Happy Women’s History Month! In honor of the month, I’m reposting something I originally wrote in 2014.
As you can expect with any stereotypical, mother-daughter relationship, my mother and I fought hard when I was growing up. We still fight hard, despite how much love each other. What is unique about our fights (or maybe not so unique) are two of my mom’s patent phrases:
- “I didn’t say anything because I knew what you would do/ say.”
- and “I didn’t want to start a fight, so I didn’t say anything.”
For the most part, she was right–I would have smarted off or pushed back–but I still resent the fact that something I had not been given the chance to say or do can be used against me in the heat of battle.
i grew up afraid of conflict
I have assumed that guessing what someone would do or say was a valid approach to conflict because I was taught avoiding conflict is important. My mother taught me this with her patent phrases; I watched her skirt surrounding tempers with her prophetic guesses.
And I watched women in my community and on my television be redressed when they didn’t appease the comfort and tempers of those around them. They would be called bossy, bitchy or a nag.
A nag, you’ll know if you are from Kentucky and/or are around horses, is a horse, particularly a useless, old horse.
Words like nag, bossy, bitchy and bitch are tossed around as hazards for women to avoid. Their mere existence serves to keep women in some kind of place, to make us shrink within a conversation or a relationship.
In the video below, Lily Myers confronts women issues—both communication and body image issues—by illustrating how women are encourage to accommodate and to absorb, creating space around themselves for protection. Give it a watch. It’ll make a little sad how true it is.
I realized that despite my best efforts to be quick on my toes and stern in the face of adversity, I am still inclined to follow the footsteps of Mom. Instead of bringing my concerns and aggravations to the person I have beef with, I unload on a few close individuals until I feel good enough to carry on like nothing is wrong (at least until the next time my concerns and aggravations start to choke me).
Or when someone says something that cuts, I’m inclined to tend the wound and not say anything. I assume that the words weren’t meant to hurt me, even if they did seem malicious. I assume that if I said anything the speaker would apologize then slash again, blaming me for taking them the wrong way.
How many times have women and men been told that they are being hypersensitive and that their feelings are, in essences, not valid?
the duck, hide n’sneak maneuver
I inherited these arguing skills–what I’m calling the “Duck, Hide n’ Sneak” maneuver–that enables me to avoid a fight.
But where did my mother learn these skills? When will a people be able to stand up for themselves, especially to their family, without flinching hurtful and sexist names?
How did I turn into this person who favors class over kick-ass, who apologizes for her truth and who actively exerts energy trying to keep her cool and pretend to be happy until its true?
Was this the reason for the 5 years of out of control ache I had as a teenager?
let’s stop being afraid of the world nag (and bitch for that matter)
We are held back by linguistic lessons we learned from our mothers who learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers who didn’t have the right to vote in America.
My suggestion for others (and for myself) is to stop complaining, stop feeling hurt and stop being afraid of the words. No self-important person trying to throw animal-based words has a right to define what you think, what you feel and who you are.
Know who you are and show up for yourself. If they call us a nag or a bitch, let em because it’s not true.