“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
I’m sure you’ve heard that before. It’s often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt or Marilyn Monroe, but it actually comes from a 1976 article on Puritan funeral services written by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. I guess if anyone would know, it’s a historian, right?
Ms. Ulrich meant that women making a positive impact on society are often ignored, but in a society where women are supposed to look pretty and stay quiet, being “well-behaved” isn’t necessarily a desirable trait. It’s the troublemakers who get things done, the squeaky wheels who bring about change.
Take Dr. Bernice “Bunny” Sandler, who died in January at the age of 90. Dr. Sandler was the driving force behind the creation of Title IX, which bars gender-based discrimination by any educational institution funded by federal dollars. She liked to go into men’s clubs and hand out buttons bearing the phrase, “Uppity Women Unite.”
Dr. Sandler was once told she was being passed over for a full-time job because she “[came] on too strong for a woman.”
That was in the 1960s — but tell me it couldn’t have happened today. We like to think we’ve come so far, but looking at recent media coverage of women who’ve entered the Democratic presidential race proves the opposite. No one is talking about Cory Booker’s sex life. No one is asking if Sherrod Brown is “likeable” enough. But those are exactly the headlines surrounding candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.
How many times have you been interrupted or ignored in a meeting? How many times this week? Today? Who among us hasn’t been called bossy or loud or shrill? Told she’s too much?
Here’s what I say to that: never change. Be bossy. Be loud. Be as much as you want to be. Speak up. Give me your rebels. Give me your rabble-rousers. Give me your nasty women. Misbehave. Make history.
And if you know where I can get an “Uppity Women Unite” pin — or a case of them — let me know.