Being nice and other ways society tells women not to stick up for themselves
“I am a radical, card-carrying feminist, and still I put out smiles indiscriminately, hoping to please not only friends and family but also my son’s orthodontist, the barista who rolls his eyes while I fumble apologetically through my wallet, and the ex-boyfriend who cheated on me.”—Catherine Davis from “I do not want my daughter to be nice”
I read the above post and it reminded me of how often girls (and women) are told by their family, peers and society to be nice. But are we also sometimes too nice even at our own expense? How often do we dismiss our feelings, beliefs and ability to set healthy boundaries in relationships, because we are too busy being nice. How many times have we let others expectations of us, dictate our own?
I learned once on staff of Women of the ELCA that “N.I.C.E.” could stand for “nothing is closely examined.” That idea has stayed with me over the years. It also changed the way I started to behave with my family and friends. I started to articulate my feelings and to set boundaries. At first it wasn’t easy, but now I know all of my relationships are better off for it. And I am better for it.
What if instead of telling girls and expecting women to be nice, we empowered our girls to be just? And that does not mean that we are fair only to others—but to ourselves.
Were you taught to be nice, and how has that worked for you? Are you too nice, or do you feel that you are both nice and just?
Elizabeth McBride is the director for intergenerational programs and editor of Cafe.