In my kindergarten classroom, alongside the alphabet cards was a line of rocket ships. Each rocket ship was assigned to a student and was blasting off towards the ceiling of success. Every day I would check on my rocket ship progress. Surprisingly, my rocket ship would move backward, or not at all. When I asked my teacher what I could do she told me that I was too talkative, too disagreeable, too loud, and too distracting. I should try to be more obedient, quieter, nicer, and agreeable to make my rocket ship soar.
Well, I failed at the nice and quiet tasks. It felt so good to be loud and take up space.
What a powerhouse this teacher had on her hands, and the efforts to conform me were failing. I carry no warm, enduring memories of her despotic teaching. Yet, in the spirit of generosity, I think she believed she was doing me a lifelong favor by training me into a nice, quiet, obedient girl. Perhaps it’s because we repeat what we know.
Nice might move a paper rocket ship, but a disagreeable voice demands change.
Dear reader, you have full permission to stop being nice and stop demanding niceness from other girls and women. Don’t ask us to smile more. Don’t tell us to be nicer when we use a loud voice. We aren’t here for your pleasure. We dissent from activities that make us feel unsafe, and uncomfortable so that others can feel in control and powerful.
For the men, please observe, and not scoff at this social conditioning placed on the femmes in your life. Be gentle, and generously shift the weight however you can. Stand alongside us and do some smiling of your own. Please notice when our voices rise, our muscles flex and our energy grows. Notice how our actions are uncomfortable, detestable, and punishable by certain folks. This is exhausting for us, and we’re tired. We’re not out to take up your space. We want to fill the space already carved here for us. While we admire your desire to solve and protect, we’d prefer you to listen, stand alongside, and cheer us on.
Our disagreement can be kind
Our disagreement can be thoughtful
Our disagreement can be loving
Our disagreement can be honoring
“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” Ruth Bader Ginsberg