Beryl the Peril

Or how naughty beats nice…

Sorry guys, but this post has a female focus this week – as am out and about speechifying for International Women’s Day. Teenage sons here are horrified by this, declaring so much progress means we don’t need feminism.

And indeed there has been progress. Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde indicate being a well-fed and well-educated women in a Western democracy is hardly a tough gig. But if we’re talking Somalia or Afghanistan…

So we should celebrate – but those 5 out a 100 Footsie CEOs also remind us there is still a way to go.

What most interests me is how women get their voices heard and why they don’t.

Psychologist Carol Gilligan found that around about age 12, many girls become preoccupied with fitting in and being ‘good’. Incredibly, their actual voices go higher – just when the boys voices are starting to crack and deepen.

Other research, like that of Deborah Tannen, has shown how female conversational styles revolve around seeking connection and intimacy, whereas men generally focus more on positioning and independence. Most of us can recognize the difference between the emotion-sharing style of women and the problem-solving style of men:

Her: ‘Eurgh…had a terrible meeting with Gordon in accounts today.’

Him: ‘I’ve told you before. You should make an official complaint to HR about him’

Her: ‘Yes.Right.Maybe’

What nice means for many girls can be perfectionist standards, unexpressed opinions less they rock the boat or antagonize people, and great solicitude to others – assuming these folk are as sensitive as they are. In worrying about fitting in, and being ‘attractive’ and ‘appropriate’ they can lose sense of who their ‘selves’ are completely.

And to do what they really want to do, and be who they really want to be may involve feeling isolated, unacceptable and wrong : a badass.

Experimentation with naughtiness is called for.

What Beryl the Peril – and role models like her – know, is that naughty means:

  • knowing our own minds and speaking them
  • not worrying about being unattractively bossy, or messy, or task-focussed…
  • not always feeling that it is our responsibility to make social relationships run smoothly. Men are mostly capable of this too…
  • knowing what we love doing and seeking as many outlets for this as possible..this positions us best to help others do well, too..
  • having adventures, taking action and saying the dreaded ‘I want’. Rather than ‘Would anyone mind if…’
  • understanding that anyone who sticks their head above the pack to do something, will get attacked by the less brave

Carol Gilligan and team discovered that the concern a 12 year old girl has with fitting-in, is much to do with fear of being abandoned by her mother, and her notions of ‘appropriateness’.

My voice never went up at 12, benefit (extreme positive thinking here) of being mothered by someone in mental turmoil, with no sense of appropriateness.

I just became a total badass woman and took up smoking instead.


Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. I loved that and my nick name was beryl the periil lol Heres to norty women everywhere
    I didnt smoke I took up wild hair

  2. Would love too we need to sort ourselves out lol

  3. Wonderful, a timely, though-provoking article as ever Mrs Moti. So many of us brought up in the Western culture are force-fed the stereotypes of appropriateness and attractiveness in our formative years. These messages stick, brainwashing us with negative self-beliefs that often limit us, damage that takes years to undo.

    As you say, there are so few valuable role models that are given the validation of being accepted as public faces in our society, as our national TV companies tend to favour a very tiny demographic in terms of age, appearance, education. With the odds stacked against us so often, it takes time and courage (mental toughness?) to find our true voices, and we certainly need to support each other by vocally encouraging and celebrating our “diversity”. Victoria Cohen writing yesterday for The Guardian offered some thoughts yesterday relating to culture infuences which may be interesting to some of your readers. My personal preference is the Beryl the Peril model 😀

    • Thancks Nathalie so much for this – and the Victoria Coren article is tremendous.. quoting research in the Washington Post showing that black women are more self- confident than white ‘even though they may WEIGH MORE’…

      Maybe we should start a Beryl movement, where we shake our bootys, whatever their size, and put ourselves out there…

      Mrs Motivator the book Talk To Compel the movie How To Talk So People Listen

  4. […] blog, entitled ‘Why Badass Women are Best‘ explains that essentially, it’s ok to be who you are, and not who society expects you […]

  5. What an awesome idea – subversive “she-devils” totally rock! 😀 Now, where did I leave that donut…?!

  6. I have a card on my kitchen door.. “Well behaved women rarely make history” which makes me smile, just like this article did!

    Really enjoyed it and some good tips for how I should raise my two little girls, who are two of the most headstrong people I know… now how to encourage that mindset in them AND get them dressed for school in the mornings without too many arguments. haha.

    • Hi Paula…and feisty females are fantastic, aren’t they?, until you have to get them to do something…thanks for your appreciation and all best


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