Thanks for letting me know that I’m intimidating. Thanks for letting me know that my glasses, my nonconformist curly hair, dark eyebrows, and short stature intimidate you. I’m happy to disrupt your expectations. I’m happy to be that walking contradiction. I appreciate how much I, as a strong woman, challenge your preconceptions. Thank you.
I choose to wear glasses. I chose to be the smart and ugly girl with glasses in third grade. I never thought I was beautiful, and I never really cared what other people thought of me. I simply went about my days with my eyes drawn to only one thing – literature. I’ll always be that type of girl: Hermione from Harry Potter, Mia from the Princess Diaries, Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings, Kat from 10 Things I Hate About You; the girl who doesn’t conform but intimidates.
I can’t bring myself to wear more makeup then mascara and eyeliner. I can’t imagine painting my nails or wearing heels every day because I don’t understand the point of doing so, and that shouldn’t be a problem. My aversion to these types of traditionally feminine grooming techniques should not deter anyone else from performing them. I respect women who can do all of these things (makeup is truly an art), but I can’t and would rather not do them. Is that what makes me intimidating? Or is it something else?
The problem rests on the denotation and connotation of “intimidating.” No one wants to be told that they, “frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants,” unless they’re some kind of megalomaniac. Its decidedly negative connotations make it more of an insult than a compliment, and synonyms don’t help the word either. So, why is it almost always ascribed to women, and why that word?
I asked my 21-year-old friend what he thought an intimidating woman was, and he said that an intimidating woman was “masculine”. She was against nature, in a sense. He did qualify this statement by saying he was speaking of Western society generally, and he thinks it is wrong that there’s an engrained notion in Western men that men should be in charge – but nevertheless, he said it. He said that women intimidate because they exude a type of masculinity. These women seem superior, he said. They have a strong aura of confidence, and that, in a way, makes them “scary” to him.
A quick search through the always reliable and never accurate Ask Men subreddit reveals that the “intimidating woman” trope has a lot to do with confidence and rejection. Men write off some women as being intimidating when they are too attractive, strong, analytical, or angry.
One user said that he was “terrified of girls” (especially “intimidating girls”) because he was “scared they will hate” him. To me, this sounded like miscommunication or an underestimation of people in general, but then I read this user’s answer: “At that age, to a lot of guys, a girl can be intimidating solely because she’s a girl, with nothing to do with looks or personality or any of that.” This answer alludes to a kind of polarisation of the genders – perhaps the reason why women stick with women friends, and vice versa.
There’s a discomforting disconnect between the two genders, and adding intimidation into the mix complicates matters more, causing some men to say, as this user put it, “there’s something [f***ing] wrong here and I’m gonna go find someone else.”Bottom of Form
We need to move away from the “intimidating woman” stereotype to embrace all types of women. If you think a woman has an abrasive personality, strong sense about her, or is too attractive for you, then don’t dismiss her by calling her “intimidating”. It’s the last thing she wants to hear.
And if you like her, then by all means look past whatever you find “intimidating” and tell her. You never know; she may like you too.