I Don't Have to be Nice

I Don't Have to be Nice

“Were all born to fight

but few are ever trained,

instead, they tell us

“Be nice.””

These words from Laurie Halse Anderson’s forthcoming sequel to Speak, stuck with me. Touching my heartstrings, this phrase summarizes my mission, my personal drive, and my reason for speaking out.

For those not familiar with Anderson’s work, Speak is a popular YA novel that chronicles the story of a teenage girl who was raped and is alone in figuring out how to process her trauma. I read the book when I was 14, as a summer reading assignment for my freshman honors English class. It struck a chord with me, although I didn’t exactly understand why at the time.

Now at 24, I got my hands on the forthcoming sequel to the novel, a memoir told in the prose of the writing between the lines, called Shout. Anderson revealed that Speak was not totally based in fiction, as she was sexually assaulted 25 years ago and wrote the book as a way to deal with her pain. The book is not only a personal manifesto of liberation, but a call to action to end the shame around assault.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and have used both writing and reading as a way to process through my own turmoil. When I had no one and nothing to turn to, I had books. When my cries for help were silenced, I could find clarity in between pages of love stories and sexology textbooks. Books allowed me to understand my emotions, gain clarity around my confusion, and liberate myself from the pain of not knowing why I felt so empty.

Speak was one of the books that allowed me to see myself, to learn that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. Someone else had written a character that were dealing with the same things I was, which meant they had to part of the human experience. Although I’ve read well over 2,000 books in these 10 years, Speak was one of the titles that stuck with me.

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I wasn’t surprised to learn that Anderson’s story was somewhat based in reality, because as a writer I can tell you that fiction is never fiction. It’s usually somewhat, if not entirely, based on experiences and emotions that the author has had. Nothing is made up, nothing falls from the sky. For it to be in your mind and on your pen, it has to come from something within. You cannot write well about an experience you have no connection to.

Reading Shout was like looking into a mirror. I saw myself in her prose and in her stories, in her empowered spirit and bold bravado. I understood her pain, because I have carried similar burdens. To read her actual truth was astonishing. It gave me hope, because I got to see first-hand how far our culture has come in 10 years, around sexual abuse.

10 years ago, you had to mask your story behind pseudonyms and fictitious stories of adolescent development. Now, you could put names to faces and unmask yourself and talk about your shame and pain in the first person. The idea that these issues should be hidden beneath a cloak of privacy is gone. We’ve gone from speaking to shouting.

“Were all born to fight

but few are ever trained,

instead, they tell us

“Be nice.””

Which brings me to these words.

Growing up, I was never an athlete, by desire or talent. I never cared about basketball or football, the way everyone around me seemed to. I never understood the point of these games played by grown adults, and consequently, didn’t pursue any athletics myself beyond grade school.

However, when I discovered mixed martial arts a few years ago, I suddenly had a change of heart. I understood the obsession, the need to watch every minute of a match, was engrossed in pre and post-fight analysis. A year and some change later, I started training myself. Sports suddenly made sense to me.

I feel confident that if I was in a bad situation now, I could figure out a way through. I would endure, I would push, I would fight back. I carry myself with this confidence in my daily life and am not afraid to be impolite or come across as rude if someone gives me a bad vibe or is trying to get into my personal space. I’m not ‘nice,’ as many girls are taught to be, as I once was, because my autonomy will not be up for debate by those who seek to exploit it. Nice is complacent, confident is assured.

In essence, my story has moved through on a path that can be summarized by the journey of Anderson, through Speak and Shout. I went from awakening to the realities of trauma to vocally acting against them; from speaking to shouting.

Female Fight Fans is a manifestation of my own ‘shouting,’ as I’m trying to bring this world and this idea of being your own badass to all women. You don’t have to be nice and you do have a voice. You just have to be willing to pick up the microphone.

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