Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called “bossy”. Or “intimidating”.
Or how about “too” anything as in “too loud”, “too angry”, “too pushy” and, my favorite, the generic insult “too much.”
What these adjectives have in common, other than the fact that they’ve all been applied to me, is that they’re often used to remind (or force) women to remember accepted gender roles/norms. Being “too much”, bossy, or aggressive deviates from social expectations of the “nice” behavior that keeps folks comfortable.
I could get lost right here in a rant about the hegemonic, heteropatriarchy reinforcing the status quo, but I have a different point to make today.
My point is that when I coach women clients, or speak with women at workshops, invariably some version of the bossy accusation comes up. The women know these phrases are used as an attempt to diminish and silence them. It’s not a mystery. But it still stings.
The only thing that comes up more often is time management, followed by self-care as a close third. Because if you had better time management skills you would have some time for self-care right?!?
I know folks are working to shift the narrative on cultural norms and we’re all supposed to aspire to being a “Bad B**ch” or a #Bossbabe, but to me that feels like reinventions of the Enjoli woman with better memes.
Real women navigating insults and slights have to decide how to own the words and then strategize about when to ignore, when to reframe, or when to modify their behavior and language to make others comfortable.
Most simply aspire to being accepted, advancing, and achieving without censure or backlash for being insufficiently nice, agreeable or modest.
In the meantime, while we wait and work for the slow, societal shift away from sexism I propose the following solution.
A dance club.
Specifically a “Bossy Women’s Dance Club”. We would only admit women who have been consistently accused of being Bossy, Pushy, Intimidating, or Angry for a minimum of 27 years. Unfortunately, this means some members of the club will be in their early 30’s.
Feminist men of all ages are welcome if a member vouches for their feminism. Men will however pay an additional entrance fee equal to the percentage of the gender pay gap represented by their race.
A dance club would promote self-care with a triple whammy of “me time” in a nurturing, space with like minded folks, fun music to dance to (exercise!) and well made cocktails.
So as I wait for my angel investor to make the Club dream a reality, I make do with … Jazzercise.
I’ve attended Jazzercise in different spots since the late 80’s when leg warmers were all but required. I currently drive 30 minutes – each way – 3 days a week in DC traffic to get to a really great studio in Arlington run by a powerhouse of positive energy named Renee.
Jazzercise lets me sweat in a room without mirrors and pretend I’m still someone who could get into a club. It lets me worship at the altar of Mr. Worldwide with zero side eye & no discussion about the inherent cognitive dissonance necessary for my enjoyment of his beats.
Jazzercise is the perfect “self-care” for my bossy, middle-aged self because there’s no such thing as “too much” on the dance floor.
If you see me at Jazzercise I hope you’ll be pushy and introduce yourself.