In defense of the ‘difficult woman’ … and why I hope my daughter becomes one

When my grandmother first came to Australia she couldn’t speak a word of English. She and her husband arrived with their two teenage daughters in tow, and were (well, at least she was) hoping to set up a new life in the lucky country.

The dream didn’t last long. Her husband – my grandfather – soon became both physically and emotionally abusive.

Here she was in a strange country, unable to speak the language with two young daughters who depended on her. She was also a deeply religious woman, who believed that marriage was for life.

As it turns out, she was also a difficult woman. A very difficult one. You see, instead of standing back, bowing her head and letting the abuse continue just to “keep the peace”, she packed her bags, grabbed her children and walked.

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My mum and my grandmother stand together on the balcony of a flat they lived in together.

Later, my mother would tell me that the three of them became so proficient at moving, they could turn over an entire house in under five hours.

Anyway, as it turns out the notion of the ‘difficult woman’ appears to be a running theme in my lineage. We’re all difficult women. Only, I’m now learning to wear it with pride.

No, I’m not talking about the ‘nasty woman’ label thrown around during Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated White House campaign (as important as that moment in history was), I’m talking about ‘difficult women’.

“Why does she have to be so difficult?”

You can hear it now, can’t you? That word, difficult, is afforded the same disgust with which the word nasty is uttered. Through clenched teeth and a grimace, the word is spat out at those women who decide to do anything but roll-over and stand down.

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Recently I reacted to an experience in a way that led to a number of people around me asked why I was “being so difficult”.

“Just let it go,” one person said to me.

“Leave it,” said another. “You don’t want to be known as being difficult”.

Writing about my own experiences can be hard because, well, people around me read my blog and (most of them) are smart enough to put two-and-two together. So with that in mind I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of what went down.

I will say, however, that I was left distraught by the experience. Very, very distraught. I could have let it go and not stood-up to the person who wronged me. I could have walked away and shown little to no respect for my own self-worth. That would have been the easy option. That would have been the option to take for any woman not wanting to seem difficult.

Alas, I didn’t do that.

Instead, I spoke up. I let it be known that I wasn’t about to roll-over and I demanded some respect be thrown my way.

I was the difficult woman. And my God, am I proud of it.

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Let me tell you, after having starred as both the easy-going woman and the difficult woman in my life, the difficult woman is by far the harder role to play. But, it is also the more rewarding option. It’s the option that will let you sleep at night. It’s the option that, when you look back on your life and wonder if you stood for something, will fill you with pride.

It’s the option I want my daughter to take. I know it will be harder and I know she will receive push back. But that’s OK, because at least she will be nurturing that inner tenacity, and that inner strength that forms our character (or in the case of my aforementioned foe – lack thereof).

Look, it is easy to lend your voice to the crowd, to join in the calls for justice when there is already a chorus in full-song. It is harder to yell into the void. To still speak or shout when there is nothing but silence around you. But that is exactly when you need to do it.

Because (and to use a very, very old cliche), if not you, than who?