Several weeks ago, I found myself at a bar in downtown Denver with two good friends, both of whom happened to be visiting for the weekend from across the country. As we sat at a table laughing over college memories, catching up, and drinking Colorado craft beer, a guy in his mid-twenties came over to our table, and took a seat without saying a word or introducing himself. Suddenly our conversation shifted into banal small talk with an inebriated stranger. Unlike my friends, I wasn’t actively engaged in the interactions with this stranger. I was not rude, but answered his probing questions with relatively short answers and did not make an effort to get to know him. Was he a nice guy? He probably was. Did I really care about him, however? No.
With a short weekend with friends from out of town, I was more interested in spending quality time with them, rather than spend the evening hanging out with a random guy who none of us would likely see again.
As we left the bar one of my friend’s joked, “Grace-Ellen, you just kind of come off as… intimidating to guys.” Although I’ve heard a similar sentiment before, this time the comment stuck with me to the point that I had to look up the official definition of “intimidating” in the dictionary.
So what does being “intimidating” really mean? At the bar, was I intimidating because I didn’t bat my eyelashes, smile, and laugh with a stranger I didn’t really care to be spending time with?
On a larger level, when Hilary Clinton (and let’s put political ideology aside here) is labeled as “intimidating,” is she really intimidating, or is she a woman who is sharp, direct, and articulate?
About a year ago, a wonderful family friend brought up in passing that she did not date throughout college because she was focused on her grades and studies, and probably “intimidated guys.” So, was she intimidating, or was she simply a woman who played a greater value on her education than dating casually? Let’s not exclude Beyoncé from this conversation, either. I have heard countless comments on her physical appearance, but that her power is “intimidating.” Is Beyoncé intimidating, or is she a woman with an interest and commitment to social justice issues, who also happens to be a crazy talented singer and performer?
I am sick of being told that the reason I am single is because I am “intimidating” to guys. In fact, I am calling BS. We need to eradicate the “intimidating woman” label. Since when does the success and confidence of women equivocate to “intimidating?” While the word “intimidating” doesn’t necessarily always have negative connotations, I can’t help but wonder if the “intimidating woman” label is another ploy to badger women back into traditional gender roles.
Healthy relationships are those that are filled with mutual respect, support, affection, and communication. So, for all of the “intimidating” women out there, keep being your bad ass self. Doing so will also allow you to find a partner who not only celebrates your ambitious self, but joins with you in becoming a mutually “intimidating” power couple.