Being a Leader vs. a Bitch

By: Daniela Sarafov
Edited by: Zachary Sparks

Why is it that we are put-off by a woman with strong views – the ones usually called a bitch – but are quick to call a man who is assertive a leader?? I recently stumbled upon a quote by Sheryl Sandberg that provoked an abundance of thoughts. The quote went as follows: “I want every little girl who is told she is bossy to be told she has leadership skills.” Just moments after reading this, I reflected on the number of times I personally have been called “bold” and “a leader,” as well as instances where I have been called “a bitch.” The amount of times I have been called either is probably equal.

Naturally, as humans, we fear the unknown. We are not used to powerful, insistent, courageous, and confident women. Therefore, we are quick to put a label on them, to shame them, to make them stop possessing their emphatic attributes. A great example of this is comparing Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. Miranda Priestly is a highly successful, middle-aged businesswoman, who puts her work life before everything. She is (legally) running the most prosperous fashion magazine in the world. However, she is feared: when referring to her, ‘bitch’ is perhaps the kindest term that comes to mind. She holds on tightly to her opinions and knows what she wants. Miranda’s confidence is frowned down upon; seldom do women and girls watching the film want to be like her because she is made out to be the villain (although she is just simply running her business and is lucrative in doing so).

Jordan Belfort’s character, however, is a stockbroker who constantly cheats on his wife, screams at people on the phone, has an addiction to cocaine, scams people out of money, launders money around the world, and eventually gets a prison sentence. With all of these terrible traits, however, Jordan is never labeled evil, mean, or even a bitch; he was praised and labeled a successful businessman. A plethora of men and boys watched the movie and were enamored and inspired by this character and his wealth. All bad attributes aside, he was depicted as a success.

It is strange to me that, even in a movie, a man such as Jordan Belfort, who commits egregious acts, is still better admired than a woman like Miranda Priestly: someone who isn’t carrying out fraudulent business practices and is genuinely successful. All of these nuances boil down to our culture and how we view the sexes: men are expected to be dominant, and women are expected to be submissive. If these roles are reversed, society is quick to freak-out and label them.

Be more conscious of who you label a bitch. Reflect, and ask yourself why? The sooner we begin implementing these introspective solutions into our culture, the quicker we can become a more equal society: where no woman or little girl who is brave enough to speak her truth is labeled as overbearing, and where they can be praised for their courage — where they can be fearless.

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