Monday, June 01, 2009

Still a Nice Girl...

An interesting observation.  Every time I share my opinion on Twitter, I lose "followers".  It doesn't bother me, but I have noticed it happening every time.

It's an interesting phenomenon.  I notice that other assertive women who feel comfortable in sharing their opinion have the same result.

However, when a man shares his opinion, he gains more followers.  Folks pipe up "Hear! Hear!"

Even though it's the year 2009, women are not allowed to voice their opinions.  If they debate a topic, they're "harping" or "bitching".  Or worse, if they do debate it with another woman, sometimes that woman just turns to bitchy personal comments that have no bearing on the discussion.

During a debate, women are told to "get over it" or "can't you just let go."  However the guys are encourage to push the point and keep debating.  For men, it's called banter, for women, it's called narking.

I used to bite my tongue and not say anything, even when I believed deeply in something.  I used to be a "nice girl" who minded her manners, kept her thoughts to herself and towed the line.  But I learnt that all I was doing was making myself miserable.

Now that I  have more confidence in myself, my self esteem is stronger, I will speak up.  Especially if it something around people's attitudes that makes others feel inferior.  It's something I'm passionate about, the fact that some people believe themselves above others, or they put others down to make themselves feel superior.

When I believe something in my gut, I will speak up for it.  Like my earlier blog on rape (which I copped a lot of criticism for), or a debate over someone's superior attitude, or fat discrimination, disrespect to faith, all subjects that mean something to me.

That's not to mean I won't listen to intelligent, respectful discussion on it, in fact there is nothing I love better than to have someone challenge my thinking and them allow me to challenge theirs.  Some of the most stimulating discussions I've ever have were heated debates between myself and someone who had a very different opinion/belief.

When I went to visit my beloved friend Ian in Canada after  not seeing him for about 13  years, one thing I was looking forward to the most was an "argument" with him.  We got into one of our famous debates (which was over something quite silly) and someone said something to us to settle down, and I remember turning and grinning and saying "No way, I've waited 13 years for this!" and he replied "I love you Kath!"

I love being able to argue with someone and know that it's not a reflection on their feelings towards me, it's just a good solid debate.  To know that they're going to treat me with the same respect in the debate that I treat them with.

I no longer care if people don't like me for speaking up, for being assertive and sharing my opinion.  Because those that matter accept me for who I am, and appreciate my honesty and willingness to back my own beliefs.  It took a long time before I was able to do that, but boy is it liberating when you reach that point!

I'm still a nice girl.  I'm a nice girl with a good gut feeling and belief in respect and speaking up!


Katagal Kapers said...

It is an interesting phenomenon that when women wish to debate a topic it makes people uncomfortable and uneasy and they are told to "settle down" and stop "harping" etc etc. I have had many a heated debate about a subject and when it gets too heated. I don't agree but I respect your right to be wrong (and duck)

Rachael said...

Great post Kath! I agree... I am generalising a little but I think such social construction of gender begins early in childhood. Girls are socially conditioned to be agreeable and non-argumentative, to share and arguable to train future woman into submission (because heck no-one likes to hear us whinge when we are cooking dinner and pushing out the kids.) Boys on the other hand are encouraged if not bullied into being competative without losing their so called "masculinity". Why such traits are celebrated in men and frowned upon in woman is for me, completely ludicrous.

Loquacity said...

Hey, thanks for this post. I'm with you, I love a good argument. Because it's quite often about gender roles, rape culture, stereotypes, equity, sexualised violence, the use of overt sexual imagery in advertising, or any other of a million themes, I also tend to get the "she's just a hairy-legged feminazi lesbian who needs a good root" on an alarmingly regular basis.

I hope you find (another, but closer!) one of those wonderful people who understand that debate - especially about big issues that you are passionate about - can be a hell of a lot of fun. My beliefs shape who I am, but it doesn't mean I can't respect you for who you are.

Good luck, and if you ever want a debate, come find me ;)


Sleepydumpling said...

Thank you ladies! It's nice to know there are some folks out there who aren't afraid to speak up respectfully, and who allow others to do so.

One thing I have noticed, the mass exodus that unfollow or unfriend or whatever are usually older WOMEN. The men will mutter and grumble, but won't pull any of the snarky stuff. It seems to be women over 40 that can't handle being challenged.

Flibbertigibbet said...

I couldn't agree with you more.
I had an ex-boyfriend and if he made a statement that I disagreed with and we'd start discussing it, he'd always, always tell me to "calm down". I swear, it's lucky he still has all his limbs.

What is it that makes it so unacceptable to be passionate about a belief?

I'm with you, these days I won't pretend to think the same as someone else, I can no longer bring myself to agree for the sake of it, or for the sake of keeping the peace.
If I want to believe something different, I bloody well will! lol

I love to debate a topic and as you said, having my opinions challenged, I'm perfectly aware I'm not always right and being pushed to really consider what I think is somehow invigorating.

We're intelligent women, we want to be pushed, intellectually. And we should be!

Actually, I created a blog, AGES ago, which I've never done anything with, which I'd called 'a forum for debate' for the express reason of debating subjects with other people able to hold an adult conversation!
Maybe I'll finally get it started and you'll join me there?

Sleepydumpling said...

I am SO in for that my flibberti-friend!

Anonymous said...

If you are genuinely interested in what an "women over 40" thinks about this and if you will give me a fair hearing I'd be happy to share my views.

But I'd prefer not to get into a fight. Internet or not I still get offended by being called rude names.

Sleepydumpling said...

As you have left your comment as "anonymous", it's not exactly possible to discuss anything with you. Anonymous commenters tend to be trolls, I'd rather discuss with people who will put their name behind their debate.

But if you can list where I have called anyone a rude name, I'll be very surprised. In fact, I'd likely say that it wasn't me that called someone a rude name, it was someone else coming in to the discussion - I don't call people rude names in a debate.

That's kind of my point - everyone who is upset by a woman having an opinion suddenly gets personal instead of debating the point. Instead of furthering the discussion, they suggest that a woman debating is "getting emotional" or "holier than thou" or they start to reduce it to how a woman is a harpy, shrew, nag etc.

My other point is that in no moment am I fighting. It seems many can't distinguish an intelligent debate from a fight. Thus they take things personally, and see someone disagreeing with them as someone calling them a name. "You are wrong" is not a rude name.

And yes, it is my observation that women over 40 are those that unfollow, object, complain and indeed resort to personal insults more than any other demographic.

Men who object tend to mutter and mumble and then get over it. Younger women seem to be more comfortable in debating a point when they object than older women. Not always, but from what I've seen, that's how it predominantly breaks down.

If you care to re-comment with some form of identification, perhaps we can discuss this further.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous again, I'm not a troll, but I have no way of proving that to you. I don't blog anymore (no time with 2 kids, fulltime work and a business to run).

I don't care to identify myself as there have been some total nutters visiting your blog and I prefer to protect myself and my family from that!)

All I wanted to say is that there are an enormous number of over 40 women in WIT (Women in Information Technology) (some of whom read this website - myself included) who would find you sweeping generalisation about our age-bracket difficult to comprehend.

As you yourself are not too far off being 40 maybe you might want to re-think that.

I was going to share with you my thoughts and those of my friends who are in the over 40 age bracket but I really think that you want to cling to this idea that we're all afraid of change. Which is laughable as we are challenged and face change everyday from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep exhausted.

Just because some of us tune out from you in particular doesn't mean that we don't want to be challenged. It just means that some of us just want to spend our precious free time in a different way.

Sleepydumpling said...

No you're mistaking my point altogether. It's not that ALL women over 40 have a problem being challenged (which would be a sweeping generalisation, you are correct), but that those who DO have a problem being challenged are statistically more often to be women over 40, because I've been taking careful notice of when it happens to mysel and others.

There is a crucial difference between the two things, and never once have I said that women over 40 are resistant to change. I don't believe that for one moment. Obeying some form of feminine ideal where you shut up and "be nice" is not the same thing as resisting change.

Be sure to read what I'm saying very carefully before you make assumptions, as you're putting words into my mouth that I am not saying.

I work with a LOT of women over 40. More than most industries, being a librarian. I was not at any point discussing them taking on new technology at all (a whole other subject, which I may blog about later - but I'm constantly impressed with those from late GenX and early Baby Boomers who remember the nightmare early days of computer technology who DO take up technology with gusto), I was discussing the fact that the people I've experienced objecting to being disagreed/challenged are women over 40.

It's not about tuning out, it's about taking offence at something that is an open discussion just because they don't like someone disagreeing with them.

As for your anonymity, I will be changing this blog so that people are unable to post anonymously, because it's not fair to those who are willing to put some identification behind their convictions. Clearly you know who I am (as you know my age) so it would be courtesy to back up your words with some form of identification.

If you don't like that (and this goes for anyone) feel free to stop reading this blog, unfollow or unfriend me anywhere - because that's my whole point.

Podblack said...

Funny - I found you via Twitter after you tweeted something I thought was wonderfully insightful about taste in literature. Hoping to hang around to hear more! :)

Sleepydumpling said...

Why thank you Podblack! Nice to hear good feedback.