We were raised to be polite. By we, I mean, women.
Perhaps, not directly, though in some cases, I’m sure it was. No, in most cases, I would assume that we were taught to be polite by subtle social constructs. It was things like hushing us as little girls, encouraging us to sit quietly and play with our dollies, while our brothers ran around, loudly, pushing each other down, and our parents laughed and said, “Oh, boys will be boys.”
And it sure didn’t help I was raised in Texas – a state that prides itself on being polite, in all manners of life. It was just piles upon piles of unconscious “be polite” suggestions in my life.
I’m not saying it was our parents’ fault, but they and maybe we, are still a product of our times. We’ve been trying to fight against gender inequality, the patriarchy, and misogyny for decades, but I don’t think it’s the obvious and blunt aspects of it that we should fear the most (though it’s a definite fear). Rather, it’s the subtle aspects of the patriarchy that causes me the most fear – it’s things like politeness.
And I’m tired of being polite.
It makes my jaw hurt the times I recall being polite. Like that one time I opened a door for two men in Boston who looked at me quite rudely and I was the one who said sorry. Or the times when I said “excuse me” when I was basically pushed off the sidewalk because others coming toward me wouldn’t move over and share the public walkway. I hated being polite to the loan officer at a bank that I used to work at, when he would constantly say subtly racist and misogynistic things at work – daily. And don’t get me started on the politeness I showed far too many customers who didn’t deserve it.
It sickens me to my stomach to think of how “polite” I was to exes who didn’t treat me with full respect or the guys who wouldn’t leave me alone at the club or the bar when I told them nicely that I wasn’t interested. Or the mean girls in middle school, high school, and college. When others said or did mean things at school, I’d grab a basketball and go shoot my anger away. I don’t have that luxury anymore.
Now, I’m not the kind of girl who apologizes for every little thing – far from it. And I’m not meek or shy or quiet when I feel threatened or an injustice is being done. But I still find myself being polite at times that don’t necessarily make me too proud. And I’m tired of it.
So beginning now, I’m going to make a conscious effort to stop.
I’m not going to apologize when others don’t make a conscious effort to share the sidewalk. I’m not going to stay silent when I witness others behaving in a manner that is “ugly.” I’m not going to spend my precious time around people who are just plain rude, hateful, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or all of those combined. And if I’m stuck around them, well, I think I’m just going to be more outspoken than I have been before.
Because I’ve come to realize that I can’t live in this world being so polite anymore. It doesn’t help me in any way. It prevents me from getting paid the same as my male counterparts. It gives other people permission to walk all over me and other women who are being too polite. It doesn’t send the message of “I deserve respect.” It allows hateful language to continue on around me. It lets others believe that what they are saying are doing is okay and right when it’s not.
And most of all, I just don’t have the luxury to be polite anymore, none of us do. Not with the blatant racist, anti-feminist, homophobic, xenophobic group that will be running our country for the next four years, inciting other hateful individuals across the country to do the same.
My politeness – doesn’t do anything to fight for women or against the negative aspects of our society. And it sure as hell doesn’t inspire other women to stand up, speak out, and be strong. So if I have to be impolite at times to get the respect that I deserve, to get equal rights, or have a safe space for me and other women, well, I’m going to do it.
And I’m not going to apologize for not being polite because this is a new era for me. It’s no more Ms. Polite Woman.