Why Feisty is my favourite F word | Women's Agenda

Why Feisty is my favourite F word

I am a lover of the “F” word. Feminist. Fabulous. Fantastic. Feisty! Marina Go wrote this piece in Women’s Agenda recently that confirmed what many of us know:

  1. Being FEISTY is seen as a desirable leadership trait
  2. Being FEISTY is code for courageous, high spirited and independent
  3. Many women avoid being known as any of these!

I hadn’t given this issue much thought until recently. I was fortunate to grow up in the 1970’s as one of three sisters who had wonderful female role models: my Mum (an avowed feisty feminist); my Nana (just a groovy, feisty, funny woman); and my two Aunties (still feisty, still fabulous). Together they were the central points of our family gatherings for me. I do not recall ever having a thought that being feisty wasn’t what we females simply did! Oh the joy and bliss of ignorance and obliviousness.

However, society tells women in many ways, overtly and covertly, that being feisty is not OK. Marina Go talks about the appalling treatment dished out to Julia Gillard during her term(s) as Prime Minister which resulted in the misogyny speech, the most moving and motivating speech I had heard delivered in parliament in years. In it, Gillard talked about the insidious double standards that she, and other women, have to endure. It captures the sentiment of this blog and my work — to be bold, and be courageous. But if you’re a woman in corporate Australia, you must also be compliant, non-emotional and meet the behavioural expectations set by a largely middle-aged, white male leadership group.

I was fascinated to be the recipient of the “assertive woman” talk a little while ago (by one of the aforesaid middle aged white male brigade). Being told that my courage, convictions and drive to do the right thing was overly emotional was at the time incredibly challenging, but also at the same time, quite funny! (OK in retrospect it was funny) Here I was living the case studies outlined in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. I had the weird experience of recognising what was happening whilst it was happening. I now know that I was being “Mansplained” (fertile ground for another piece!) about how it was necessary for my career to be less courageous, less high-spirited and less independent. Less FEISTY!

Below’s a little more on what it means to be ‘mansplained’: 

“Don’t be feisty” conversations can often be a fork in the road moment for women. Fortunately for me, the choices I have made and continue to make are anchored in my purpose, passion and of course my values. At the time of my “Feisty” event, I was also in the midst of a university course run by another fabulous feisty woman (thanks Dr Christine Murphy) that reinforced just how fabulous and feisty I am and how critical it was to continue to be confident about the way I choose to live my life. Being FEISTY! The way I choose to manage my career. Being FEISTY! The feedback that I choose to take on board. (Yes you can choose!) The people I choose to surround myself with. Fellow FEISTY people!

Michelle Redfern founded her own business in 2015 to provide a safe, friendly environment to guide women who are, or aspire to live a life well lived. Whether you are a leader, entrepreneur, founder or business owner, Michelle and her team can be your trusted guides as you navigate the great journey of life and work.

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