This early training to “be nice” causes women to override their intuitions. In that sense, they are actually purposefully taught to submit to the predator. Imagine a wolf mother teaching her young to “be nice” in the face of an angry ferret or a wily diamondback rattler.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. Women Who Run With the Wolves
We had a customer for years named Mike who looked like a sweet old man. But as he got more comfortable, he started making comments about my barista’s skirts. Then he’d ask really personal questions. Then he started getting in our faces when we didn’t respond to his questions. He followed some of us into the back room when we tried to get away. Then he followed a (then underage) barista into the back room of her other job.
One day I was smoking a cigarette behind the store with some coworkers. Mike followed this underage barista (who was by this time pretty scared of him) out to her car and started talking to her through the window. She couldn’t leave without risking running him over.
So I walked up to him and said, “Mike, get away from her car.” (Not calmly, mind you. I was off the clock and I detested him at that point.) I had to repeat myself several times, loudly, before he complied.
After she drove away, Mike turned to me and said, “What the hell was that about?”
“You try to push your way into our lives where you don’t belong,” I answered. “You make my baristas uncomfortable. You make me uncomfortable, and I don’t like you.”
He deflated. He was hurt, but I just could not give a shit. He’d taken advantage of our sympathy for too long, and I didn’t have any more to give him.
Later, when they heard about the exchange, some of my coworkers thought I was some kind of a badass. The thing is, telling someone who routinely violates your boundaries to fuck off isn’t badass. It’s a basic survival skill.
People like Mike get away with doing what they do because women have this idea hammered into their head that they have to be “nice”. It’s part of the sinister power of the word bitch.
(A bitch is just a woman who isn’t doing what the speaker wants her to do at the time that it is spoken – that’s how it’s mostly used around me anyways.)
These people bank on your training as a “nice person” to put up with all the ways they’re about to violate the social treaty between the two of you.
Most of them also use a social power balance in their favor. For example, Mike used his status as a customer. He knew my baristas couldn’t adequately defend themselves without risking their jobs.
I put up with a lot of this behavior when I was younger because I wanted to believe I was a nice person, that I was mature enough to “take the high road”. Eventually I figured out that mature people set boundaries and “nice” is actually a pretty awful character trait.
Here’s the thing – social rules are there so we can all get along, not so some people can overpower other people. When they cease to perform that function, they are no longer necessary. They become useless.
So now, when someone tries to use their social power to violate my boundaries, I just throw out the rules altogether and tell them exactly what I think of their behavior – no swearing, no name calling.
Because I’m not a nice person, not anymore. And somehow they’re always surprised.