I have a confession to make: I have a crush on DJ Lance Rock from Yo Gabba Gabba. I don't know what it is about him. His sideburns? His awesome orange jumpsuit? The guy can pull off a tall hat, I'll tell you that much. Every morning my daughter and I sing and dance along with DJ Lance and all his weird little friends. Except for one day last week when I had a bone to pick with DJ Lance and the Yo Gabba Gabba team. As Foofa, the character described as a pink flower bubble and the character with the obviously female gender expression, began to sing a song about being nice, my floor dancing slowed, my clapping stopped. I love the show (and love how happy it makes my daughter), but being nice is a message I don't want my daughter to learn.
I looked over at my daughter, 1 year old and bum-dancing along oblivious, and thought about what that message might mean to her, one day. I thought about how, as a woman, I have been told to be nice — in some form or another — my entire life. And while I appreciate the sentiment that DJ Lance and Foofa were trying to impart, I decided then and there that I will never ask my daughter to be nice because I've been told to be nice my whole life and it hasn't done me much good, and frankly, I'm sick of it.
Don't worry; my daughter (hopefully) won't be the jerk on the playground who pushes other kids. She won't be taught to think or believe that she's better than everyone else, that she is perfect, or that she's someone who can do no wrong. To me, there is a distinct difference between being kind and being nice and I plan on teaching my daughter what it means to be kind. I'll teach her to be generous, considerate, and to treat others the way she wants to be treated. But when I think of the word nice, when I think of its meanings and connotations, when I think of the context in which I was told to be nice as a little girl, and then a young woman, I don't think I was being told to be nice. I was told to be agreeable. I was told to keep my mouth closed and my opinions to myself. And I will never, ever, teach my daughter to be that.
No, I will not ask my daughter to be nice. I will ask her to be kind and I will ask her to rage and burn and be wild and strong.
I can't remember a time when I haven't been told, either explicitly or implicitly, to "be nice." Because isn't that exactly what little girls are made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice? When I look back and recall those moments, I don't feel as if I was being generous or considerate. Those moments didn't make me feel like I was doing something good. In fact, I can't remember many times when I was nice and it worked out well for me. Being nice made me a push over. It left me vulnerable.
Adhering to the "be nice" rules meant that I should have been nice to the boys on the playground who pulled my hair because it just meant they liked me. I should have been nice to the people at school who called me names and spread rumors about me instead of standing up for myself, because being nice meant I was the bigger person. I should have been nice to the boy at the party who pressed my body into the ground and then pushed himself into my mouth because we were friends and I was drunk, anyway. I should have been nice to the man at the bar who bought me a drink that I didn't want because he was showing an interest in me, because wasn't that so nice of him?
Should I have been nice to the man who followed me on three separate occasions because I was scared of what he might do to me? Should I have been nice to the man who leered at my chest while I walked alone down a quiet street with no one but my baby with me? Have you ever found yourself cornered with your child? It's terrifying. Because you know you'd do anything. Any. Thing. To make sure no harm will come to her.
I can't believe I have to say this, because it's been said so many times before, but instead of teaching my daughter to be nice, how about we teach our sons not to rape and murder our daughters?
There are two reasons that women are told to be nice: The first is because being nice is the only thing that will keep her alive or keep her from harm, and the second is because being nice is what women do. We are nice, we are agreeable; we don't rock boats or make noise. Being told to be nice is the same as being told to not be bossy. It's the same as being told to "Smile more, honey." It's even the same as being called a bitch or a slut or a whore. Because in the end, these are all words that carve us into round pegs to fit into the world's round holes. These are words that tell us to remember our place.
I will ask her to be passion incarnate and I will ask her to never apologize for taking up space in this world.
But here's the thing. As many women, or their families, can attest, being nice doesn't necessarily protect us from harm. Being nice doesn't stop us from being raped and assaulted and murdered. And I can't believe I have to say this, because it's been said so many times before, but instead of teaching my daughter to be nice, how about we teach our sons not to rape and murder our daughters?
Being nice is not a privilege my daughter will bestow on another person. Niceness is not her obligation for existence. Being nice should be a choice she makes. And teaching her otherwise makes it an obligation; one that won't necessarily ever result in a positive outcome. The sentiment that people should be nice is a very, very nice one. But for women, it is weighted with years and years and years worth of connotations that we should sit down, shut up, and look the other way. So no, I will not ask my daughter to be nice. I will ask her to be kind and I will ask her to rage and burn and be wild and strong. I will ask her to be passion incarnate and I will ask her to never apologize for taking up space in this world. I will ask her to be agreeable only when she wants to. And I will ask her to remember that her place is wherever the f*ck she wants it to be.