I once had a boyfriend tell me, "You aren't the kind of girl to take home to mom. You're not a nice girl." He hastily assured me that it was "a good thing!" but I was pretty offended. I remember thinking, "What the hell does that mean? I'm a nice person! I don't wanna meet your mom anyways, Rick, I've seen the racist shit she posts on your Facebook wall."
In retrospect, he kinda had a point.
I'm not a nice girl. I'm not raising my daughter to be a nice girl. And the people I keep in my circle, the friends I know I can come to with any problem, big or small--they aren't nice girls. That doesn't mean they aren't good people, it just means that they aren't agreeable. Pleasant. Satisfactory. Fine, or subtle. Those are, after all, the definitions of "nice." When Rick told me I wasn't a "nice girl," he wasn't wrong. I'm a lot of things--but nice isn't one of them.
"Nice" is someone who doesn't rock the boat. A nice girl won't speak up when something is wrong, because that isn't being agreeable. A nice girl won't set boundaries, because that isn't pleasant. Nice girls don't try to change the world--because they're satisfied with the status quo. Things are fine, why aim for better than fine?
If no one ever calls my daughter "a nice girl," I'll be able to die happy. I hope the people who know her best call her a compassionate girl. An assertive girl. A fearless girl. I hope I can teach her to be kind to all without excusing the mistreatment of the few. I hope she isn't afraid to dissent when she feels it's the right thing to do. I hope she isn't afraid of being disliked by some for being true to who she is. I hope her goal in life is never to be "fine" or "agreeable" or "satisfactory."
If you're like me, you were probably raised to be nice. Most women my age were. So were our mothers, and theirs. You were raised to share, which means "give away whatever you have to anyone who wants it." You were raised to think "no" was a dirty word. You were taught that pleasing others, even at the expense of your own happiness, was the right thing to do. The nice thing to do. You probably put the needs of everyone else above yourself, because it's something that's been instilled in you from an early age. You want to be nice, after all.
The most important thing I want to instill in my daughter is a sense that she, as a person, has worth. Her voice matters, and she should use it, even when people deem it "not nice." That seems to be the easiest way to earn a Nice Girl badge; pretend you have no thoughts and feelings of your own, and allow others to make the rules. Girls and women are rewarded when they stay quiet, nod agreeably, and let someone else decide what's right and what isn't. I hope I can raise my daughter well enough to know the difference between right and wrong, and trust herself to make that distinction and stand up for it when it matters.
I'm a woman's photographer. I'm not a photographer for nice girls. My clients, and my tribe, are women who stand tall and don't give a fuck about being nice, because they know "nice" isn't synonymous with "kind" or "ethical" or anything else they're interested in being. They're brave enough to use their voices, and to value themselves even when others say they have no worth. They don't allow society to withhold the label of "nice girl," because they reject it fully. They're loud, they do things their way, and they don't need the approval of anyone except the voice inside themselves that guides their moral compass.
Be courageous. Be bold. Be kind. Be assertive. Be unapologetic about being who you are.
But for the love of all things, don't worry about being nice.