Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: Time to Not Be Nice

I really like Amy Poehler. I like the things that she stands for, and I adore Smart Girls at the Party so much that I’ve used it in programming and recommended it to teachers, parents, and teens. They have DIY projects and action campaigns, they highlight women in fields like science and computers, they have blogs and shows and youtube channels, and other resources for youth (including a boys’ minute)- which is wonderful. According to their site:

Smart Girls at the Party is a rapidly expanding online network and community movement. Our aim is to help young women and the young at heart with the process of cultivating their authentic selves.
We change the world by being ourselves, and being ourselves is a life long quest. Smart Girls hopes to provide some fun reference materials along the way.

 Empower girls! Show them they can be artists, scientists, astronauts, be educated and be liked ….
Which is why when this popped up onto my tumblr, my heart fell to my feet:

The internet doesn’t have to be full of mean comments. Use this badge to let others know you’re part of the goodness!

Just no.

According to webster, friendly also means:

affable, agreeable, approachable, good-natured, good-tempered, gracious, nice, sweet; clubby, convivial, folksy, gregarious, hospitable, sociable, social; jolly, jovial, merry; extroverted (also extraverted), outgoing; brotherly, fraternal, sisterly; close, familiar, intimate; adoring, affectionate, devoted, fond, lovesome, loving, tender, tenderhearted

I completely agree with the factual part. And to an extent I can get behind the intent of the friendly. Don’t lie, don’t spread rumors, don’t slut-shame, don’t verbally or emotionally harass anyone, and don’t bully anyone. There have been too many deaths over online harassment- and I mean actual online harassment, not what some will claim as harassment to get attention.


No. NO.

Girls (and women) do not need to be ‘friendly’ on the internet. We need to be intelligent, coherent, sound, passionate, and LOUD in our voices, our passions, and for our beliefs and for our rights. We need to stand up for the right to control our bodies, no matter whether it is to have children or not, no matter whether it is to have sex or not, and to have the right to choose WHEN and WHERE that encounter is. We need to be able to have the voice to say NO when we don’t want something, no matter if it’s a hug, a glance, someone calling us honey or sweetheart, or even a slice of cheese on a hamburger.

The internet gives people an arena in which to unleash themselves, and also the chance to be the most evil they can possibly be with the slimmest chance they will get caught. It’s all about anonymity, and sometimes the nastier people can be, the better the audience likes it and the more hits things will get. To me, it can be similar to the Roman Gladiator fights- people hiding behind stage names, fighting tooth and nail, but with words that can hurt more than physical blows.

We as a culture need to stand up to internet bullying, and not be “friendly” when people attack.  Google about the death threats that have happened against women on Twitter, slut-shaming, and Facebook attacks that have led to suicide, if you want further evidence. 

“Friendly” has passive connotations, and puts the onus on the me (as a member of the group of girls, in this case) to be the one backing down and taking things without standing up for myself- thereby losing my voice and my options.

No. NO.

There is a time and a place for nice. Someone calling names for the emotional response is one. Someone being an idiot is another. Like Patrick Swayze says in Road House (warning, not work appropriate language ahead):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTh5JzRziHE?rel=0]

However, there is a time to not be nice. When things cross the line include:

I was the “nice and friendly” girl growing up. I was shy, and part of it was the way I was raised. Even though I couldn’t stand mustard, and onions made me sick, if we went through McDonald’s we got the hamburgers as-made, and I had to try to pick off the onions and grimace and bear the mustard/ketchup goop. We didn’t have much, and what we got had to last and be enjoyed- if you didn’t like it or complained, you didn’t get it, and it was remembered that you didn’t like it, and held against you.  Being “nice and friendly” was essentially a defense against punishment.

Through college I was the “nice and friendly” girl, one of the few in my undergrad class for aeronautical engineering. And I was bullied and harassed, by peers for being overweight, by teachers who said women weren’t needed as astronautical engineers because we didn’t have the smarts, by teaching assistants and professors who wouldn’t help during office hours because I was just going to be married and popping out kids before the ink was dry on my degree. I didn’t speak up, because that wasn’t what “nice and friendly” did- that was what aggressive did. (On the bright side, I ended up in the field I was meant for, but I still have issues dating back to those days).

People’s response when I tell them some of my college stories

I was the “nice and friendly” one in my first few jobs, and was given a lower starting pay than guys who had less experience but were put in the same position I was in, because they spoke up and were aggressive about negotiations. I have been passed over for raises and increases in pay because I was “nice” and didn’t question authority, and when I did, I did it in “friendly” and “polite” ways.

I have been verbally harassed at professional conferences because I was “friendly” and “polite” and “nice.” When I reported it, I was told that since I was “friendly” and didn’t “assert myself but removed myself from the area after a brief time” that the harasser couldn’t understand that their actions were wrong. Somehow, by being “nice” I was in the wrong by not educating my harassers.

I get where Smart Girls is going, but I think they’re going about it the wrong way. We need to stand up to the bullies, not be the friendly ones. We need to be scrappy, and aggressive, feisty, and spunky, and take over THOSE connotations and make THEM the positives that we want to see.

Because friendly isn’t getting us anywhere.

– Christie

See also: It’s time to stop telling girls to be nice 
Should we stop telling girls to be nice?


  1. You can get your point across and be friendly. You're reading into it waaaay too much. Friendly does not mean weak or passive; it just means friendly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think you are confusing civil with friendly/nice. I think civility is definitely a good goal, for everyone. It's based on the basic premise that everyone has the basic fundamental rights to the same dignity and respect as they walk through this life. The flip side to this argument is to note that women – girls – are told repeatedly that they must be nice and this indoctrination has caused women's voices to be lost throughout so much of history. There are times when it is okay not to be nice or even friendly, and as the post says those times include moments when people are being harassed, threatened, bullied and more. If a man is harassing a woman, she does not need to be nice. She needs to be assertive. There are moments in history when nice just wasn't good enough, moments like facing the real truth about slavery, women's rights, and gay rights. Sometimes it is not only okay – but needed – for someone to be aggressive and assertive in confronting injustice. Even Jesus when he was in the temple overthrew the tables of those who were contaminating his house with their greed.

  3. I appreciate your feedback, I agree that there are times when you can get points across while being friendly.

    However, there are situations where friendly is not the answer, and I don't think that we should be teaching girls ONLY to be the nice and friendly ones. When girls are already blamed for inciting harassment by schools for dressing provocatively; when girls are still being told that they only need to be able to clean, and that they will waste a college degree because they'll just go have kids, so why bother; when girls are not going into science and computer fields because they're chronically not recognized by their elementary school teachers when they raise their hands, but others are rewarded for shouting out answers; then maybe friendly isn't good enough.

    It's about teaching girls to be whole people who assertively and constructively stand up for themselves, not just friendly people.

  4. Anonymous says:

    reading way too much into it. It's about not giving in to troll behavior or being mean to other girls on the internet. That's all. And it's explained clearly. No one ever said not to express themselves or be strong or assertive. It is a campaign for there to be less divisiveness and mean spiritedness in comments sections. Period.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You are right. Reading way too much into it. It is simply about not being divisive and mean in the comments sections the way trolls are. That's it. It's meant to have people stop and think before typing and sending mean or insulting comments. It is meant for the bullies and harassers. Sorry – but that's it. Period. You really think a site like that would mean it any other way? Think about it.

Speak Your Mind