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How to Stand Up for Yourself When It's Hard

How to Stand Up for Yourself When It's Hard


I’m working on a class project with a group of three guys (I’m the only girl, which is a pretty accurate representation of the finance program at my university). There’s one guy in the group who’s been snarky and rude to me since the very first day. And while I’ve realized that his lack of decorum is available for anyone, I don’t want to deal with it anymore.

When this guy is being rude to me, before I get a chance to fend for myself, another guy in the group jumps in and tells the first what I “meant.” I know he means well, but I’m an adult. I know what I meant, and I can relay it on my own. How do I deal with these guys in a respectful and assertive way?


The bright side—even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, there is one—is that you’ll be encountering dudes like this for the rest of your life. So if you learn to deal now, you’ll be a pro at it in no time. And the sad reality is, you will need to be a pro at it, especially if you’re interested in finance (or science, or publishing, or pretty much any male dominated industry out there...which is most of them).

Learning to stand up for yourself is a life skill that’s not taught in school, though it definitely should be! It’s something that we all have to figure out for ourselves, and this is the perfect opportunity to practice it.

Another thing: This issue is often tied up in another problem that girls and women have to deal with: the 24/7 pressure to be “nice.” Sure, everyone wants to be liked—and kindness is crucial!—but this places us in a near-impossible situation. If you're too “nice,” then you're a pushover. But if you're actually speaking your mind and standing up for yourself, then you're a b*tch. Ugh. It’s a conundrum that women everywhere have struggled with—just ask Hillary Clinton. And while situations like yours can feel like a lose-lose, there are ways to assert yourself respectfully (even amidst all these annoying stereotypes).

As Clover reader Zophia suggested, you could start by approaching the guy who’s trying to stick up for you first. “I'd suggest pulling him aside and thanking him for standing up for you, then ask him if in the future he could simply help direct the attention back to you instead of speaking for you.” After all, his heart is in the right place; he’s just going about it the wrong way.

Having someone to back you up—even a guy—is one of the go-to strategies in Feminist Fight Club, aka Jessica Bennett’s (super-handy) guide to sexism. Finding an ally won’t only mean more support, but it’ll likely be more effective in stopping the rude guy’s behavior in the future.

Then, the next time this snarky dude says something mean, you can speak first. Take a deep breath and tell him that what he’s doing isn’t cool. Relay how you feel without worrying about the other guy mansplaining it for you. The most important thing is to stay calm and convey your thoughts clearly. You have the floor, *and* you’ve got someone backing you up. It might not magically solve the problem instantly, but this strategy will show this guy that you’re prepared to deal with him (respectfully!). And, it’ll give you the confidence to know that you can speak up the next time something like this inevitably happens.

We’ll end on one last piece of advice: Group projects are the absolute worst, but studies show that working with others can actually improve your grades in the long run. Hang in there.

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