I had not met the acquaintance of Angelina Belle until this morning, and maybe I’ve just encountered her internet alterego, but I’ve been feeling a certain way for the rest of the day.
Ms. Belle posted a video to Facebook called “A list of instructions for all you men out there who want to understand women (;” She adds a disclaimer, “This only really works if you two are talking / dating… if she no like you and you a creep, these don’t apply to you!” which only marginally qualifies her message as less offensive.
In a sampling of things women often say, which roll in back-to-back flash spurts, Ms. Belle offers a part/counterpart of “When she says…” versus “What she really means.” Examples include, “When she says, ‘Leave me alone,’ Ms. Belle counters, ‘What do you do? Yes, that’s right! You stay!'”
Having been a woman who speaks for herself for the better part of 35 years (which apparently makes me eligible to run for president) I can say with some measure of confidence that I do not need an Angelina Belle anger translator. I have never ever wanted someone to stay whom I’ve just told to leave me alone. Not a harassing guy on the subway, not a megalomaniac boss, not a lover who is driving me all kinds of crazy. President Obama may appear to need the anger translator of Key & Peele, but should the presidency fall into my hands, I’d hope an internet entertainer wouldn’t flip my script just because I am a woman.
Ms. Belle goes on to clarify that only when a woman calls the police should you really leave her alone because, “Damn! This girl actually means what she says…which is really rare.”
Let that settle in your mind for a minute. We should expect that women will rarely say what they mean, and only when armed authorities are called in should we take them seriously.
Perhaps the most harmful thing that Ms. Belle espouses is a belief that women’s “‘NO’ can mean yes and her ‘yes’ can mean no…the last two can be a little tricky so you have to watch for her tone.”
Here is what I say to that. See if you can watch for my tone.
Is a Thing.
When the lines of no and yes are so blurred that we are supposed to be tone monitors, we have a problem. When women are painted as incapable of meaning what they say when they say NO, we’ve got a communication crisis.
On her Facebook page, Ms. Belle offers a signpost that says, “Please do not take my jokes and sarcasm the wrong way. I exaggerate to create humor. I just want to make people laugh :)”
If people had not found Ms. Belle’s video funny, I’m sure I wouldn’t have stumbled upon it. Obviously, there is humor to be found in the chronic double-speak women are inclined to use. As Ms. Belle points out, when she says, “If you want,” she really means, “No.” I suspect every woman knows what this is like. We don’t want to be painted a diva who must always get her way. And why is this? Why do we as women resort to passive-aggressive speech patterns, to relinquishing control, to living a life fearful of being branded the bitch?
Here are a couple of places we might start to look:
Are strong women who speak their minds celebrated in the media or are they often vilified, portrayed as shrew-like, unmanageable?
Are there enough arenas where women show strength of character and competition other than so-called reality programs where women are belligerently fighting over a potential husband?
Are young girls encouraged to speak their minds in school, rather than prefacing what they say with, “I might be wrong but…” or “This might sound kinda crazy but…”
Are we training up young men to remember their privilege can be used to empower those whose voices are often marginalized, whose strength is often compromised? That they are at their strongest when they are lifting up another?
In her parting thoughts, Angelina Belle recommends that men “just be” a mindreader.
In one of Christ’s parting thoughts, he said, “Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Mt 5:37) I’m going to trust that the reader of hearts was on to something.