Amy Dwyer discusses the first Fabian Women Book Club, at which she served as chair.
In the first Fabian Women Book Club event on 4th November, I had the opportunity to discuss The Power of Rude, with author Rebecca Reid. We were able to discuss various issues, from the repeated excuse of ‘locker room talk’ to miscarriage leave and changing perceptions of women in society.
The Power of Rude is an impressive book, challenging much of what society has taught us it means to be a woman. Reid reassures us that it is okay to be rude, if it is the right kind of rude. This distinction is important. She is not condoning verbal abuse. Instead, she is advocating for women to become more assertive. Reid keeps a diary of every time that she was afraid of speaking up for herself for the fear of being rude. She encourages her readers to do the same.
Initially, I might have been a little sceptical about times in my life that I am afraid to speak out of the fear of being rude, though I clearly supported the ideas in her book. However, I was quite disappointed with myself when the week was up and I looked at a whole page of instances where I failed to stand up for myself. Clearly, I need to embrace the power of rude in my life.
The central idea of Reid’s book is that women are consistently taught to be polite from a young age, even when they shouldn’t or don’t need to be. While I agreed with this idea, I didn’t realise the extent to this until I read this book. From paying in full for a terrible meal, stayed silent when someone jumped a queue, laughing along with a joke that offended you or routinely cleaning up after housemates without complaining, it is almost ingrained to respond to these situations with politeness. Men wouldn’t hesitate to complain about instances like this, so why is it different for women?
If you’re still doubtful, I’d encourage you to follow Reid’s advice and keep a diary for yourself for a week and note down all the situations where you wanted to be rude but you weren’t, or you were afraid of being rude. I guarantee that it will shock you, unless you are already incredibly liberated, and that in itself is a gift that most women aspire to. But not being afraid to be rude is a great way to start being more liberated. While keeping a note of every time that you fail to stand up for yourself or are afraid of being rude, might make you feel pathetic or spineless, as Reid makes clear, it should instead spur you on to be more assertive. Being afraid of being rude has stopped women from getting what they want for far too long.
Most people will respect you more for being rude, if you tell someone when a joke offends you, or when you get annoyed about something, your friends and family will be able to know you better and respect you for being honest. Nonetheless, Reid does discuss the fact that being rude, especially around close friends and family can be incredibly difficult, but that it is also where you might find the most benefits from speaking your mind and standing up for yourself.
Either way, women too often loose out on pay rises, promotions or opportunities simply because they are afraid to fight for themselves out of fear of being rude. If women use the power of rude, to work for them, as men have being doing for centuries, then we are more likely to be respected both at work and at home and to be more recognised for what we do.
Putting yourself first might make you feel selfish or like a bad friend at first, but making sure that your interests don’t get side-lined is not a bad thing. While it is important to also do things that you don’t like, as this is a normal part of life. We equally shouldn’t be afraid of saying no every so often, if it’s something we can’t afford, it would mean using the last of your work holidays for something you’re not too fussed to attend, or if its something you really just don’t want to do. For decades women have been called bossy, catty or neurotic. We would never see a man being called that for putting his interests first or being assertive in the workplace. Women can reclaim the power of rude for themselves, become more assertive and take these words to mean women are making naysayers nervous with their power of rude.
Amy Dwyer is studying for an MA in Politics and is an ambassador at 50:50 Parliament. She is also Women’s Officer for the North West Young Fabians.
She tweets at @AmyDwyer23.