I have learned something recently.
Being a strong-willed woman is a bit of a blessing and a curse.
I can’t help how I am, I can’t.
It’s in my blood to be strong-willed or stubborn.
Upfront and unflinching.
Some people call it a few other names.
But it is something I can’t help.
Passivity is not something I do well, nor am I weak or subservient.
Having the opposite characteristics of these traits is not always welcomed in the company of some.
Again, it can get you called some pretty ugly names if you are a woman – behind your back and even sometimes to your face.
When a man stands up for himself or states his opinion passionately, he is called an alpha male; a woman, it seems, is supposed to smile and nod and keep her thoughts to herself lest she come across as negative.
A man complaining is a simply voicing what needs to be done; a woman is whining and bitter, even if she is making valid points.
Some people may appreciate this dynamism.
But it’s not a personality for everyone.
“You must have had a mouthy mother raising you,” someone said in an accusatory tone one day.
“Nope,” I replied. “Mama is very gentle and kind; she just doesn’t take any guff off anyone.”
No, the crazy redhead can’t be blamed for the way I am. Nor can the elder redhead.
Those two gave me examples but they aren’t the cause.
I’d likely place the blame on my grandfather and uncle, with them encouraging me to speak my mind and defend my position when necessary.
Both never had a problem with Granny being stubborn and strong-willed; if anything, my Pop seemed to encourage it.
“Chicken,” he would begin, calling her by his pet name for her. “You need to deal with these folks. They ain’t listening to me.”
I couldn’t imagine someone not listening to my grandfather. He could be quite imposing himself. But Granny had a way of stating her purpose that made people take notice.
Being tenacious and unshakeable are just not traits that are considered feminine.
But whenever something happened when I was younger, it would be my grandfather telling me to stand my ground.
“Don’t you let someone run over you,” he would tell me. “I taught you better than that.”
When I got older, and started working, I found that could be problematic in the workforce.
Some people want you to ignore any problems that exist and not make waves or changes, even if they are for the better.
I quickly grew frustrated with some of the things that were occurring and said so.
Big mistake. Huge.
My words were not welcomed.
“They don’t want things to get better,” I told Mama. “They just want things to be the same and us just suck it up and deal with it.”
“That’s life,” she replied. “Stand up for what you can, for what is worth the fight, and let the rest go.”
But I couldn’t.
I would get upset and voice my complaints and concerns. I would fight for the underdog.
I would be as pigheaded and determined as my grandfather could be until I would reach a breaking point and quit.
“That’s why your granddaddy has been self-employed most of his life,” Granny said. “He can’t stand people telling him to do foolish things.”
I could see his point.
But foolishness was rampant it seemed.
There have been a few places that embraced my strong-willed expressions and allowed me to be myself. Even if it was just a matter of letting me just be able to speak my peace.
Finding a way to express myself in a way that does not come across as strident or unyielding is something I have been trying to work on but doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, I am not able to find that balance.
But why should I have to?
Why is so wrong for me to be strong-willed? Or stubborn?
Or maybe even a little bit of a mess at times?
Is that really such a bad thing?
Maybe it would be easier if I was just more ladylike and quieter. Maybe I should keep my opinions to myself and not try to stand up for things as much.
Or maybe I will try to take the bite out of my tone.
I have tried in the past.
I don’t know that it is really possible.
Nor that I really want to change.