An ex of mine used to refer to me as a “firecracker”, if you look it up you’ll find explanations like “women with a loud personality who isn’t afraid to speak her mind” and “a high spirited women”, I haven’t found many, if any searches which said a man can also be described as a “firecracker”. If that’s the case how would we refer to a man with a loud personality who isn’t afraid to speak his mind? Charismatic? Confident? Endearing?
From a young age I have been called many variations of “firecracker” for essentially, now I really think about it, having an opinion or questioning why. The key point is, having an opinion that people didn’t like or agree with. It wasn’t that long ago that I was pulled over on the motorway for having my full beam on. It was about 10pm at night and a section of the M62 which is surrounded by fields. Initially it was a fairly pleasant interaction, “do you know why I’ve pulled you over”, me “erm no, sorry”. From there, I was told I was driving with my full beam on, which I categorically knew for certain that I wasn’t. We went back and forth until he eventually said “do you even know what your full beam is”.
Now, I had a choice, nod, smile and have a laugh about what he just said, then more than likely be on my way, but I’m sure you guessed I didn’t. I replied “why, because I’m a women”? To those of you rolling your eyes, do you think he’d have asked a man the same patronising question?
He then said “bit less of the attitude” and asked me to sit in the back of his police car. Now this was late 2015 before the recent events involving a male police officer on his own and a women on her own, so I did it. I sat in the police officers car at 10pm at night on my own. The atmosphere was frosty, he thought I had an “attitude problem” and at this point I remember feeling a little anxious. He asked me for all the routine information and eventually let me get back in my car before checking the dashboard and looking at the front of my car, as if he’d “corrected” something – nothing, he’d done absolutely nothing besides tell me I had an attitude problem.
What’s worse, as I drove away I felt like I’d done something wrong, offended him in some way. How backwards is that – I thought I’d offended him!
Where does it come from? This need to refer to women in a negative context because they speak their mind. My daughter who’s 2 constantly gets told “she knows what she wants” or “she knows her own mind”, in fairness it’s when she’s refusing to put her shoes or coat on but other times it’s not, it’s when she’s telling me what she wants or doesn’t want to eat for example. Do people have the same experience with 2 year old little boys, do they get told “he knows his own mind”?
Maybe this is too vague and you feel like I’m on some sort of mission to simply bash men which for the record I’m not because honestly a lot of what I’m talking about has come from women of a certain generation too. It’s likely all toddlers get told that, I guess it’s that age when boundaries are constantly being tested and as a parent your grey hairs start to appear.
So let me move on to something more obvious. A women who organises her family, makes plans and takes charge is often refferred to as being bossy or overbearing. Why are women “the old ball and chain”? What is so terrible about a women knowing exactly who she is, what she beleives in and what she wants? I’m always described as being “strong willed” or that I’m high spirited (don’t you describe a horse as high spirited for Gods sake), and no before you say it, these descriptions were not meant as a compliment, because the context in which it was meant was essentially “difficult to manage”. However, describe a man as strong willed and does that then become a compliment, maybe?
Saying “no” or having an opinion does not mean you are outspoken, challenging someones point of view does not mean you have an attitude problem. I don’t think it’s as simple as “men need to do better” I think women need to do better too, and not just with our vocabulary but with how we say it.
Happy International women’s day. I hope you’re surrounded by opinionated, outspoken, high spirited beautiful women who have an attitude problem.