. What’s going on? Is this an indication that women should stop being nice girls? Girls are taught, from the moment they are born, to be polite, to smile, to please others, to be, well, nice. But does being a nice girl get us anywhere? There are lots of feminist writers that think not. But before all you guys stop reading and women who have succeeded rush to grab your bra back from the fire, let’s explore this idea further. First of all, what is a nice girl? Well, can you relate to any of the following? I imagine there are a lot of women that can relate to the above statements. However, I can also see how many other people, women included, will think they don’t specifically relate just to the female gender.
The point I’m making is that girls are socialised to behave in a certain manner. As a result, this affects how they react later as adults. If you don’t believe me then ask yourself, why do women still earn less than men in the same jobs? Why do women do the majority of household chores? Why are women still working the lowest-paid jobs? And why are there not more women in high ranking positions? Nice girls are not raised to be ambitious. Nor are they told it is ok to be aggressive to get what they want.
There are lots of studies that show the difference between men and women when it comes to ambition and aggression in the workplace. In this study, subjects played a word game.
They were told they would be paid between $3 and $10 at the end. After the game, the leader of the study asked the students: “Here’s $3. Is $3 ok?” The vast majority of men said it was not ok and demanded more money.
The men’s requests for more money exceeded the women’s by 9 to 1. Another study explored starting salaries for male and female graduates from the same course. Male graduates’ starting salaries were around $4000 more than their female counterparts. This is because the men negotiated a higher salary. As for the women, they accepted the starting salary offered to them. Talking about negotiating, women were less likely to approach their bosses to talk about a pay rise. However, men frequently put themselves in positions to talk about their pay and role in the company. So what does this say about women? Are we being too nice? Girls should be quiet and not make a fuss. No one likes a loud girl. Girls, in particular, are told to be quiet. We accept boisterous boys. In fact, until very recently there were schools for young girls where they learned this ‘skill’. Bedtime stories are full of tales where Prince Charming rescues the delicate princess. This stereotype reinforces to girls that she needs a man to fight her battles. What message is this sending to her? She can’t protect herself? She needs a man. We praise boys for their strength. We admire beauty in young girls. This reinforces the notion that looks are important, not intelligence. Women put others first. It starts with their partner; doing the cooking, clearing up the house for hubby, then transfers onto her kids. Heaven forbid if you talk about liking sex. Women are either Madonnas or prostitutes. “I was routinely referred to as either a bimbo or a bitch.” Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard Girls follow the rules, it’s the naughty boys that are the rule-breakers. Girls are the obedient ones.
There might be some of you reading this that think, what’s the problem? Shouldn’t we encourage people to be polite, quiet, and modest? Possibly. But this is a gender issue.
These virtues are not being taught across the genders. So, we have to ask the question, are there any dangers of being a nice girl? I can think of one immediately. Remember the film director that has been in the news recently for alleged sexual abuse? Here’s a typical scenario: A young woman would go to his hotel room (he often worked in his hotel, so this was not unusual). When she arrived, the film director would appear half-naked in a bathrobe or shirt with no underwear on. Now, imagine if that person going to the room was a man? Any normal bloke would immediately question the situation.
They would address it head-on. Something like “Mate, put your pants on, you look ridiculous, this is a business meeting.” So why didn’t any of the women? Because women are expected to be: This is a famous media case but it applies in real life as well. Men who show aggression and ambition get the better jobs and the pay rises. If women show the same attitudes, they are bitches or difficult to work with. Female stereotypes can restrict women, particularly when it comes to having children. Many women don’t want kids. However, they might face pressure from in-laws and grandparents. Women stay in abusive relationships because they accept bad behaviour.
They should not make a fuss and ‘think of the children’. Equally, they may not want to embarrass the partner abusing them. You only have to look at the row between two female Labour MPs recently who were fighting for the leadership of the party. One used her working mother status in an attempt to undermine her opponent. She emphasised her opponent’s ‘empty nest’. Men do not use their children or lack of to gain an advantage over their challengers. It’s normal if a child is sick and the mother collects them from school. However, a father doing exactly the same thing is elevated to superhero status. I think there are dangers if you are a nice girl. But until society changes its attitude towards women it is going to be difficult for girls to get ahead. Hopefully, the younger generation will drive this change forward. R.
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