When a woman speaks her truth in a context where she can’t be sure it’s welcome, she knows going in that she’s taking a risk.
She knows that unvarnished honesty, spoken in a strong voice, without apology – especially if spoken to power and authority or against majority opinion – will be perceived as threatening and aggressive in a way that the same behavior in a male will not.
She’s prepared to be labeled “unfeminine,” “angry” and “crazy.”
She won’t be surprised if someone calls her a “bitch.”
These expectations can shut a woman down before she ever opens her mouth. When she does this, she is playing by the rules we females did not put in place, such as:
- Women should keep their big mouths shut if they have something to say that they know might upset someone, especially someone “important” or in charge, an authority of some kind.
- It is more important for women to be liked than to be known.
- It is more important for women to keep the peace than express disagreement.
- Being loud and opinionated is “unfeminine.”
- Women who violate these social expectations are bitches.
And so on.
Ladies, hear me now:
Speaking truth is your perfect right.
Being called a “bitch” is your punishment from those who don’t want you to exercise that right and who don’t like what you have to say.
Of course a woman can speak her truth and be a “bitch” when she does it. What do I mean by that? I mean she is deliberately aggressing in some way against someone who does not deserve it. Name calling, denigration, verbal abuse fall under this category, and in this case, it is the manner of speaking your truth, and not the simple fact that you did, that makes it so.
It’s important to understand that speaking truth is one way to make change. Witness the #MeToo movement.
It is important to understand that being called a “bitch” for speaking your truth, for speaking out, is a way to intimidate you into silence when your truth is not welcome.
It’s important to understand that being called a “bitch” is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Not by a long shot.
It’s important to understand that when you are called a “bitch” for speaking out and speaking the truth, you are in the company of game-changers (Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Allred, Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsberg to name just four).
When someone calls you a “bitch” for speaking out, for being honest, for being strong in what you say, remember what Tabitha Coffey says in her TedX Talk, “Why You Need to be a Bitch.” When you do this, being a “bitch” means you are:
Above all, remember, speaking out, speaking your truth, and being a bitch are not the same thing.
Do not let fear of the latter stop you from doing the former.