Do Double Standards Exist For Assertive Women?

by Liane Membis

Can a woman be a diva without being called the b— word?

Nicki Minaj claims she’s not a diva, but she won’t accept anything less than the best.

The New York rapper speaks about double standards in “My Time Now,” a mini-documentary about her rise to fame. In the clip below, she talks about being criticized after walking out of a lackluster photo shoot. She claims that she just wanted to be treated with respect for the hard work that she puts in as a  rapper, and was not trying to be a diva.

“I spend everything I have, every fiber of my being, to give people quality,” Nicki explained. “Is that wrong? Wanting more for myself? Wanting people to treat me with respect? You know what? Next time, they know better.”

Minaj flipped the script and called out the criticism as a double standard.

“When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. No negative connotation behind ‘bossed up,’ but lots of negative connotation being a bitch.”

Why is it that women who know what they want and are firm about their standards are automatically called the b-word? Why it that an assertive man is praise and respected for holding down his own, but a woman who demands quality over quantity is looked down upon and seen as ungrateful? Women have consistently developed and emerged in society; it was not too long ago that women were fighting for their own civil rights, and liberation from Lysol scented kitchens to large workspaces in city buildings. Subservient and subordinate attitudes of the past have been abandoned for independence and leadership.

For women of color, feminist or diva-like qualities have been criticized as overambitious, unrealistic desires: Black women are too picky, too angry, too confident, too strong. This goes for any type of relationship—men, work, family, finances. Women of color with feminist spirits are leaders in these arenas, and traits of independence and control are detested and perceived as over-empowering and bitchy.  The concept of control and power in working or personal relationships has long been attributed to men. They must lead the household, they must control financial situations—they have to be the boss in order to ascertain their masculinity. In conservative societies, this remains the norm. Yet, as liberalism spreads and the number of independent, strong women increases, the question of who can be assertive or not becomes a valid point of inquiry.

A line exists that demarcates between being a diva or a boss, and being bitchy or overly assertive. There is no harm in a woman demanding respect—every individual, regardless of gender, desires appreciation and recognition for their work. This is what upholds morality in our society and protects the integrity of individual interactions between men and women. National beliefs are based on equality, and that includes gender equality, so women naturally have a right to experience the full measure of their assertiveness. But if a woman begins to ask for too much, or over-extends her power to the point where people around her are negatively affected by her actions and she has become a self-fulfilling greedy tyrant, then it may be time to call the bitchiness police.

Do you believe there is a double standard with assertiveness? Is there a fine line between being a diva and being a bitch? Sound off!

  • jamesfrmphilly

    why doesn’t she get assertive with whoever styles her? she looks horrible to me.

  • Whit

    Great points. She is all over this blog nowadays.

  • oknow

    regardless of how she looks, what she is saying is true.. especially w/black women.. attitude this, uppity that, stuck up this, bitch that..

  • KGDC

    Being assertive is one thing, talking out your poot just because you have a mouth is another. Woman confuse being a callous jack@ss with being ‘strong’ or ‘assertive’. When a woman mentally matures, she’ll understand her position and be able to communicate it without having to resort to calling herself a ‘b!tch’ (or act like one) or ‘strong woman’. A strong woman just IS, she doesn’t have to announce it or attention wh*re to get noticed. Sorry Lady Gaga and Minaj. *shrug*

  • http://thegleemanifesto.wordpress.com Maroushka

    I understand where she is coming from. There is most definitely a double standard. But often times in a bid to come across assertive women overdo it and become overly aggressive. There is a difference between sternly and graciously saying ‘NO!’ with a firm voice and abrasively saying ‘NO!’ in a harsh manner. They latter denotes insecurity, people can sense that and your never taken serious.

  • S.

    …And they used it *Lmao*

    Yes, she is correct. There is a double standard…

    But I personally believe that there is a way to talk to people to get them to do things correctly without stripping them of their humanity. You can not demand respect… you have to command respect! Authority figures who boss people around as if they are gods on a pedestal are mislead to believe that that is the best way to rule over people but that is NOT the best way to get things done, it’s the laziest way to get things done. What will they say about you when you die?

    Look at all the people who have worked for someone like Michael Jackson, who did everything in the name of “Love”. He had more respect than he could have ever had if he ruled all his employees with arrogance instead of tender love and care

  • E

    I agree that there is a double standard for assertive women (although this is nothing new by any means).

    The incident that Nikki described was a little over the top (pickle juice? c’mon girl), but she’s telling the truth- she works just as hard (maybe even harder) than a lot of male rappers, so shouldn’t be treated any differently. I’m not really a fan of Nikki but I can definitely feel her frustration after watching that clip.

    But at the same time, welcome to the sisterhood!

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  • http://sartorialme.blogspot.com serenissima

    this is really funny from a person who calls herself a ‘bad bitch’ and encourages others to do the same… then when someone actually DOES call her bitch (but not in the context that she wants) its a problem?

    and i see what she’s saying (and also what the author of the article is saying) but does Nicki Minaj seem like the kind of girl that GIVES respect? was she speaking to those in charge of the shoot the way she was speaking on this invterview? cursing and rolling her eyes, acting all ghetto and talking about ‘what is this $50 wardrobe and these pickles?’ or, in other words, UNGRATEFUL?

    cuz if so, id have called her a ghetto bitch as soon as she left the place, too. you have to give respect to get it. plus her cd JUST came out, she shouldnt be complaining about anything with all of the opportunities shes been receiving. i dont care how many number one singles with trash money she has under her belt, she is still a NEW ARTIST.

    make a few platinum cd’s before you start making demands

  • secretaddy

    ” When a woman mentally matures, she’ll understand her position and be able to communicate it without having to resort to calling herself a ‘b!tch’ (or act like one) or ‘strong woman’”

    You are on some sexist bull with what is said above ! FIrst off you use the word woman and then you follow it with mentally mature. Perhaps you are unaware that women are ADULT human beings and thus it would be prudent to assume that we are “mentally mature”.

    We use the term “bitch” in the same way that many vulnerable demographics use terms such as “nigga” “queer” “guido” it is to redefine it’s meaning and attempt to gain power from it.

  • BFS

    Yes of course there is, and especially if said assertive women are Black.

    I hope this comment get published, because I fail to understand why my last ones have not been, but comments from someone calling Black women “Negro women” who are “Stupid” “Fools”, and “Easy to control” by Whites was. I thought this site was about uplifting and supporting Black women.

  • BFS

    BTW Nicki, love the pink hair! Too cute!

  • http://yahoo ms. jai

    this bitch is stupid 94% of the time,especially when she’s alwayz calling herself a bitch in her songs, but she is actually speaking the truth when it comes to these ridiculous double standards………..women are human beings, not sex objects lol

  • Trell

    Yes theres a double standard but we tend to only complain about the ones that dont work in our favor.

    Women get the short end of the stick more times than not. Truth be told, women run EVERYTHING. The power of the pucci. They can have a grown man doing ish he may have thought he would never do. They conttol the population.

    I aint hatin ladies. Yall run it

    DMV stand up!

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  • http://pumpsicle.com zillz

    the world isn’t fair /equal and isn’t meant to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yovanka-Paquete-Perdigao/518264613 Yovanka Paquete Perdigao

    “cursing and rolling her eyes, acting all ghetto and talking about ‘what is this $50 wardrobe and these pickles?’ or, in other words, UNGRATEFUL? ” I do see your point but I think she s mad because if it was a male rapper they wouldn t be giving her pickle juice, they would treat a rapper with more respect, just because she s a woman they’re not taking her seriously….she was right to flip out, in the vid she does look a bit too dumb but she s got a point. I have heard so many times other singers being called divas just because they asked for a change or wanted a revision of the video, like nicky said what is wrong for wanting more? She is just trying to better herself, people need to start with the diva business

  • KGDC

    “You are on some sexist bull with what is said above !”

    Opinion, noted.

    “FIrst off you use the word woman and then you follow it with mentally mature. Perhaps you are unaware that women are ADULT human beings and thus it would be prudent to assume that we are “mentally mature”.”

    Then it would be a false assumption, and from personal experience a foolish thing to assume. Next…

    “We use the term “bitch” in the same way that many vulnerable demographics use terms such as “nigga” “queer” “guido” it is to redefine it’s meaning and attempt to gain power from it.”

    Then you fail again. It’s been a notion that has been attempted, but if I went up to my Black boss and said “What’s up, my nigga!” I don’t think I’d be met with empathy. Again, it’s a FALSE argument. It’s like punching your wife but saying you’re doing it because I love you.

    If that’s the route you’re going, cool… but you still fail ultimately winning the argument, because the ‘bitch’ just insinuates that you really don’t have one that you can articulate.

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  • Tae

    I really feel the same way as Nicki Minaj on this subject. My friends say that i am the same way, over;y aggressive. I mean i should be able to be a female and just as powerful as anyone else! Just because i know what i want it doesn’t make me a b-word. My friends say that I will never get married because of it. I say that bull shit. If a woman knows what she wants…a man who knows what he wants will find her attractive…

  • sunshyne84

    So right! What bothers me is when we are made to feel bad for expressing our emotions or people think we are being irrational when we get upset. Then we get the “she must be on her period” line. It appalls me that we can’t express frustrations without being labeled an angry black woman when we have the right to be upset.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Devan-Townsend/586490388 Devan Townsend

    On one hand I see where she’s coming from. Some would say that Diddy built his career being a bitch and a diva (in addition to hard work). However, he’s a dude, so those words aren’t used.

    But on the other hand, maybe it’s your attitude and subsequent antics that shape people’s opinion of you. Being “a boss” doesn’t give you carte blanche to run roughshod over folks and cloak it with “I’m being assertive”. And then when you’re called out on your bitchiness (and rightfully so) you cry “It’s just because I’m a woman!”.

    It has nothing to do with assertiveness or passion. You can be assertive, passionate, ambitious, and respected without “laying down the law” on folks and being, well, bitchy. That goes for men AND women.

  • Clnmike

    Lol.

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