Why the Double Standard? Issue #4: B!tchy vs. Aggressive

Okay, today's post is mostly stream of consciousness OneChele randomness… stay with me and dig in. It's the old semantics game on Double Standard Week.

Strength, Courage & Wisdom is not only the name of one of my favorite songs by the incomparable India.Arie, it is also a list of attributes that are often assessed differently in men and women. What is perceived as a positive in men can sometimes be considered a negative in women.

I'm just going to pose a few questions/make a few stereotypical generalizations first:

Why is it that if a woman is really strong, she's labeled "too independent for her own good" but if I man is really strong, he's a great leader?

Why is it that if a woman has a weak moment, she's "emotional" but if a man has a weak moment, he's sensitive and in touch with his feminine side? (But then again, when was the last time we saw a whiny, sniffling male [who wasn't just jailed, attending a funeral or holding up a championship trophy] and thought that was okay? Just food for thought, people. )

Why is it that if a woman is really smart, she's the intimidating brainiac but if a man is really smart, he's the Chairman of the Board?

A woman who gossips is a nosy busybody; a man who gossips is just sharing information.

A woman who keeps her own counsel is aloof and hard-to-know; a man who does the same is circumspect.

A woman who points out a perceived slight is insecure and irrational; a man is "justifiably upset"

A woman who speaks her mind and shares her honest opinion is a ball-busting bitch but a man who does the same is a take charge go-getter. Where's the line between bitchy and aggressive?

I could go on for days, but let me share a BougiePlantationTale:

For a little while, BougieSis and I worked on the same paycheck plantation, a consulting company. We travelled 90% of the time, worked 90 -100 hour weeks, managed teams upwards of a 100 people each and regularly commiserated on the fire and brimstone that rained down on our heads. The Talent Acquisition team was run by an Irish cat who was off the chains with the "old school-ness" and reporting to him where a catty klatch of women that BougieSis and I reported to. The dynamics in the department were always a little skewed. Human Resources has historically been a female-dominated profession and the insertion of a Vice-President (with no recruiting experience) over a recruiting-centric woman-filled department was… troublesome at best. The Sr. Directors that BougieSis and I reported to leaned heavily (way too heavily) on their Directors (BougieSis and I with a few other folks) and the VP recognized this. Soon, he circumvented the Sr. Directors and came straight to us. That man blew up my BlackBerry morning, noon and night including one memorable occasion of my birthday (which I was taking as a personal day). It also happened to fall on MLK Day (which I always take as a holiday) and I had made myself clear that unless the 68 offices where my staff was housed nationwide simultaneously burst into flame, I wasn't to be disturbed on my day off. So when the work BlackBerry rang and rang and rang again, I was annoyed and turned it off. Then my house phone rang.

He said, "I just need this one thing, you're the only person who can do it."

"Of the 4200 people in the department, I'm the ONLY person who can pull together this presentation for you?"

"Well yes."

"You do realize it's my birthday?"


"And MLK day?"


"Okay, how about I call you on St. Patrick's Day, would you like that?"

At any rate, the next day, I was asked to join a conference call with him and the Senior Directors. They wanted to know why he was coming directly to me instead of going through them. His response, "She thinks like a man." **crickets**

Finally one of them jumped in, "What does that MEAN?"

He said, "It means she takes direction without asking a ton of questions, she doesn't get emotional or hysterical. And she dishes out as much bullshit as I give her."

The conference call disintegrated from there, they verbally abused that man about the head and neck. Less than a year later, he bailed to spend some time sailing around the Gulf of Mexico and was replaced by a female. (She actually didn't last much longer but by then BougieSis and I had thrown the deuces and broken for freedom). The point of the story is that beyond my ability to manage teams, dazzle clients, create hiring strategies and analyze data; the thing that impressed my male VP more than anything else was that I acted like one of the guys.

Fact: Women outnumber men 1.85 to 1 (depending on studies) in higher education yet 83.7% of CEO's are male. Somewhere between getting the degrees and reaching senior executive level (an average of 22.6 years), the numbers get terribly skewed. And don't even get me started on equal pay.

But enough of corporate America, let's talk about the real world. For years, I regularly was the one chick hanging out with my S.O. and eight to twelve of his posse. They would embark on guy's outings but said, "Chele can come, she's cool." So, I asked about it one day… how come I get invited along on the no-girlfriend weekend? They answered, "You mind your own business, understand SportsCenter, roll when it's time to roll, and don't nag about unnecessary sh!t. You're a dude with lady parts." Wow, is that plus the ability to pee standing up what "manhood" has boiled down to? Okay then, if I can do those things, let me ask you fellas a few questions:

I can kill my own spiders, why can't you change a roll of toilet paper?

I can mow the lawn, why can't you buy new bath towels in ten years time?

I can install my own stereo equipment, can you re-introduce your shower ring to Scrubbing Bubbles?

I've learned when to pass you the remote control and a beer and leave you in peace, can you walk through Macy*s shoe department for thirty minutes without acting like I've staked you out in the Mojave desert (naked on top an ant pile, drenched in honey, at high noon)?

And one last point: Since when does a woman being able to do things for herself mean she doesn't need (or want) a man? A point brilliantly broken down by Jill Scott in her song: The Fact Is (I Need You). When it's all said and done, we do love the XY chromosome. (We'd love you more on a more even playing field). Here's the song:

So I ask you, Bouge Nation? Am I wrong, am I only seeing the Double Standard from my side? I'm willing to admit that I'm looking at this based on my decidedly female experience. So share and enlighten me: Do men get stroked for things that women get knocked for?