IN CELEBRATION OF 'DIFFICULT' WOMEN
Not everybody likes a difficult woman. I know this because I am one. And, while it is 2023, the very fact that us women are still made to believe we are ‘difficult’ when our male counterparts are more likely to be described as ‘driven’ is justification for us becoming even more infuriatingly ‘difficult’ than we already are. And no, we shouldn’t be sorry about it.
So what makes me a difficult woman?
Any and all of us who have been made to feel difficult for simply doing our best, sticking to our values or reaching for the stars will no doubt relate. Firstly, when I was having problems with (aka being bullied by) three senior men in the workplace some years ago, I remember being advised by someone to ‘keep my head down’. But when you’re being singled out that isn’t just nigh on impossible to do, it’s also completely and utterly soul destroying. If somebody is making you feel small, why go out of your way to make yourself feel smaller still?
Therapy (paid for by them, ironically), reminded me that I wasn’t ‘small’, I was just in an impossible situation – a dynamic that, unfortunately, my mortgage relied upon. But I did have a choice. I was going to be forced out regardless, and I couldn’t stop them from bullying me (something they seemed to relish). So, my choice was simple, either get pushed out quietly, or make a fuss about it. I chose the latter.
I lost my job, but I would have anyway. The thing is, they didn’t force me to lose my self-respect in the process.
But today, in 2023, we shouldn’t be losing jobs for speaking out. We shouldn’t be shamed for standing up for ourselves or others. And we shouldn’t be silenced for calling out misogyny.
This is why I wrote a rom-com, No Worries if Not!, that explores these issues and, hopefully, serves as a call to arms to all of us to stand up for what we believe is right - and to stop needlessly apologising.
The apology epidemic
Sorry but could I just…
Hope you don’t mind but…
Can we nudge that meeting to a day that isn’t my birthday / house completion day? No worries if not…
If these statements don’t make you feel ‘seen’ then I wholeheartedly applaud you. Because I know that I am definitely guilty of using them. But as I started writing the book, which centres around main character, Charlotte, and her mission to break up with the word ‘sorry’, I decided that I would end my emails with no worries if not no more! And do you know what? Not only does it give you more confidence - it’s actually really liberating, too.
In fact, in the book, Charlotte’s workmate, Maya, calls out her over-apologetic nature, saying that every time she utters the ‘s’ word, she’s giving people a get out clause. A reason to not take her seriously, or to not do as she asks or to carry on being rude in the first place.
Let’s be honest, if you’ve had the misfortune of sitting next to a manspreader whose legs are wider than yours were at your last smear test, you often either put up and shut up or ask him to shift up a bit by apologising in advance (‘sorry but would you mind…’). It’s as though, in apologising first, we are suggesting we have no right to inhabit as much space as he has. We are giving him permission to believe we are the ones being difficult.
Lifting each other up
Feeling like an imposter, whether consciously or subconsciously, must surely play a part in this. When you’re still fighting for equality and having to elbow your way into a traditionally male space it can feel daunting and lonely. And if you’re trying to overcome several other barriers simultaneously, it can be even harder.
This is why we need to not only stand up for our own rights and try to grow in self-confidence, we need to be aware of inter-sectional issues, too. We need to lift each other up when we are in a position to do so. Because if a woman is a lone voice in a room, the ‘difficult’ label is more likely to stick and more likely to cause her, and others, ongoing harm or challenges. If you’re a woman who is facing multiple layers of in-built societal discrimination due to sexuality or race or disability, for example, then you’re wearing the burden of misogyny far more heavily than others.
In the words of one of my favourite Spark t-shirts, we are all the granddaughters of the witches they tried to burn – but in fighting this fight, we should make sure we’re there for all the witches (*nods to Emma Watson*).
Let’s stop needlessly apologising, but let’s not do it on our own. We’re definitely stronger and louder together.
Written by Lucy Nichol
No Worries if Not! is published by HarperNorth on 3rd August and can be pre-ordered by visiting the HarperCollins website here.
If you’d like to get a taste for the book, check out our ‘alternative’ book trailer here.