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Thursday, April 29, 2010

In defense of the Nice Girl...

For those that don’t know, my name is Heather.

{Nice to meet you!}

And if you were born anywhere around the time I was, you remember the cult classic movie by the same name…If you weren’t blessed to have heard of “Heather's” (which I confess to have heard of a LOT but never having seen), the gist, from what I understand, is that a group of girls (aptly, named Heather) rule the school with control, intimidation and their feminine “wiles.” People get killed, popular 80’s stars rock some crazy hair-do’s and the name Heather forever becomes associated with, you know, the B word.

(I am an ex-cop, married to a sailor…I, sadly, have no aversion to cuss words, but I am trying to keep the show family friendly…I will use the word “brat” to substitute when necessary.)

Now, I will confess that I have worked hard at times to live up to my name sake. And lately, it appears that being a brat no longer has the same connotation that it once did. People are actually proclaiming their pride over being one in books, on Facebook and on bumper stickers. It has come to mean a tough girl with ambition that knows how to take care of herself. And what is wrong with that? Well, in my opinion, it could be a lot. Now, here me out…I am not advocating for women to become doormats and allow people to hurt them and victimize them. And I am most certainly not saying that being tough and ambitious is a bad thing. But let’s look at some of the myths of being a nice girl:

Nice Girl Myth #1: They are doormats.

Let’s start here: don’t confuse nice with passive. Being nice is a choice and is often the harder choice in the face of some obstacles. Being nice is a dynamic action that can show kindness and grace (and, let’s not forget-a good example to our children) when someone has done us wrong. There are certainly times that standing up for things like justice and equality deserve righteously angry words and actions-but, let’s be honest, someone cutting us off in the parking lot or talking behind our back at the playgroup is not such a situation.

Nice Girl Myth #2: They are weak.

When I was a cop, in a uniform, on midnight shift, responding to a domestic abuse call 5 minutes before any back-up was going to be there, I often walked into situations where having an attitude was a guaranteed physical fight. I learned that a gentle voice, a calming attitude and a guiding hand can get a wife-beater in the back of a police cruiser with a lot less paperwork than coming in with a hard shell on. I learned the guiding principle that “tough” can sometimes be a hindrance. There is a fine line between knowing all the right moves to protect yourself should a fight arise and picking a fight in order to show that you have the right moves.

The fight isn’t necessary-knowing the right moves is.

Nice Girl Myth #3: They are not in control (i.e. they are being submissive to someone else) and the woman of 2010 should be in control.

We all walk into situations that scare us, intimidate us or threaten us at some point in our lives. We try a new playgroup. We make a new friend who differs on some of the essential parenting issues we believe in. We have to attend a work function with our husband and we feel pressure to live up to a certain standard. Going in on the defensive may protect us from getting hurt but it perpetuates stereotypes about women. I believe that the “brat” fascination that we are pushing in our society as an answer to past generations of oppressed women is hurting us more than it is helping us. And, ironically, in an age where we work so hard to keep our girls from being the victims of men, bullying between females has reached violent and deadly proportions. When we, as women and mothers, are in a situation that we feel calls for being mean, it is typically because we aren’t sure of our strengths. And when we react to something that someone does or says to us, what we are doing isn’t necessarily being tough-we are allowing that other person to have control over us. While there are times for taking an “I-am-not-going-to-let-you-talk-to-me-like-that” stance, what we typically say in those situations is less eloquent than the Julia Sugarbaker-speech we wanted to say. (The Designing Women reference is for those of my generation…weren’t they great?) We end up spending the rest of our day rewriting what we wish we had said and the control that the other person afflicted over us has carried over into our whole day. At the end of the day, I would rather someone think of me as meek than full of hot air and have lost my entire day wasted on obsessing over the issue. Most of the time, those I see acting like the biggest brats are those that have the least amount of control in their lives.

The “nice girl” may not be the popular one nowadays. She is not the one that is celebrated in movies and status changes. Television and movies continue to show movies where the popular girls in high school are the means one and the successful grown-ups are the cold, heartless tough ones. Running over people may have its immediate perks, but, in the end, where does that leave you? Maybe, by breaking some of the myths down about who and what a nice girl is, we can begin to embrace her and show our children and each other that “mean” doesn’t always finish first.

Do you agree? Disagree? I would love to hear some thoughts!


Miko's Girl said...

The example of your #2 is POWERFUL! I have discovered as of late the power of being full of grace and slow to anger. I was given a beautiful mahogany box once with a set of brass balls inside after a killer mediation at work. Unsure as to whether to be pleased, shocked, or offended by the gift, I called someone I worked with at another job - he said didn't the guy know I already had a set. I have found that being a BRAT has left me a bit isolated, lonely, and difficult to relate. I prefer to now be a bit of a velvet hammer - people knowing whatever authority I have (which now mainly has to do with my children as I no longer work) while I delve out that authority with a softness and grace.

love said...

yes, the mean girls are totally portrayed as the popular ones now & i can't stand it. we watch mary poppins and annie. that's about it around here because the things out now are crazy. i definitely don't want my girls to be doormats, but there is much to be said about humble confidence and grace.

ps--[i'm so happy for you.]

Janna said...

Excellent post!

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