I was recently at a festive get-together that crossed several generations. As the conversation flagged, I noticed that some of the young women in my acquaintance habitually wear the kind of huge smiles on their faces that I associate with commercials for teeth-whitening products. They were, as Al likes to say, “grinning like Banshees”. Granted, it was a party, but no one was being THAT funny. Not even me.
Is there really so much pressure on women to smile all the time? It seems so. Well, wipe that grin off your face and listen up. You need to stop smiling so much. We need to work on getting women equal pay for equal work before the next few decades zip by, and we’re not going to do that be being agreeable all the time. What do I want? Total gender equality. When do I want it? When I was 23…but I’d settle for relative equity before I’m 95. So, all you women out there: make people take you seriously. You’ll be helping your sisters and daughters if you follow these few guidelines, with practice tips included.
Work on your Active Bitch Face
Drop that smile. Make eye contact. Thicken your skin. Act like you’re in charge. Yes, you will be called bossy (and the men will be called leaders for the same behavior).
Wrong “I’m sorry! I know I can come on a little strong.”
Right “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.” Say it without a smile, please.
Walk in a straight line
Never slacken your pace, no matter who is coming at you down the hall. You have just as much right as he does to take center stage, so walk like you own the low-loft beige-and-navy microfiber office carpet. Here’s a technique: walk right at them without making eye contact. Keep your gaze slightly to one side, as if the other person is invisible.
Wrong “So sorry!” (while swerving aside)
Right If they really want to play chicken, you don’t have to actually slam into them. Execute a neat sidestep at the last minute, as though they’re a lamppost and you’re a motorcycle. Keep walking.
Did you drop a boulder on grandma’s bad foot? Fine – go ahead and say you’re sorry. Did you cheat on your loving spouse of 10 years? Yes, you’re a jerk and must apologize. But! Don’t apologize before asking a question. Don’t say you’re sorry when someone steps on YOUR foot. Don’t apologize before disagreeing with an opinion. Don’t apologize for having a job. Don’t apologize for not having a job. Don’t apologize for having children instead of cats or having cats instead of children.
Wrong “ I’m sorry, pardon me for bothering or even daring to exist, but I was wondering if you could tell me…no really, it’s OK! My bad!”
Right “Excuse me, is that the train to Hoboken? You don’t know? Thank you for your time.”
What is this, hotel service? Why is it YOUR job to cook? “Wife” was a job description 50 years ago – now, it’s a legal designation. It doesn’t come with a list of chores, so stop acting like it does. Sure, you and he agreed to do “half”, but how do you measure that? When people are asked about how often women talk, for example, the men always claim the women are talking “half” the time. Objective studies reveal that it’s less than a third. Reality does not match perception. Since that’s the way of it, I recommend you ditch the whole thing and do nothing. This is easier in New York City, so maybe you should move here.
Wrong “Dinner will be ready in 5 minutes babe, then it’s just some quick dish washing, pre-breakfast prep and laundry before finishing that report for my boss!”
Right “Dinner? I already ate.”
Don’t laugh unless the joke is funny
This will be a bit uncomfortable at first, but a stony silence is preferable to a forced laugh if he’s really not that funny. Even if he’s your boss (especially if he’s your boss).
Wrong “giggle giggle sniff ha ha”
You don’t need to explain your reasons when you say “no”. It’s not their business. If someone is pressuring you, just say “no thanks”, or “that won’t be possible.” You don’t have to say why.
Wrong “Well, I guess I could do that but I’m just not sure it’s the right time and I would have to rearrange my whole life and…”
Right Put on your ABF, wait a beat, say “I’m sorry if that upsets you”. Repeat as necessary.
No rising voice except for questions.
A hard habit to break, but so worth it. “As you can see by this slide, sales are rising” should not mean your voice is rising. I’ve heard women deliver sentences as if each phrase were a question. State it, don’t ask it.
Wrong “As you can see by this slide? Sales are rising?”
Right “As you can see. By this slide. Sales. Are rising.”
If you wait for the men to pause and ask your opinion … or, indeed, to let you finish speaking at all…you’ll be waiting for a very long time. Jump in. Say what you have to say. Keep at it. If someone is mansplaining to you, make sure you interrupt before he’s done. A quick “ok, got it” and then move on… to your agenda.
Wrong “um…as I was….? right? but?””
Right “That’s not what it says in the fine print.”