Stop asking me to be sweet


Anyone who describes me as “sweet” has clearly never met me. 

I am a lot things—personable, punctual, passionate—but sweet is not one of them. 

It seems as though “sweet” has become a synonym for a good worker, for caring, or for acceptable. It seems that it has morphed into the definition of a good leader. “Sweetness” seems to be expected from women. 

If you’re not sweet, all of your other qualities seemingly disappear. If you’re not sweet, you don’t work well with others. If you’re not sweet, you aren’t being positive enough. 

If you’re not sweet, you lose the respect women already have to work seemingly twice as hard for just to gain. 

Michelle Obama is not sweet. 







Malala Yousafzai is not sweet. 







Elizabeth Cady Stanton was not sweet. 









History proves to us that sweetness is not, in fact, a virtue. You do not need to be sweet in order to be successful. Sweet has nothing to do with how smart you are; there is no real correlation between being sweet and being a good person. 

Being sweet is perfectly helpful in certain situations: meeting new people, asking for a favor, etc. What it is not, or should not be, however, is required. 

So often, these old-world ideas about how women should act are unknowingly carried over to new-world situations through families, the cyclical pattern of the education system, and the setup of workplace environments. All of these unavoidable factors are breeding grounds for the idea that only repressively agreeable women become noticed, respected, or successful. 

Expectations for boys and girls seem to be divided from the moment we enter the world, enforcing this standard of sweetness for girls. “Oh look, she’s so precious,” we coo at baby girls. We continue to feed them these undermining words for the rest of their lives, consistently reinforcing that they must be acceptable for others. Our praise towards our daughters is focused on how they serve these others: “You’re such a good helper,” “That’s my pretty girl; you’ll break hearts one day.” Whereas our focus when congratulating boys is centered around their seemingly self-sufficient qualities: “Wow, you’re so strong. You’re so smart.”

When a boy knows what he wants, is direct, and doesn’t take no for an answer, he is praised for his hardworking nature and receives rewards for not backing down, for not just pleasantly agreeing. 

When a woman does this, she is bossy, rude, and needs to be “put in her place.” 

It is with this mindset that we waste an entire group of great talent, intelligence, and ideas because we refuse to acknowledge our own predominant prejudice. When we continually enforce the notion that without sweetness, your contributions will be severely judged or even not valued at all. The results are bland leadership and a population of people who fill their speech with unneeded praise instead of facts, corrections, and, to put it blatantly, the truth.