So wrote Philippa Perry (@Philippa_Perry) in an exchange on twitter in response to an opportunistic approach I’d made to her. The advance billing for an event she, and others, were appearing at that evening had described them as ‘exciting speakers’. On the spur of the moment, I tweeted back to ask whether these ‘exciting, feisty women would like a review copy of Bolder and Wiser?’ I included a link to my website where they could read the introduction.
I enjoy Philippa Perry’s lively and outspoken tweets. Whilst I am not very familiar with her other work, I do regard her as one of many women to watch in terms of having a public voice throughout mid-life and beyond. She is far from an invisible woman. I considered my approach to be a long-shot, but, as I prepare to launch my book, I would love some established women in fields not too dissimilar to mine to champion it in some way.
I didn’t expect a reply at all, so I was rather stung when her instant response was that my use of the word ‘feisty’ put her off looking at the book at all. It got me thinking.
Yes, I agree that it is usually applied to women. And yes, as a writer, I agreed with her later point in the exchange that using adjectives at all to describe people can be problematic. Adjectives don’t allow the reader to make up their own mind, and tend to violate the golden rule for writers to ‘show, not tell’. It remains to be seen whether readers think I’ve handled this well or not in Bolder and Wiser. I accept that adjectives in the title might not be a good start for some.
But the fact that my inadvertent use of ‘feisty’ riled her enough to fire off a reply was food for thought.
Is there an equivalent for men? One adjective (with a very different meaning) that has occurred to me is ‘affable’. This is a word I usually associate with men and it certainly sounds like a pet. A labrador, perhaps.
I like the qualities that both feisty and affable imply. I see them both as positive, and am curious about why they have become gender specific. I would be happy for either to be applied to me.
It’s probably dangerous to generalise, but I can’t help wondering whether perhaps women are quicker to take offence in these types of situations. This can lead to attack. I know I’ve done that at times. Philippa Perry apologised for doing so in our brief encounter, which I appreciated, but the episode has left me wary of reaching out to women I hope might support what I have written.
Hanging back, however, seems to go against the very essence of what I wish to achieve with Bolder and Wiser. I hope that, by sharing my reactions to the conversations I had with twenty women over sixty, it will help women in mid-life to strengthen their confidence to truly be themselves, and to find their voice in the world as they get older.
I think we can only do that if we are tolerant towards each other, even if we do sometimes stumble upon each other’s pet hates—however justified they may be. Dare I say it—perhaps we need to mix a dose of affability with our feistiness?!
*heads for cover*
What do you think? Do you associate the word feisty with women? Why?