Lily Allen so poetically puts it in her new controversial song, “It’s hard out here for a bitch.” Controversial yes, but I think Ms. Allen makes a great point.
As I browsed the internet, as I so often do all day every day, I saw an article in New York Magazine’s fashion blog titled, “How to Be Powerful, Likable and Female: Learn From Jenna Lyons.” This not only grabbed my immediate attention due to my admiration for the new J.Crew president and executive creative director, but also because in the name of perfection, I too want to learn to be powerful and likable- but is it possible?
We see it all the time, in movies, television shows and commercials: the bitchy female boss. Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, and the real world stereotypes: the Anna Wintour’s and Martha Stewart’s who are all notoriously known for bringing their employees and interns to tears. This woman is typically a brunette, with her hair slicked back tight, wears stiff pant suits, seen barking orders, and is often joked about needing to get laid (behind her back of course, because no one would dare speak up to her). A cold hearted ice queen, she doesn’t have the time to even learn a name or crack a smile because God forbid that may make her seem weak. Is this really what it is all about, to be a successful woman?
Machiavelli may have answered this question when he made the executive decision that it’s better to be feared than loved by the people. With more women obtaining powerful positions in the workplace than ever before, the question still stands today: is it better to be feared than loved when in a leadership position?
Naturally, there are two sides to debate this issue. First, there are the Stewart’s and Wintour’s, who reign by instilling fear and never having to say sorry for getting to the top in such an awful way. Then, there’s the Lyons’, who support the minority demographic of power and likeability. Reports from the JCrew office indicate employees worship Lyons not only for her work ethic, but because she makes the effort to personally know about her employees- like, is that so difficult to do? She is powerful, yet personable which proves the non-Lyons’ do not have the right to demean those innocent interns. Clearly, you don’t have to be a bitch to prove a powerful point.
So why choose to be one?
The whole terminology of being a bitch is even more tricky to define. Is my female boss a bitch because she has a clear vision with a direct way of going about delivering it? Is it the only way she knows how to be authoritative? Or is she actually a bitch because she has personal character flaws that make her awful? It could all boil down to simple psychology and biology, right? Also, we’ve all heard of “bitchy resting face syndrome.” Which, apparently only affects women who unintentionally have strong facial features that appear, well, bitchy, though it is hardly their fault or intention. Maybe, it doesn’t come down to being in charge. Being a bitch could just be a stereotype for the everyday woman.
So yes, Lilly Allen, it is hard out here for a bitch sometimes.
The endless struggle to gain likeability and perfection seems like a waste of energy that could be directed elsewhere. Not just women, but everyone, should just keep in mind that if a position of power is attained properly you shouldn’t have to apologize for the choices you made to get there. Be compassionate towards the people around you, who are also trying be successful in their own way. And damn it, smile and greet them every once and a while, too.
What is really the lesser of two evils here: being a cold-hearted bitch who is feared but respected, or being warm and friendly but seen as weak and soft? Better question…why is this even an argument? Share your thoughts my fellow powerful females and weigh in on this topic!
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