A Story of Exploring Assertiveness and What it Means to be a Pushy Bitch
Words have power. I’m an English literature graduate and a trained journalist so I’ve always respected the power of words. That’s why I’ve chosen to use The word “bitch” as part of this brand. It’s all about that dichotomy between being more assertive and cringing at the thought of people calling you a pushy bitch.
How many of you reading this have been called a bitch in a derogatory way? Or heard a woman being addressed like this, to her face? How many of you reading have heard a woman called “bitch” behind her back?
We can laugh and jokingly say that “if a man does x it’s strong leadership, but if a woman does it, she’s called a bitch.” Whilst this is true, we’re still looking at it objectively. Put yourself in the shoes of the woman being called a bitch. Think about how disempowering, how brutal that is. Incidentally there is no male equivalent.
“Bitch” is a word that deliberately cuts. It’s a hard word. It has edges. If you’re saying it to someone you can’t say it without screwing your face up. The word was made to express hatred.
There are some women who seem to be reclaiming the word. I’ve seen them on Instagram. My eye was particularly caught by “Bitches who Brunch.” However, to my restrained British upbringing, I can’t get away from that nasty edge of the word. Until I realised it was holding me back.
Help from New York
About three years ago a received an email which made me feel like I had been a total bitch. I was surprised and shocked at this, and by how it made me feel. It hurt, both professionally and personally. And yet, when I re-read my own correspondence, I was only asking for something that had been due to me.
Still, this continued to eat away at me and I decided to talk to my New York friends about this. My New York friends, by the way, are a group of women I met on a retreat in New Orleans a few years ago. They are sassy, loud and I knew their take would be very different. And it was. One of them in particular said something that resonated with me. “He didn’t actually call you a bitch. You’re just so afraid to be seen as one. You’re only going to get over this by embracing your inner bitch and stop trying to hide her.” And something clicked. In that moment my year of being a Pushy Bitch was born.
Now, I need to give you a bit of a baseline here. I was brought up in South Wales in a time when children had to be quiet and let the adults get on. It was an era when a female driving a car would get “Bloody women drivers” hurled at her through the window. It was also the time of Maggie Thatcher closing down our coal mines. This was a women who obviously did not care how many times she got called a “Bitch. ” But this very name-calling helped perpetuate that stereotype of women in power being bitches. I had a lot to throw off.
My Year of Being a A Pushy Bitch
I began with my language, more specifically in emails. Out went “Would you mind”, “when you have time” “I would be grateful if you could pay me” type language. Instead, I was clear. “The invoice is overdue. Can you tell me when the payment is being made?”
I started experimenting with asking for things. Could we sit in the window please, instead of over by the toilets?” I asked for more mayonnaise, more salad dressing. My pancakes would be swimming in maple syrup and I would force myself to ask for more, just to flex that muscle.
I started creating boundaries, first with clients and then with friends. With clients, I would stop myself rushing to answer an email. Instead I would leave it until I had some time to give it proper thought. In working hours.
I then turned to friendships. I’m always happy to be a shoulder to cry or moan on. However, sometimes it gets a bit much if it happens every time you meet up. I have an old, dear friend who I love very much but she loves to analyse everything. It can be really draining. So I would say, let’s keep the conversation light. I need that today.
I put my prices up. This caused me a couple of days of wobbling when I didn’t hear anything back from my clients. However, in the end, they all said fine. One even said “you’re worth every penny!”
I started being more assertive at home. I wouldn’t go so far as to use the word “rules.” However, I started having expectations that certain things would get done. Asking for them to be done. Most of the time, with a few grumbles perhaps, it worked. But hey, I was being a pushy bitch, I can live with the grumbles.
Evolution of the Bitch
It began to subtly change things. I didn’t worry so much any more. I got into some great conversations with waiters rather than just letting myself be served. What’s more, I got paid more! Now all this may hardly sound earth-shattering, especially if you’re already a pretty assertive person. For me, it really did make a difference. I found out how much of a difference when my daughter, then 17, started getting bullied by her tutor. This was when I really had to find my steely core. I had to let my inner bitch out even more to be able to deal with this woman.
Every time we would have an issue, she would back peddle, claiming it was a misunderstanding. After months of this, she eventually she backed down Ironically, I could see that a lot of her behaviour was coming from her own insecurity. This is something that I wouldn’t have had the insight to notice previously. Nevertheless, it was a tough time for my daughter and for me. I do believe my year of deliberately pushing boundaries for myself helped me get through it.
At the end of it all, I actually grew fond of my pushy bitch. She’s a part of me I am proud to own. That year inspired me to create The Bitch Network and the rest, as they say, is history. Join me if you’d like to let your inner bitch out to play!