feelings.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:31 pm #

      I don’t believe in brutal honesty, but I do believe in being honest. I think you can speak your mind while being tactful. I’ve found that sometimes NOT saying the truth hurts people’s feelings even more in the long run. At least in personal situations.

  19. Gibble96 11/24/2013 at 6:52 am #

    I wish it were just a few men…

    As a male feminist I get to see how guys portray women when there’s no women around to offend. It’s not pretty, and there’s a ton of subconscious misconceptions affecting these guys without their realizing it.

    The most prominent and in my opinion, the most offensive of these misconceptions: that all women are the same, and a tendency by men to link the perceived wrongful actions of one woman onto all women. It’s not fair, but with many men you run into, if another woman did something to offend him, you’re probably going up against that grudge.

    And then there are just aggravating “male culture” tendencies, such as externalizing all faults. Your line, “When a man loses his temper, he has been pushed to his breaking point”, is so perfectly spot on. It’s almost impossible to get a man to say, “Yeah I lost my temper. That was my fault. Sorry about that.” It’s always an outside influence… Ugh. I know that this usually pertains to people in general, but sometimes you can just feel that “Man Mode Arrogance” in play, barking, “I’m a MAN!” like the words in of themselves carry meaning without fruitful action to back them up.


    I meant to say something thoughtful, but thinking about the subject of male cultural tendencies pricked a few rants… Sorry. If this comment is too rant-y for your tastes, please delete this comment.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:29 pm #

      Thanks for commenting here, especially as a self-described make feminist. I don’t mind rants as long as they remain civil and respectful, and your comment was both.

      Your point about the temper is very true. I’ve seen people smash things in the workplace, and never have to own up to it. A friend of mine cried after taking a beating verbally, and was forced to apologize later for “losing her cool.”

      I’m hoping that these kind of discussions allow people to see the reality of a situation, and push past it.

  20. ninasusan 11/24/2013 at 6:34 am #

    Well said!

  21. Vanessa-Jane Chapman 11/24/2013 at 6:33 am #

    This is very true, I hadn’t thought of that particular aspect of the male/female dynamic in the workplace. This reminded me of the birthday card I bought for my (female) boss a few months back. It had a cartoon picture of a business meeting around a boardroom table, it was all men with just one woman, and the chairman was saying “That’s an excellent suggestion Mrs Tiggs, perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:26 pm #

      Humor is only funny when it’s true, and sadly, that card is TRUE. I got so frustrated at one job of not being heard that I started telling my male coworkers ideas I had knowing he would take credit for them. Sure enough, they were implemented.

  22. jgarciarn 11/24/2013 at 6:13 am #

    That is amazing. And I can totally attest to that in previous work environments and relationships. Spot on.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:25 pm #

      Ugh, sorry you’ve had to deal with that. Don’t let it get you down.

      • jgarciarn 11/24/2013 at 2:32 pm #

        It is extremely hard like you mentioned to even correct it because it’s so ingrained in everyone, men and women alike. You’re very right, we have been conditioned to think like this.

  23. shreejacob 11/24/2013 at 5:56 am #

    It’s great that you had someone to talk to. Someone who was able to show you the “other side” and allow you to continue to respectfully be true to your voice.
    Thank you too for sharing it with others for then you have now become that person who will help others to be true to their voice.

    It’s sad how through fear we have those who do not like the “norm” to be shaken and the fear of those who don’t want to become “abnormal”.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:25 pm #

      I am VERY lucky to have her in my life. She is the most badass person I know, and seeing that you can be assertive without being a jerk has helped me tremendously.

  24. drewann2 11/24/2013 at 5:24 am #

    Your friend was absolutely correct. I am extremely talented and exceptional at my job. That coupled with the fact that I found out men who were imbeciles were making a lot more than me pissed me off! So, from that point forward, I decided I was taking control. I knew I was better at my job, my professional opinion MEANS something, and if you don’t like it or the way I deliver it, that is your issue. I learned that I’m not there to please people, I was hired to get a job done. If your sensitivities are hurt by that, perhaps you aren’t qualified for the job.

    Understand your value in the workplace, realize you are being paid good money for your professional opinion, and that if someone is offended because you are doing your job, they are the ones who need to change.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:24 pm #

      I’m lucky that my current place of employment isn’t like that. I seem to find it my more personal (professional) encounters lately.

      I’m really glad you stand up for yourself, and know your value. If you have something to say, and expertise to add, you shouldn’t be afraid to do either.

  25. outforalonglunch 11/24/2013 at 5:22 am #

    Love your definition of B.I.T.C.H! πŸ‘

    • Jen and Tonic 11/24/2013 at 2:21 pm #

      Me too! BITCH FOR LIFE.

      • herschelian 11/27/2013 at 6:57 am #

        Here, here! BITCH FOR LIFE, I’ll join you – could we have a badge?

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