The topic of female assertion has been coming up a lot as of late. It would be safe to assume that I do identify as a strong, assertive woman. To some, my dominance – which stereotypically is a masculine trait – is extremely threatening and has provoked the use of labels such as bitchy, scary, or mean. I understand that it may throw a lot of people off when they see such a (mostly) feminine looking woman exhibiting such confidence or assertion, but those people aren’t usually the ones with whom I choose to spend my valuable time.
So, where did this assertion come from? Perhaps I was raised with the message that men were no different than women. That, as a woman, I would be treated equally and so why would there be any reason to be anyone but myself, even if that did include assertion, confidence, self-reliance, etc.
When I was a child, every year at Christmas my grandfather gave me a new set of miniature plastic dishes. You know, the ones that prepare young girls for the lifelong duty of domestic servitude. The boys in the family got trucks. The girls always got pink toys and the boys – you guessed it – blue. The women cooked, cleaned, took care of the children, and the men worked. Every holiday, after eating, the men would migrate to the living room to watch football while the women did the dishes and then gathered around the kitchen table to talk. In my family, the men had their education paid for while the women did not. Why on earth would a woman need an education to know how to give birth, stay home, change diapers, cook, clean, and do laundry?
So, no, I never received the message that I was anywhere CLOSE to being an equal to someone of the opposite sex. I was never taught that assertion and self-reliance were positive traits to have as a woman. My gender role was clearly defined, and the price of not adhering to that role would result in disappointment and shame from my family – and when you’re dealing with traditional catholic guilt, that’s HUGE!
I have no idea why I chose to reject the values I was taught to so rigidly follow. For one reason or another, I chose to reject a societal system that I felt was meant to oppress and limit. I could have just as easily assimilated into the role that was expected of me. Hell, I wouldn’t be the black sheep of the family. I would have acceptance. I wouldn’t have stirred the pot. Would it have been easier? Perhaps if I wanted to keep my head in the sand. Yet, adhering to the limiting roles just never FELT right.
Coming from an oppressive environment made me have to redefine myself, re-evaluate my worth, my identity, my wants, desires, etc. I naturally grew into being an assertive person. It’s nothing I really even thought about. It just happened. It was organic and perhaps would happen to many other women if they took the time to think about their wants, needs, and desires, too, instead of themselves as they are defined by the limiting gender expectations of our society. If the majority of women knew that they actually had a voice and felt comfortable using it, maybe then we would filter out words such as bitchy, mean, or scary, and we would replace them with words such as confident, secure, strong, and assertive.