As women, we’re living in a time where we’re told to lean in, take our seat at the table and speak up. You hear all that and it makes you feel all HELL YEAH, but the reality is, putting it into practice makes people pretty uncomfortable. I think those who know me would most definitely classify me as a women who knows and speaks her mind. I’ve been told numerous times in my life that I’m intimidating. It’s usually men who say it and my reaction is the same every time: I shrug.
Because what should my reaction be to that? Should I shrink a little? Hush my voice? Tilt my head and cow tow to you so you feel more comfortable? So, I should ‘Lean In’ and speak up and make my presence felt, but not so much that I make you question the dynamic of you Tarzan, me Jane? But if I do the meek and mild thing, then I’m not doing the strong woman thing correctly either. See? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I wouldn’t say I’m intimidating. I’m a woman who’s comfortable and confident in who I am, self-assured and independent, unafraid to express opinions, driven and career focused. That’s a combination that a certain sector of men will class as intimidating. And if you bothered to look past that, you’d find that I’m approachable, funny, loving, carefree and a bunch of other qualities that you may find more palatable, but you can’t get one without the others.
Intimidating is supposed to be bad. As women, we’re not meant to be that. It’s considered more of a manly trait. So, when men call women that, they expect it to throw us off our game, because marring our femininity should be the ultimate insult. Much like calling a woman ‘ugly’ is supposed to send us into a spiral of questioning our self worth because apparently, our every waking moment should be dedicated to being attractive for the menz.
Calling us intimidating only serves to highlight your own flaws. You could see it as an opportunity to level up your conversational sparring skills, but if you see us in any way as a challenge, rather than rise to it, you opt to try to throw us off balance a little.
I won’t be taking the bait though. I know that by calling me intimidating, really, you’re recognising my strengths. It’s not my fault that you don’t know what to do with them.
So from now on, when someone calls me intimidating, I shall simply say ‘thank you’ because I guess it’s actually pretty high praise indeed.