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Are women conditioned to think they always have to be "nice"?

(35 Posts)
Cerseirys Thu 19-Nov-15 07:30:47

This thought has occurred to me in the past, but last week a friend shared an article on asylum seekers on Facebook and a friend of hers made some ill-informed prejudiced comment on it. I asked my friend who this woman was and she said a friend from work who was nice really but "would vote for Bush or Trump"!

My friend then asked me if I thought she'd been "respectful" in her reply to this woman. And that got me thinking - when someone makes a blatantly bigoted statement why should we be respectful? Why can't we just challenge them and tell them why we disagree with them, or even get angry? Why are women expected to always "be nice"?

Seriouslyffs Thu 19-Nov-15 07:42:00

I think women are conditioned to be nice, but that that's not a good example!
There are lots of good reasons for not challenging a work colleague. A more relevant example of women's niceness would be not complaining about bad service, praising little girls for playing quietly or giving up toys when playing, expecting turn taking in class when boys are praised for putting themselves forward.

MephistophelesApprentice Thu 19-Nov-15 07:46:20

Women have been, and continue to be, socialised away from behaviors that generate dominance or leadership. Avoiding confrontation and tone policing are symptoms of this.

MagicalHamSandwich Thu 19-Nov-15 07:54:56

I agree with Seriously - work colleagues and their personal opinions are arguably not the best example. I've bit my tongue on so many occasions that it now doubles as a colander - not because I'm nice but because I can't afford to piss them off for professional reasons.

That having been said: yes, women are conditioned to be nice, IMO. I'm working hard to mitigate that in my personal life and I'm finding that it actually feels bloody brilliant when you say something and actually realise everyone else does not automatically assume that you are the least important person in the room.

Thanks to this thread I've just told the guy sitting next to me on the train that him spreading his legs on his seat the way he was doing was taking up half of my sitting space. He was visibly miffed that I complained but apologized and complied. Yay!

Cerseirys Thu 19-Nov-15 07:58:32

Actually sorry, I left a word out - it was a former work colleague. I'd have thought differently if they still worked together.

patienceisvirtuous Thu 19-Nov-15 08:00:18

Ham,good for you re selfish guy on train!

BertrandRussell Thu 19-Nov-15 08:04:28

Yes. And conditioned to to expect "niceness" from other women. You can see that on mumsnet- any hints of disagreement and there are cries of "pouring vitriol" and so on.

And feminists are always being told "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" and to explain again -nicely- to men what sexism is...........

camelfinger Thu 19-Nov-15 08:05:25

Yes. I'm very nice, and would be horrified if anyone thought otherwise. DH is nice, but doesn't care whether others think he's nice. A woman or girl who speaks up is considered bossy or stroppy. When women are accused of e.g. playing mind games, nagging, or flirting to influence people, I think it's because we've had to think of an indirect way of getting what we want rather than directly asking. I'm going to try to be more direct (but polite) in future, it's much harder work going the long way round!

Seriouslyffs Thu 19-Nov-15 08:06:55

Yay Magical!
Cerseirys yes then, that does look like unnecessary compliance. It'd be interesting to study Facebook friend list politics. Do women tend to have friends they don't agree with because they don't want to reject requests and friend people to get onside? DH wouldn't ever pull anyone up on Facebook because he has only 20 friends and also because he doesn't feel other people's opinions reflect on him. I'm more likely to comment or unfriend I don't necessarily think I'm going to change anyone's mind but I don't want to be seen to be validating odious opinions. Which could also be seen as wanting to be admired or considered 'nice'.
Gender definitely plays a part in it but it's complex.

LilithTheKitty Thu 19-Nov-15 08:08:30

I was brought up to always be nice and to put other people first but it has never occurred to me that it's because I'm female. My brother was brought up the same way and I've taught my boys the same. We never had girls stuff and boys stuff either though so I think in my case it's because my family always thought kindness was more important than anything else.
Thinking about it more recently, especially how I interact with people it isn't always the best thing. I've ended up in some shitty situations because I see other people as more important than myself and I avoid conflict at all costs. I don't know where I'm going with this post to be honest so I'll stop wittering now.

Seriouslyffs Thu 19-Nov-15 08:22:29

Lilith that's interesting and you're not wittering!
People pleasing is a uniquely female trait I think. Or perhaps it's just seen differently? DH doesn't engage in debate with people who think differently- he's confident in his opinions and doesn't believe he'll change theirs so why waste his breath. Or he doesn't want a disagreement and prioritises harmony?

MrNoseybonk Thu 19-Nov-15 08:42:36

DH doesn't engage in debate with people who think differently- he's confident in his opinions and doesn't believe he'll change theirs so why waste his breath.

Plenty of men on the internet do engage in (pointless) debate, trying to change other people's opinions though.
Yes women (girls) are conditioned to be nice, but I don't think your husband is that representative of men in general.

MephistophelesApprentice Thu 19-Nov-15 08:51:54

People pleasing is a uniquely female trait I think.

Women have been socialised to believe this, as part of ensuring they do not seek alternative methodologies is to convince them that those behaviours 'belong' to the other gender.

LilithTheKitty Thu 19-Nov-15 09:20:04

I think that what I was trying to say is that because I didn't see it as a way I should behave because I'm a girl but instead as a way I should behave as a person I expected the same of my children who all happen to be boys. It is very recently that I've noticed (from mumsnet mainly) that it is a behaviour that is expected more from women than men.

Seriouslyffs Thu 19-Nov-15 09:22:32

meph by trait I don't mean it's inherent but that the same behaviour in men is seen differently. So by not engaging in debate with wrong people my DH is seen as confident whereas I feel I'm being compliant and nice.

cailindana Thu 19-Nov-15 12:07:13

A few things that I've found:

-I'm Irish, so culturally I'm more direct than British people. I find I am 'allowed' to be much more direct than other women because people don't see it as a woman being bolshy or bossy but as an Irish person being oh so funny and Irish. That said, people have described me as 'scary' because I simply state what I think I don't hedge and apologise and butter people up. People don't seem to get offended by my behaviour, they just laugh. I think if a British woman took my approach she'd be seen as rude.

-Men are very quick to tell women off for things, but if women criticise them back, they are seen as rude. Men automatically assume they have the right to criticise women - they see themselves as 'in charge' regardless of the circumstances. One example of this was a recent email I got from someone who works with my organisation but who has no remit to criticise me. I have never met him and yet he saw fit to send me an email, without introducing himself, telling me I hadn't done some work and explaining organisational strategy to me (strategy by the way that I had fucking written). I know a lot of women would have apologised etc (for what?) but I emailed back saying, politely, 'I did do that work, also I make decisions based on solid reasoning that you don't seem to grasp.' He emailed back basically saying 'oh yeah, I didn't even check, have a good weekend.' No sorry whatsoever from him, despite the fact that I pointed out his criticism was unfounded. I was so wound up about it and wasted time and energy thinking about a response. Women have to deal with that shit all the time and it undermines their confidence. Men don't think twice about it. However, if I had emailed him not introducing myself and criticising his work I'm sure I'd have had all sorts of shit rained down on my head.

-Related to the last point. Men's behaviour (up to and including rape and murder) is always justified, women's behaviour is always wrong.

Thefitfatty Thu 19-Nov-15 12:15:16

I think women are definitely conditioned from a young age to be nice. However, in my case I'm not sure if I'm more conditioned to be nice because I was born a woman, or because I was born Canadian. confused

VestalVirgin Thu 19-Nov-15 12:27:44

@Thefitfatty: Probably both? Do you get the impression that Canadian men are just as nice as you?

Thefitfatty Thu 19-Nov-15 12:30:11

Absolutely VestalVirgin. After over a decade overseas I can honestly say Canadians are nice to our detriment. I know so many of my friends, male and female, who've gotten in troubling situations for being too nice.

However, I do see in other cultures that women are expected to be nicer in general.

squidzin Thu 19-Nov-15 12:39:11

Yes women are conditioned to be "nice".

Where do you think the term "bitch" started?

A woman will never dare shout our random opinions at people in the street (such as "cheer up love") because women learn very early on, as girls, that this behaviour is "bitchy". But a man behaves this way and it is "funny".

Look at stand up comedy for examples of very bitchy things men say that women cannot get away with.

VestalVirgin Thu 19-Nov-15 12:42:21

Gosh, really? Maybe all we female socialized people should move to Canada and live happily ever after. wink
If everyone is just as nice, there shouldn't be problems because of it. Though I suppose it could get a bit crowded.

@cailindana: Yes, it is amazing what men can get away with. And there really seems to be some intersection with culture - the British are also a rather polite culture, at least that's the stereotype.

EElisavetaOfBelsornia Thu 19-Nov-15 12:43:20

Some of these comments worry me about how I am as a parent to my DCs, who are girls. I think I want to bring them up to be nice to others, and to be able to share, but maybe I'm not encouraging enough bolshiness - that willingness to push forward. DD1 isn't really a pushy type, DD2 much more so. It feels like a delicate balance, avoiding forcing her into stereotypical compliant girl behaviour, teaching manners and consideration as I would with boys, and letting her be herself.

squidzin Thu 19-Nov-15 13:04:49

The best way to raise your daughters will be to set high standards of polite behaviour (hello, how are you, please, thankyou, goodbye) as you would whether male or female.

Then also point out patriarchal sexism when it is relevant (such as in the media, or day-to-day expectations, ludicrous gendered objects in stores...). Then leave them to it!

Equipping your daughters with their own ability to critically analyse is the best anyone can do.

VestalVirgin Thu 19-Nov-15 13:08:51

Elisaveta, you could focus on bringing them up to be nice to nice people and share with those who have less.

The problem with the way women are conditioned is that we feel obliged to share with men who have more then we (women who think feminism should care about men are an example of that conditioning gone mad), and to submit to male violence, verbal or physical, because it would not be "nice" to talk back.

So, before you scold them for not being nice, you could take a moment to think about whether this person they weren't nice to actually needed/deserved niceness.
Kicking puppies = bad. Beating rabid dogs with a stick = self-defense.

You will sometimes have to tell them to play nice even if a person deserves to be yelled at, but in such cases, you could take the time to explain the concept of picking your battles, and maybe not challenging the teacher on the first day of school.

TeiTetua Fri 20-Nov-15 15:32:14

See Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton point out how nice Canadians are.

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