Kellyn Simpkin-Strong Girl Back One Arm

Yes, I'm a Bitch

    Do you remember the first time you were told you could be anything? I don’t remember ever knowing anything different. From the time I was little, my parents encouraged me to be whoever I wanted, and they made sure to let me know that I could do anything I put my mind to. That’s why when I started school I quickly became confused. I was simply living my best kid-life, but one word seemed to circulate around me wherever I went:

“Bossy.” 

    Okay, sure, there were definitely times when I was a kid where I tried to control what everyone else was doing for my own personal  benefit. (In my defense, why would you make your Barbie wear that?) But, there were other times where I would just simply be standing up for myself, or stating a fact or opinion. It was confusing, to draw the line between when I was actually being bossy and when I was simply just being me. Being passionate about something, having opinions, or being assertive suddenly became a crime. For a while, it was fine. I learned to manage it.

But then I got to high school. 

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    I was the kid who was involved in just about everything. Band, student council, sports, theater, speech and debate… the list goes on. In the latter half of my time in high school, I began to hold leadership positions in those organizations that I felt extremely passionate about. Suddenly, I was thrown back in the ring of being the bossy girl. There are specific instances I still think about, that continue to haunt me. 

    I was our high school drum major. I was hard on my band kids, don’t get me wrong. But I was hard on them because I wanted them to be good. I wanted them to be proud of the work we were doing, and to take our organization seriously. I remember standing on the field, and okay yeah my voice was raised, and I was telling the kids that they needed to correct something. Suddenly right to left I heard someone go,

“yeah whatever bitch. No one likes you.”

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I later found out that there was a group of kids plotting to try and overthrow me from my position. I also found out these kids were holding group meetings after music club meetings to talk about how much of a “bitch” I was. 

    It pains me to write this. It takes me back to a time where I truly could not tell the difference between aggressive and assertive. Luckily, I had a few adults on my side that helped me through it. (Mr. Kelley, Mrs. Deneault, Mrs. Cole, and Mrs. Dorian- if you’re reading this, I will never be able to thank you enough for that.) But there was also an adult in a position of power that felt the need to explain to me that I was in the wrong. That I was aggressive, and no one likes a bossy leader. That I should just “chill out.” 

    I remember sitting there crying, feeling awful, and that’s when it hit me.

Why should I apologize for being assertive?

For being, dare I say, bossy? I was doing nothing but speaking the truth. I was being punished for being no one other than myself. I began to think about all of the women before me who have been labeled as “bossy.” All of the politicians, activists, leaders, actors, and everyone in between. The list was long. A little too long, if you ask me. 

    As women, we are often labeled as “bossy” or “bitchy” when someone doesn’t know what to do with our assertiveness. I found out that in my instance, a lot of people in my band didn’t like the fact that a woman was holding a leadership position. I stopped feeling bad about what I was saying. I did make a few other changes, like making sure to praise my fellow bandmates often. I always made sure to pick a few people after our rehearsals that I felt did really well, and to praise them for their hard work. 

But I never stopped being “bossy.” I didn’t hesitate to tell my kids when they were doing something wrong, or point out the flaws in our routine. I stopped caring about all those little comments because suddenly, I was proud to be bossy. Being “bossy” means that I am a strong, independent, opinionated woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. If being all of those other things means that I’m bossy, or that I’m a bitch? Then yeah, I guess I am. I’ll wear that badge with pride. 

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