Women are tired of being labelled aggressive.

You’re too aggressive. Why are you so confrontational? It would be best if you changed your tone. Sound familiar?

Since the dawn of time, women have been expected to be the silent, agreeable party in the world. We’re told we have emotions, and we act on them and not in a positive way.

It’s not uncommon for women to be labelled as a ‘dragon lady’ or aggressive when being assertive in the work environment, either.

According to Unwomen.org; “Women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader”

AND according to abs.gov.au – The full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 13.4% less than for men

Notwithstanding the facts of women being consistently given fewer opportunities to the opposite sex, I ask how we get ahead without being labelled aggressive or confrontational? 

Carissa Hurley, 36, works in a male-dominated field of finance, “I’m the top writing salesperson and have been for ten years consecutively, a man joined our company, and after two months he got asked to be the sales manager. Before that, a man that had worked in car sales before working in finance for six months was then made the sales manager. None of these men have been proven to perform, but because I’m a woman, I am not asked to do that role.”

In a study published in Psychological ScienceVictoria L. Brescoll and colleagues found that men received high praise after expressing any aggression, but women with ’emotional’ reactions attributed to being an angry woman or other internal labels. The discrepancy of how men are glorified for their tone and feelings against women is astounding.

CEO and Co-Founder of Textio (a leading software company in the USA) Kieran Snyder did a study in 2014 that I found on https://fortune.com/2014/08/26/performance-review-gender-bias/; 

She stated, “I complied performance reviews from women and men working in the tech industry”. The study found that women were significantly more likely to receive negative feedback. When analyzing, she said, “I found that women were more likely to receive feedback based on personality traits often contradictory to those obtained by men. For example, men may be considered confident and assertive; the same behaviour in a female peer may be regarded as abrasive.”

While researching the subject, I found many articles outlining how men are praised for being aggressive and confrontational. It shows that men in work reviews are often praised for their outspoken and bold mannerisms; however, it’s not just the men vs women; it’s women vs women. 

Stacey Abrahms works in real estate and says, “I was told by my female manager that my co workers felt I was confrontational when I had expectations of the work being done. I wasn’t being confrontational, I was being assertive. She then told me I should change my tone and smile more so others felt comfortable. I didn’t want to smile, I wanted to not have to carry their load.” 

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the adjective “aggressive” actually means “behaving in an angry and violent way towards another person”. Meanwhile, the more upbeat “assertive” is someone who “behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe.”

Having ambition and speaking with authority are not aggressive acts. There is a whole movement around raising our daughters to speak and be heard. The same women that say it’s a woman’s right to show their bodies are often found online, later condemning a woman who openly seeks sexual invitations. 

Hurley describes the painfully familiar thought, “I’ve learned that I have a place. I’m a woman, so I need to shut up. Don’t create problems don’t create drama. If I speak up, it’s taken as unacceptable.”

How can we as a world ask young women to strive for the CEO jobs, the high paying salaries but also tell them ‘to do it with a smile, ‘make sure you don’t make others feel insecure by your ambition.’

We stop the pattern of labelling a woman aggressive or confrontational by allowing women to voice their concerns, wants and desires without demeaning them with a label that doesn’t fit the behaviour. 

Only by changing the way we describe it can we change the future, don’t ask a woman to lower her voice or change her tact; instead, celebrate that a woman feels comfortable speaking her mind and taking the lead despite the stigma that she will be punished for it.

This really is not about men vs women, and it is not even about women vs women – it is about women using their gods dammed right to be assertive, direct and not to be told they have to PLAY NICE to appease other people.

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