Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Piece of Advice #74: Do not confuse being difficult with being strong
Except we do expect our men to play nice. Oh, maybe not the Donald Trumps of the world, the capitalists-cum-entertainers or the big power players in sports, journalism, or politics. We give a few artistic types some lenience. But the rest of them? Yeah, we pretty much expect them to play nice. We expect them to be polite or at least not overly aggressive in social interaction. We want them to hold doors and pick their underwear off the floor and say, "Please," and "Thank you." We certainly don't want them to make rude gestures, or exhibit road rage, or get in our faces and scream their frustrations or call us names.
But when women do those same things, they're being tough. They're confronting an unjust system in "the only way that works." The popular saying is, "Well behaved women seldom make history."
A more accurate, less excuse loaded saying would be, "Women seldom make history." Hardly anyone makes history, in fact. Most of us live and die our lives in obscurity, important only to the other obscures we know and love. People who make history are generally: kings and rulers, criminals, genocidal marauders, and that teeny, tiny bunch of outliers who are gifted in some way, either mentally, physically, spiritually, or artistically. Everyone else - dust to dust. Yes, it is true that many of the above, the kings and criminals, are difficult people. Powerful people are because power corrupts, and there seems to be some sort of correlation between extreme intelligence and artistry and mental illness. The people who cure cancer or invent computers we give a little leeway. But all the other people who are naturally aggressive and demanding, the ones who shout everyone else down, the ones who insist their ways are the only ways, that they deserve better service, more respect, that booth in the corner - they are just spoiled and unschooled, unoriginally antisocial. They failed to learn a lesson we expect most children to master in kindergarten: play well with others.
It is not particularly brave to push yourself, your wants and needs and opinions in the faces of other people. It is selfish. It may be true that "the squeaky wheel gets the oil," but why should one wheel get all the oil? And why should the wheel feel empowered when demanding it?
Don't fool yourself that obnoxious behavior is strength. Consistent kindness, responsibility, consideration, and hard work are traits of strength. Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated.