Down with Nice Girls!

I don’t want to raise “nice” girls.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to raise nice girls, where nice means respectful of self and others, responsible for one’s words and actions, considerate.

I also want to raise strong girls, girls with real voices, who know their minds and aren’t afraid to speak up, speak their minds. Girls who can assert themselves confidently.

I will admit I no more want to raise “nice” girls than I want to raise mean girls. I have a theory that mean girls are really “nice” girls in that in relationships with authority figures (teachers, coaches, parents, and so on) mean girls are nice. But in interactions with their peers, they are “nice”, which amounts to actually being mean.

I don’t want to raise children who apologize left and right (warning, graphic language ahead). I don’t want to raise girls who will be easy to “gaslight” (or, for that matter, who will pull that shite on others). I don’t want my girls to turn into timid women more afraid of being seen as a bitch than concerned about getting what they want or need—out of a job, out of a relationship, out of life in general.

A few rules for not-nice girls:

1. Not everyone has to like you. Believe it or not, there are worse things in the world than people not liking you.

2. Don’t be mean to people who don’t like you.

3. If people who don’t like you are mean to you, you are allowed to defend yourself. The trick is not to be mean in return. It’s not easy.

4. You do have to apologize when you hurt someone’s feelings. If you call Suzie a name, you can’t shrug it off as a joke when she calls you on it. That’s not Suzie’s issue; it’s yours.

4b. If, however, you mention that you’re not crazy about the color purple, and Suzie bursts into tears because her favorite color is purple, and cries, “I knew it! You don’t like me!” you don’t have to apologize for not liking purple. You don’t even really have to apologize for her getting upset, although it might be nice to say, “Even though I don’t like purple, I still like you.” Providing, of course, you really do like her. If you don’t, why are you pretending to?

5. Apologizing when you’ve made a mistake is a sign of strength. Apologizing to make the other person forget about the mistake is not. Apologizing preemptively or for situations not in your control is a sign of weakness. Don’t do the last two.

6. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in, and what you want. (Corollary: Know what you believe in and why, and what you want and why.)

7. Stand up for others.

8. Don’t be passive aggressive. It’s easy, easy, easy to do. Don’t do the easy thing.

What else would you tell girls so they grow up strong and true to themselves? And nice, but not “nice”?

21 thoughts on “Down with Nice Girls!

  1. Don’t worry about being in the ‘in’ crowd, if you aren’t. I know that people who are ‘popular’ can be perfectly nice, friendly people. But they often aren’t, and they aren’t worth emulating.

    If you are in the ‘in’ crowd, be one of the few who are nice, friendly people. Use your influence for good, not evil.

  2. Yes. Just…..yes. There is a difference between being assertive and mean. It has a lot to do with delivery, audience, and timing. I have often been mistaken for one when I really meant the other.

    • This society treats confident, assertive women like bitches whether or not they are. It’s time to stop and change the dialogue. You can be assertive and be a bitch, but I would argue most of the time if you are a confident woman who won’t be treated like a doormat, apologize compulsively, and/or shy away from going after what you want, you will be labeled a big ole B without being given the benefit of the doubt.

      • Don’t you dare try to change the dialogue of society. I depend upon that dialogue to afford me the power inherent in being considered a bitch. Don’t mess with my hard-won social empowerment rewards, RPM! Don’t’ stop society from considering me a bitch. It’s an extremely efficient screening tool. It keeps me away from passive aggressive women, insecure small-membered men, boring conversations and insulting requests. It encourages people to have their shit together before they ask me something or dare to challenge me to a Scrabble game. No, no, no don’t interfere with this intricate web I have woven, DMP or I will have to mess you UP.

  3. Um, I think I might be a nice girl. But i still consider myself to be confident and strong and I am not afraid to be a B when I have to!!!

    • You are definitely a nice girl — woman. 😉 i think i am too, but because i speak my mind unapologetically i think some people label me a mean person or a beeyotch. And it’s not about me, it’s about women in general are viewed. It’s time to end the idea that you have to be a “nice” girl — or you’re a bitch.

      • Oh honey, you were not the one telling a drunk college student that we didn’t want her free beer because it was goat piss. 😉

  4. I am raising what (whom?) I consider to be a nice girl, but I like your points and try to follow most of them, so maybe I am not! I guess I would add be a leader, but not a boss (or not bossy). Certainly don’t be a lemming.

    There is a nice (quiet mostly, hardly mean to anyone) girl in my kid’s class. Pretty much everyone loves here. And many times, when she sits down at lunch, a group follows her to a table. If she moves to another table to sit near someone else, these four or five lemmings follow her to that table. It is bizarre to me. After my kid told me about this, I told her what I said above: be a leader, not a lemming. My kid also told me that that same day, she left the lemming table to sit with a girl who was sitting alone. Yeah for my kid (though this girl who was sitting alone has been mean to my kid, so…).

    • Oh, that’s a good one: be a leader, but not bossy. I like that. I have two girls who try to boss each other, with expected results. I’m trying to instill in the older to lead by example. Not there yet! 😉

      As far as your daughter sitting with the girl who’s been mean to her: I would continue to check in with that. Maybe she’s having some “nice” girl leanings; she doesn’t want to rock the boat; she wants the girl to like her even though she’s been mean. That’s just something I would watch. I have to do it already with Flora, which is why I started writing this list with “Not everyone has to like you!” Good luck!

  5. What a great post! I wish I could tell my younger self that it gets better–that I would for honest to goodness meet women who were like me in ways that nobody in middle school was. It’s ok to like things that people say “nice” girls aren’t supposed to like! That doesn’t make you less of a girl or woman! I wish I could tell my younger self or any young girls that there are many different ways to be a woman!

    • Ah, now, that’s an interesting angle: What girls are supposed to like.

      I feel really lucky that my parents didn’t put a lot of pressure on me to be a “nice” girl. They let us be ourselves, as long as we were responsible and considerate. And I had good friends who were nice girls, but who didn’t wield being liked or liking others as a weapon. I still have a lot of friends like that, frankly!

  6. I love this post, we are raising our girls to be strong independent woman (I hope). Your list is great as well as the comments. We always tell our girls to stand up for themselves and are now having them do it more (when it is appropriate). If there is a problem / disagreement with a teacher I like my girls to start to address it respectfully, knowing that we are there with them (mainly my 9 almost 10 year old). We also teach them to stand up for one another and have each other’s back. My younger daughter proved this when a bully was picking on her older sister and my 8 old year old confronted the bully. She eliminated the problem, I was shocked and proud.

    Thanks again for the wonderful and thought provoking post.

  7. Reblogged this on and commented:
    As a proud father of two girls, I read this post and just loved it. I don’t want my girls to grow up to be to “nice” as described in this post, I do want my girls to be strong independent woman who are NOT afraid to stand up for what they want and need. I also do not want them to think that they have to relay on a man, they can do anything that they put their minds to.

  8. […] I know when it comes to girl and women friendships, my children, like me, will have rocky times. Not because girls and women as a group are awful — but because people are different, and value different things, and have different goals or needs. And that’s okay — I will continue to say it: You don’t have to like everyone, and not everyone has to like you. […]

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