Be Nice, Lady! Or Else…

When women complain about the conditions of our oppression, one of the common responses is to criticize us for not being polite enough. The argument offered every time is that if you were nicer, maybe more people will listen to you.

Not only must we endure oppression, we are also supposed to kiss our oppressor’s ass and politely ask him to stop. A lot of us, being pretty well socialized into politeness and taking these things seriously, then try to be as polite as we can when making our points. Then a crazy thing happens.

Dudes still flip out and attack us. They still get angry and try to silence us. I tried for years to be a nice, reasonable feminist, willing to compromise on some things just to get the conversation going. And people would still flip out on me as though I had just suggested the mass castration of all men.

When I stopped trying to be nice, I found that the reaction was exactly the same as it had been before. It didn’t matter one bit if I politely suggested we address the gender wage gap, or called for the eradication of gender and the nuclear family. There was only one anti-feminist reaction: shrill, silencing anger, no matter what degree of feminism I advocated or how polite or impolite I was about it.

Being nice is of the expected performances of femininity. It’s ridiculous that when critiquing the very institution of femininity one is supposed to at the same time adhere to its rules. Smart, sympathetic men will figure out feminism even if it isn’t spoon-fed to them. The ones telling us to be nice aren’t likely allies anyway.

Being nice doesn’t work. It’s a waste of effort and the call to “be nice” is a silencing mechanism. Don’t believe the lies.