Assertive

By Adrienne Allen ’16

I was a quiet kid. I would rarely speak up for myself, not even to say no when maybe I should have. The story of a quiet child is not a unique one, but the reasons for silence often vary; mine were about superficial concerns. Basically, I’m not very good at interacting with people. Quite far from a social butterfly, if I were to compare myself to any insect it would be a common house fly – the kind that mistakenly enters homes and then continues to fly directly into any closed window that stands in its way. In my social endeavors I am more often than not ramming my face into a glass wall in the pursuit of sunny friendship just outside. Maybe that’s why I was so quiet – I was so busy straining to leave the confines of my mind that I lost all my teeth in the process.

I am not loud, but I am not quiet anymore. At Andover, I have undergone a revolution of sorts, an almost clichéd empowerment. This change was borne from an effort to work towards the person I want to be and also from the experiences I’ve had thus far at Andover. It was a big change, but I didn’t notice it happening until my friends and family did. At reunions, they began to speak about a sudden and newfound fiery defense of my opinions and outspoken eagerness to learn and discuss.

Soon, people started to define my transformation. “You’re so Assertive,” they would say. I can safely say that “assertive” is an adjective that has never been used to describe me before. Along with “assertive” Adri came “bold” Adri and “confident” Adri. It was weird; people spoke of me as if I had always been this way and as if they couldn’t remember a time when I had been terrified of myself. To a girl who, despite her newfound voice, couldn’t come to terms with being someone other than the quiet observer, every perceived compliment I received shattered my self esteem. I felt insulted every time someone called me assertive. For the first time in a long time I actively stopped trying to be that way. I worked to soften my voice and lower my chin. I listened and never spoke. The new Adri held her tongue because she thought assertive, bold and confident were just ways to avoid saying what people really thought she was – a bossy bitch.

From childhood, girls are taught to seek validation from everyone around them. We are taught that to succeed, we must be liked. We smile often, we laugh at the right times, wear the right clothes. Elementary school is a warzone, and only those well versed in social cues climb their ways to the top. It’s about being approachable and non-threatening. It’s about being palatable to as many people as possible. Often, but not always, it’s about losing yourself in the process.

Why is it that I was so averse to being a leader? When in our society did confidence become synonymous to arrogance, assertive synonymous to bitchy in the minds of young girls? Where does this perception come from? I believe that there is no member of the Andover community who honestly believes that girls don’t deserve to have confidence in themselves and their words. Our community is stronger and more intelligent than that. Insecurities like mine, however, will form no matter what environment we are in. While Andover does not discourage girls trying to grow and find their own voices, in order to completely combat this issue we must focus on what girls do to themselves. As a human, I’ve been taught to be terrified of being disliked, but as a girl, I was given the blueprint necessary to make sure that never happened.

Even though one of Andover’s main objectives is helping students find themselves, society is still promoting passivity and girls are drinking the kool-aid. I see it happening all the time. It happens when girls stay quiet about being cut in line, when girls pretend not to notice being shoved out of the way a little too aggressively in the den, when girls offer up the last cookie even though they really want it. It also happens when girls don’t say anything even when they hate when their fellow females are casually referred to as “bitches,” when they pretend to laugh at uncomfortably sexist jokes, and when they gossip and tear each other down. I often still stay quiet when I hear people perpetuate ignorance, even though it kills me inside. I still haven’t completely gotten over my fear of being disliked.

BOSS Magazine exists for us. None of us fit the models of any of our societal identity markers completely. BOSS is here to further empowerment on our campus. BOSS is here to tell girls that they have a community who loves them and accepts them and would never dream of calling them “bitches.” BOSS is here to strengthen and protect and keep fighting towards the goal of equality. BOSS is the (slightly angry) voice inside of all of us given free reign. It’s for everyone, but especially for those like me who are still learning who they are and what they have to say.

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