I very recently read Anna Kendrick's book "Scrappy Little Nobody" and to no surprise, I loved it. But there was one specific section of the book that really stood out to me. No, it wasn't the part where she talks about attending the Oscars or getting to work with Zac Efron. Those parts, of course, were interesting, but they have little relevance to why I'm here writing about what Anna wrote.
Anna has a section of her book called "On Being Nice" and I have read the eight paragraphs at least eleven times since I finished the book a few hours ago. I kept nodding my head as I read her words and I was wondering why I had this weird tingly feeling in my stomach and why it kind of felt like fireworks were waiting to go off in my brain. Then I reached this: "How many concessions would I have to make, how much crap would I have to swallow to stay a 'nice girl'? Usually more than I am willing." And then the fireworks went off and my stomach starting doing flips and turns. I have been asking myself those same questions for years. I completely understood what she was saying.
Maybe this won't relate to every or any girl reading this but when I was little, the best thing you could possibly hear is "You're so nice." My parents seemed proud when other parents told them how nice I was and teachers seemed to think they were awarding me when that's the trait they deemed most suitable for me. And because these older and respected adults were putting so much stock in being nice, I believed that it was very important to stay that way.
Anna goes on to say, "...but in social situations, the threatened brand is 'bitch.'" I remember the first time someone called me that and I remember how appalled I was by the word. It wasn't just that I was young and someone my age had used a curse word. Because "nice little girls didn't curse." I was appalled because I had grown up confident that if I was anything in this world, I was nice. And my younger self knew that that other word was not associated with being nice. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was hurt and confused and angry at myself. I couldn't remember exactly what I had said or done to have that person react that way towards me but I vowed to never let it happen again. I made a vow to never act a certain way just because I was afraid of having what seemed a more positive label taken away from me. Just writing that seems silly; especially because I don't even know what I was vowing against. I just knew I couldn't let it happen again. Looking back, I was probably being honest. Honestly, if going against the general consensus, can be taken as mean or uncalled for or rude. Of course, there are better ways to say something if you don't want to hurt someone's feelings but this is straying away from my point.
My point is that Anna gets it. Women are told to be nice. But when women are told to be nice, we're really being told to be obedient, quiet, and sweet. Sometimes I say exactly what's on my mind and my friends and family will give me wide-eyed looks or go "Leanne!" in a surprised tone. I typically stay straight-faced when they do that as I look them in the eyes, and shrug. I am an honest woman with no filter who happens to strive off of sarcasm. I don't think that makes me a terrible person or even a mean person. I never go out of my way to hurt someone. Maybe it just means I'm not so nice after all. Once upon a time, that would have made me nervous and my social anxiety would be on a new level. But you know what? I'm already pretty nervous and I have enough anxiety running through my veins to be worried that people don't always like what I have to say.
It's a shame that women put such value on the word nice. It's not a bad thing to hope to be. Being nice is, well...nice. But it's just that. If I do say so myself, it's a tad bit boring. It's such a broad word that it can be taken so many ways in a number of situations. In her book, Anna goes on to explain some of them. Whether it be the work place, a bar, a friend's birthday party, or a family dinner, being nice ranges from "sit there and nod your head to smile and let that guy buy you a drink." Well, I say hell no to that.
I will not have my voice silenced for the sake of "being nice." To the women out there who have never been told this, I'll be the first to say it: Be whatever the hell you want to be and don't let an adjective control you. We currently live in a world where people in power don't think women have the right to speak up. Nice girls should stand on the sidelines and anyone who doesn't is "crazy" or "out of control." Well, then I guess I'm crazy and out of control because I lived on the sidelines for a couple of years when I was younger and when I realized that there were no chains holding me there, I promised to never go back. The thing is, ladies, there are a lot of adjectives out there. Funny, passionate, brave, smart, stubborn, strong, kind, patient, loyal, etc. All of them valuable and at least one or two, or maybe even three, are somewhere inside of you. So put the nice to rest for a little bit and let the rest of you shine.
And don't give a damn if someone doesn't like it.