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How and why did ‘being nice’ and ‘being a feminist’ become mutually exclusive? Shouldn’t these values be taught to both girls and boys?
Recently I have come across a number of posts where people claim they are not going to teach their daughters to be nice. They are going to teach them to stand up for what they believe in, instead. What puzzles me is, how these came to be mutually exclusive.
I have girls and I am going to teach them to be nice, soft spoken and considerate. If I had sons, I would teach them the same. I value these qualities in any human being.
But, that does not mean, that I am not going to teach my girls to be assertive and confident. Just like the best teachers don’t need to shout to earn their student’s respect and to enthral them, so also the best human beings don’t need to shout to be heard, or be mean to be respected, or be a bully to be confident. In fact I would think, quite the opposite is true.
The way I understand it, being strong is not about shouting or demanding. Shouting and demanding are usually signs of insecurity. Real strength comes from the inside.
Knowing what you enjoy and are good at, and pursuing it relentlessly is the path to satisfaction. And with that satisfaction comes confidence.
When you no longer need the approval of others to feel good about yourself, and believe in your abilities, then you are truly confident. That confidence becomes evident in your demeanour and interactions. It becomes much harder for people to rattle you or get in your way if you are truly confident. So you don’t really need to shout them down. They just shrink away from you. It is this confidence that I want my children to have, so they can conquer their dreams.
As you learn to see the insecurities of those trying to shout you down, you cease to fear them or be affected by them. This is the kind of confidence I want my daughters to have. This type of confidence can only come from introspection, self evaluation and a constant struggle for self-improvement. Feedback from others should be considered as a part of introspection, but not blindly followed.
I also want my children to be considerate. Being observant, sensitive and considerate brings a different kind of satisfaction in life. It helps you like the person you are, and that in turn helps you be nice to other people.
Pettiness, revenge, deception and scheming are all signs of unhappiness and insecurity. They imply an urge to control the behaviour of other people. The only person one can really control, is oneself. So the best way to proceed with a bad experience is to learn from it and move on.
I think it is important to be nice, not to please other people, but to be able to love yourself. Being nice does not mean being a door mat or a people pleaser. Being nice, just like confidence, must come from within. Being nice is about upholding the social values one believes in, like being open minded, compassionate and respectful.
By respectful, I don’t mean, touching people’s feet or calling them Sir or Madam. I mean respecting people’s privacy and beliefs and not hurting them with words or actions unnecessarily. But for your respect to have value and meaning, you must first respect yourself. So it is important to stand up for yourself and preserve your self respect.
All of these qualities make for productive, happy and thoughtful human beings. So instead of ceasing to teach our daughters to be nice, lets teach them what nice really means, and teach our sons the same too.
Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to
Yes Kanika I wholly agree with you. This is a very thoughtful and balanced post. We must raise our children -whether boys or girls, to be nice. I have pondered over these thoughts for a very long time. From a sociological perspective- patriarchy has over centuries not only facilitated the dominance of one group over the other but also within the dominant group, there is the clamouring for being the “alpha”-the one right on top of the hierarchy. Those lower down the hierarchy are made to strive harder or feel inadequate. The fall out of this was- in the old days (with few options to prove one’s “socially defined” worth)the male of average intelligence felt tremendous pressure to perform in a way that showed he was fit/suitable to be in the race. This often called for obvious displays of power and aggression and led to many fights and violence. In short- the whole concept of “mardangi” or machismo. It did help the male of limited skills or depth of thinking, with earning some respect and status. Cut to the current phase- where the female is getting out and about and achieving remarkable strides while facing tremendous competition and odds herself in earning the livelihood of not just themselves but the whole family often. The female of average intelligence now, may presume that aggression is a necessity not just as a defence against male aggression, but against all impediments and rivals too. Only the thinkers will figure out the scientific wisdom that if a scale is tipped too much on any one side, there will be imbalance and the phenomenon of “toppling” follows. Historically however, the process of change is such, that often we witness violent extremes first, before equilibrium is achieved !
Thanks Sonia. Well put. We probably oscillate from one violent extreme to another with a hopefully reducing amplitude of violence each time.
Beautiful thoughts Sonia.. very well written..
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