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“Cute bitchy, but not “bitchy” bitchy.” – The Diplomat. S1 Ep 3.

There I was one evening where I often can be found, on the couch sitting next to my honey after he has cooked a great meal and I have thoroughly cleaned the kitchen. It was around 8pm when we usually figured out which of “our shows” to watch. That of course was followed by at least five minutes of trying to remember which streaming service it’s on. “Honey, it’s on Netflix, or maybe Prime.” “No, I think it’s on Hulu or Apple.” Uggh.

Soon our minds left the hot topics of the business day and matters around the house, and we were transported to the UK, rooting for Kate Wyler, (played by Keri Russell) the new U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom in the Netflix show, The Diplomat. It was only episode three and I was all in. Exactly like I was with Madame Secretary, another strong, smart female lead political show.

34 minutes in, our heroine, Kate is in conversation with the White House Chief of Staff and the person who is the right-hand to our U.S. ambassador in London. They are trying to convince Kate that she would make a compelling Vice President.

Then I hear this dialog in the show and say to John, “Wait. Pause it! Back it up. I have to hear that again.” And I listen again:

I mean, it’s bad for the guys, but for the women? F-me. Is she pretty, but not too pretty? Appealing but not hot? Confident but not bitchy? Decisive but not bitchy? Cute bitchy, but not bitchybitchy?

We had to come to an agreement about how many days a week the VP would wear a thong. She doesn’t like them. Her team doesn’t like panty lines. Weeks of my life were spent on this. And then an agreement. Yes, she will wear ass floss but only two days out of seven, and days cannot be banked week to week.

Can you imagine hiring someone for a key governing position just because you think they would be good at it?

I jumped off the couch saying, “Wow! Yes. Yep. Oh my god. That’s it, right there!”

And that is it. That’s the world I have lived in for a long time. I had never heard it put to language so well. So clear. So spot-on. The best and worst part is that I’m really good at living in this world. I’ve been honing it and mastering it since I was a teenager. I never considered there was any other way. But then I heard it put into words and I see it written on this page and I think to myself, “Something about this is so sad.”

I’ll stop this chapter here. I’ll let you sit with that. I’ve returned to this piece many times, considering where I want to go next with it. There are too many options, so there are likely more chapters to come.

Ever since watching that scene on TV, I’ve been thinking on this, and many small snippets of my past have popped up. Snippets that helped shape me as a professional, successful woman business owner today, and will lead to the next chapters to share with you:

  • How my mom was as a professional woman I watched as I grew up. I watched her get ready and go to work every day and climb the ladder.
  • What my dad had to say about “looks” and how someone should “look”.
  • My experiences of belonging or not belonging in the crucial teenage years and how I mitigated that.
  • The experience in my 20’s when I realized that one’s “looks” could be used to make a difference. That extra minute or two you are given could be used for good.
  • The brain science around who and what we find visually appealing.
  • A very short, very memorable conversation with a beautiful mother, raising a stunningly beautiful daughter who was a model, and what she had to say about raising her.

Meanwhile, enjoy this article that was also part of the inspiration for me to begin to write about this.

Side note: Around the time I finished writing this, the ‘Barbie’ movie came out. Some of you may enjoy reading America Ferrera’s monologue that came right before the final scene. (Spoiler alert.)

-Gina Cotner