Verity Johnson: Are you an 'intimidating woman'? You're doing it right

OPINION: When you have the initials VJ you can guarantee a lot of your nicknames will be explicit. Thanks Mum and Dad.

To date I've had BJ, vagina, vajazzle and va-jay- jay. Being named after Oprah's lady parts isn't exactly flattering, although I have grown to love va-jay- jay's subversive sparkle. But in terms of the other names that I get, the sex ones really aren't that bad.

The names that I really hate are: stuck up, ice bitch and intimidating.

Now I can kind of understand the first two. My bitchy resting face makes Judith Collins look like a Care Bear. But the one that really riles me up is 'intimidating'. I've always had it, ever since my early days as a pigtailed know-it-all in junior school.

It never bothered me until I was the only girl without a date to the first school prom in year 8. When I asked around as to why I was about as desirable as a four day old milkshake, I was told I was too intimidating.

And it certainly wasn't the last time I heard it. I've had a lot of dating dry spells, and have always been told it's because I'm intimidating. Even in normal non-dating contexts I often get told that. It's something people will just say to me, like I've got food on my face or my fly is undone.

A study came out today saying that creativity in women did not boost their attractiveness to men, but in fact damaged it. Looks were still the most important criteria when it came to a woman's attractiveness.

Now it sounds to me like the men in the study found creative, smart women intimidating and hence less attractive. Now that sounds familiar…

Yet again, here is the idea that witty women are intimidating. When we say this, we imply that being "intimidating" is about as socially acceptable as having leprosy and rubbing yourself randomly on strangers.

But being intimidating is not a bad thing. Not in this context. Now the word itself means someone or something who scares people. But there's a difference between an Alpha Female who tries to terrorise people, and a smart woman who unintentionally make other people feel insecure.

When we call a creative woman intimidating, it's not because she's trying to be a bitch. It's because she's doing amazing things that make us doubt our own success.

So there is no reason why we should be ashamed of being called intimidating.

You're probably just being funny. Or smart. Or quick. You're solving complicated problems. You're drawing hilarity from the mundanity of existence. Or maybe you're figuring out how to use the toaster in the office without setting off the fire alarm. In short, you're being awesome.

So let's be proud of being called intimidating. Let's celebrate it! Let's make party hats and dance around in Speedos singing, "I'm intimidating and I know it!" to Red Foo.

Winston Churchill had it right when he said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something in your life."

The equivalent would be: "So people think you're intimidating? Good. It means you're kicking arse while forcing them to reflect on their own internal failings. You're like Beyoncé crossed with Freud."

And yes, it might make some men insecure. But that's not your problem. That's their problem.

So instead of saying to women, "be less intimidating", let's say to men, "get over your own insecurity."

Creative, wise women are going to do amazing things for the world, and probably going to make your life a whollllle lot more interesting. Unless you have a particular craving for a life of painfully silent dinner dates.

Verity Johnson is a Newshub reporter and columnist.

 

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