A couple nights before I posted that Facebook status, a friend told me that a guy, whom I do not know and have barely interacted with, admitted that he finds me “scary,” citing my role as the editor in chief of Hoot Magazine, Columbia’s undergraduate-run fashion magazine.By now, I’ve been called “intimidating” many times.
“To the powerful women in my life—how do you feel when people, mostly men, call you intimidating or scary before getting to know you?
I'm caught between feeling flattered for the recognition of my ability (and that I know this person is not worth my time) and frustrated that women are met with opposition when expressing the same kind of grit and know-how a man might display.” I didn’t expect my hasty Facebook status on a Wednesday night to make much of an impact.
These interactions made me realize that I had never discussed this issue with other women and suspected that this comment thread likely provided the first forum for other women in my life to do the same.
I don’t remember being called “intimidating” before my first year at Barnard College.
I briefly considered whether this could explain the short-lived nature of my NSOP friendships, or why my roommate and I weren’t close, or why I found it difficult to click with a lot of other people in my year.
Ultimately, I shrugged it off, laughing along with her about how much we both changed since arriving at Barnard. It made me wonder if I should change my behavior, and if other classmates felt the same way.Instead, the next time you find yourself intimidated by a woman, stop to consider why.Maybe it’s the way she carries herself, or something she has achieved.While I have recognized this issue as something that stems from a certain expectation of women, I have never, in my conversations with friends, mentors, my mom, professors, talked about how to respond when someone labels me, or anyone else, this way.To those who are skeptical of the label’s harm, consider that calling someone intimidating places blame on that person for your feelings.More than anything, it made me feel as if, to others, any empathy and awareness I have is superseded by my intensity.