On Being Assertive

Waiter / Waitress

Actor / Actress

Assertive/ Bitch

That's how it goes.

Assertive men are Leaders; assertive women are Bitches. Unless they're super sweet while they are asking for what they want and don't ask too much, lest they become Nagging Bitches.

It's difficult to be assertive when you're a woman. It's like it is ingrained in us that to ask for what we want makes us an inconvenience, and to insist is just rude. Why is that? I believe there is an archaic mentality that is still ingrained in the subconscious of society- both male and female. What's worse, it is still alive and kicking in many circles.  I have seen it with my own eyes.

I have known plenty of strong, intelligent women who knew how to get what they wanted, and some who did not. Their capabilities were on par with the brightest men around them and with each other; it was how they went about it that made all the difference.

I have watched intelligent women manipulate the men around them to attain their goals, sweetly asking for what they wanted and then waiting, or presenting arguments in their favor, charming the men until they got what they wanted. And because they were "so sweet" they were still loved. At the same time and in the same place, I have seen very intelligent, very capable and, most tragically, very opinionated women get treated like shit to the point of resignation, by the very same men, because they were "fucking bitches". 

As women we learn at an early age that it's NOT ok to ask for what we want, stand our ground, or be strong and assertive. We learn that if we do, we'll be harshly judged and become the target of hostility. We learn that asking sweetly for things is the way to go, and we learn to yield... A LOT.

The other side of the coin

Deep down, I am a very feisty person. I fiercely believe in independence, fairness, and equality. But sadly, I learned the same behaviors that prevent me from asserting myself, perhaps a bit more so having been raised in an old-fashioned, Christian, Hispanic household. I still feel like a second-class citizen a lot of the time. I still feel like I need to ask permission. I still feel like I need to justify and explain myself. And I still find that I yield a lot.

It is really annoying to have to circumvent being assertive. Downright maddening, really. That constant state of asking, explaining, apologizing, and yielding breeds a particularly nasty form of resentment. And this is where the other side of the coin comes in- I have bottled up this resentment until it has come out in really unproductive ways. I have gotten angry to the point of being mean and almost downright violent toward others, especially when I've had just a tad too much to drink(or when I've been reading trump's Twitter feed). Throwing a tantrum isn't very grown-up and not very productive. It doesn't usually help the feminist cause. It just gets people more angry. No es bueno.

So I asked myself: How does one go about being assertive without being offensive (and by that, I mean without getting angry to the point of nastiness and violence)? And how does one go about being assertive without being offensive AND without having to pretend to be all sweet so the men don't lose their shit? That fake-docile shit gets exhausting.

I propose the solution lies in learning to confidently and consistently deliver unwavering assertions while maintaining utmost respect for the other party. I feel that all parts of that statement are important.

The most important part is to have an unwavering resolve to value our own thoughts, opinions, and desires come hell or high water. We are intelligent, we are worth listening to and yes, our thoughts matter. We need to write that down until IT becomes ingrained in our subconscious.

Confidence and consistency is key to earning the respect of those around us and most importantly, ourselves. Even if we have spent our entire lives thinking we are secondary people, if we start to consistently ask for what we want, we will inevitably get used to it. And the more we do it, the more confident we become. And the more confident and more consistent we are, the more everyone else will get used to it, too. The end result? Less frustration and bottled-up resentment. And less drunk fighting, in my case.

The last past of my proposed solution involves respect. I realize that respect has to be earned, and not everyone has rightfully done so. But I believe that if we demand respect, we should also give it. It is also very important to note here that showing respect is very different from being a pushover who is meekly asking for something. What I am referring to is treating the other person the way we want to be treated. Even if we're dealing with an Asshat, let's remember Mrs Obama's advice to "go high when they go low". More often than not, showing respect while we are confidently delivering our assertions is likely to get us the results we want. Most people appreciate diplomacy.

Ultimately, I believe that respectful yet insistent assertiveness is going to get us a lot further - in every way - than mere submission, "docile" manipulation, or exhausting resentment.