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The Dichotomy of Boundaries: People Don’t Actually Like When Women Stand Up For Themselves 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

As more people advocate for women setting boundaries, speaking out, and standing up for ourselves, I have noticed an incredibly unfair pattern where those same women are ostracized, punished, and lashed out at for doing exactly what they were encouraged to do

Unfortunately, women can not set boundaries and be labeled as kind. 

Women are not allowed to stand up for themselves and their beliefs without being categorized as b*tches. 

Women can not possibly respect others if they prioritize their respect for themselves. 

I am tired of the passive aggressive looks from other women, genuine rage from men, and flabbergasted confusion from adults when I calmly and kindly express my discomfort, hurt, or frustration. Too often has a simple miscommunication spiraled into a full-blown argument after I share my perspective: almost never through the incorporation of derogatory terms, targeted insults, or emotive language. I have learned the art of calm conflict resolution

Neither I nor my female peers should be punished for standing up for ourselves. I refuse to allow the label “b*tch” to fog the kindness I so pridefully approach the world with. In fact, there is no reason anyone should rethink her boundary setting after the very person who crossed those boundaries has now decided to diminish her feelings. 

Do you know how many times my sibling and I have entered a heated argument after I tell them to stop touching me because they have physically hurt me and they attempt to deny the pain they have caused me? This is only one of many instances where my boundary setting has influenced others to become defensive and combative instead of admitting their faults. I am not alone in this disgusting pattern of ignoring female emotions even when they are laid out so blatantly

How can we possibly encourage women to be the strongest, most powerful version of themselves when society uncomfortably resents when a woman does respect herself enough to draw a line? People do not actually want to hear what a strong woman has to say; uplifting us to set boundaries and then shaming us for being too blunt is quite literally a form of performative activism. 

Do you really expect me to roll over and play dead when you spit on me? 

But why do women face repercussions when they set boundaries? According to an article on strong women – so creatively titled “When Women Are Strong Men Call Them Bitches,” the author dissects the unjust dichotomy between strong women and agreeable girls. 

“When a woman says exactly what she feels and isn’t all giggly and indecisive, we are made to believe that we are doing something wrong. When we are passionate about an issue or voice our opinion, we are called emotional. (…) When a woman isn’t smiling, agreeable, and just being pretty, she’s labeled a problem.” 

In other words, when women don’t sugar coat their boundaries, society feels the itchy, stinging, rash of discomfort. 

Pause. Think of the last time a male boss, friend, co-worker, family member, or stranger online expressed his feelings – whether it be sharing his romantic intentions, giving feedback to a peer, or some other form of boundary setting and firm footedness –  and incorporated the use of clouded-jargon to get his point across.

“Hi Sally, your report was so amazing and I really like the part where you talked about the methods we used in our data collection! Even though your report is awesome, I think we should review the numbers in graph No. 2 because it looks different from the results I got. I could be wrong though; you did a really good job!” Yeah right. A man would never have to smother his words in syrupy fakeness when checking someone’s work. 

Instead, he would say, “Hey Sally, I reviewed your report and I think the data in graph No. 2 is wrong and we need to review it.” This feedback is short and to the point, and because Sally isn’t religiously praised, the team can quickly address the issue with no confusion. 

Oh how I would love for it to be normalized for women to be able to set boundaries, question things, and stand up for themselves without the unnecessary fluff of kindness we have been taught to use our whole lives. 

In fact, may I be so bold to say, if you have a problem with a woman speaking her mind in simple terms without the sought-after giggly indecisiveness of agreeable language, you might be a reinforcing factor in the dangerous double-edged sword which prevents women from healthily respecting her values and beliefs in a disagreement. 

I don’t care if you are another woman; if you are uncomfortable with a strong woman, you are part of the problem and are actively working against yourself and decades of feminist action. 

Another article on society’s sensitivity towards women who set boundaries further expresses the expectations of women to be agreeable. The author writes: 

“Strong, happy, confident girls and women are breaking our culture’s implicit rule that girls should be self-doubting, reserved, timid and apologetic. Girls who are bold enough to break those rules irk us. Their brazen defiance and refusal to follow directions make us want to put them back into their cage. Girls and women sense this. As women, we want to be liked. We want to be trusted. So, we downplay our strengths to avoid threatening anyone and invoking disdain. We neglect to mention our accomplishments. We do not accept compliments. We temper, qualify, and discount our opinions. We walk without swagger, and we yield incessantly. We step out of the way. Women often say, “I feel like” instead of “I know.” We ask if our ideas make sense instead of assuming they do. We apologize for…everything. Conversations among brilliant women often devolve into competitions for who wins the trophy for hottest mess.  We want to be respected, but we want to be loved and accepted even more.” 

Just as the promotion of boundary setting has centered in the media’s eye as a key part of self-respect and self-healing, we, as a society, must also prepare and adapt to the possibility of women being anything but agreeable. It is not fair to expect women to stand up for themselves and also bend over to serve a pile of hot sugary b*llshit. Accept that my boundary setting is not a direct attack, but an expression of my own self-worth. 

My kindness will not be taken for granted and standing up for myself does not make me a villain, nor does setting boundaries disqualify me from being labeled as a good person. I refuse to remain the caricature of the kind woman you envisioned before you crossed the line. 

Lanaya Oliver

CU Boulder '24

Lanaya Oliver is the Editor-in-Chief and a contributing writer at the Her Campus Chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder. As Editor-in-Chief, she oversees a team of editors, is the lead publisher and editor, and works as a campus corespondent. Outside of Her Campus, Lanaya is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is double majoring in both Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Sports Media. Her writing career started in high school when she was elected the position of school wide poet laureate after winning a poetry contest in her sophomore year. Now Lanaya’s writing has evolved from creative pieces to profiles and articles for her Her Campus articles. In her personal life, Lanaya is an ACE certified personal trainer and teaches both cycle and barre classes. Fitness is her passion and more often than not she can be found lifting weights, riding a bike, or running. She also enjoys being outdoors, binge watching movies, spending time with friends, thrift shopping, and munching on any white cheddar flavored snack she can find. Lanaya hopes to find a balance between her love for writing and her dreams of working in the fitness industry in her future career.