Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Why we all need to let our masks slip: Lucy Mangan on the pressure to make nice


As a habitual non-expresser of emotion – both by temperament and early training by northern parents who cleave firmly even now to the belief that any feeling (including hunger and needing the loo more than once every 12 hours) is weakness – I rejoiced in Gifty Louise’s reaction to being unexpectedly booted off The X Factor. She was monumentally pissed off, as she had every right to be, to lose out to novelty act (to give it its best-case-scenario name) Honey G and every line of her face expressed said monumental pissed-offedness. It was glorious.

Many people, however, disagreed. Loudly. They took to Twitter to tell her that she was a “sore loser”, had “a face like a slapped arse”, should improve her “bad attitude” and “be grateful you got that far”. She was advised to “Get over it love. There’s a lot worse things happening in the world.”

Gifty followed up her face with an equally eloquent tweet of her own. “Not going to pretend I’m happy and smile for the beneficial [sic] of others,” she wrote. “I worked my ass off and I was gutted. I’m allowed to be.”

The second wave of tweets that broke after that made it clear that, actually, she wasn’t allowed to be gutted. Or so many – many, many, many – apparently believe, and often with an unpleasantly racist twist to their opinions.

Over on GBBO, winner Candice’s reaction was generally judged to have been too happy. Too much. Bit vulgar, you know? And of course over the other side of the pond, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been walking a tightrope for months, if not years – a naturally reserved person trying to be warm and “womanly” enough to please the voters without tipping over into outright, obvious fakery. The only possible good thing about a Trump win will be the sudden end to this need to fit her square peg self into the round hole designated for her by asswipes.

It is clear, then, that it is not at all the done thing for us ladies to be too expressive either way. A studied but pleasant neutrality, I guess, is what we’re aiming for. Something that will keep everyone happy and not disturb the equilibrium.

It’s yet another manifestation, in other words, of the pressure on women to make nice. It’s only when a face and tweets like Gifty’s fleetingly occurs that I realise the omnipresence of the mask we all wear. I reckon I spend at least 70% of my interactions per day behind that mask – pretending an interest in others’ pets, cajoling people into doing jobs that I have paid them to do, patting down feathers ruffled by others or that I am worried I inadvertently ruffled myself (at any point up to about three years ago). Of the remaining 30%, 25% of my interactions are too mundane to require anything (getting my five-year-old to clean his teeth, for example) and I am me only for the remaining 5% of them. My poor husband bears the brunt of that, because by that point the last 5% of me is f**king furious. With myself, mainly, for being such a people-pleasing twunt.

It is hard to change the world, but changing yourself is easier – you only have to make yourself listen to you, for a start. So from now on I shall be channelling a touch of Gifty Louise wherever I go. Which will be down the bunker if Trump wins, obviously. Where I will be expressing some very, very strong emotions indeed.


you and your dog.jpg

A Great British Bake Off-inspired dog show is coming to the BBC


Male contraceptive trial highlights a disturbing double standard

office stunt creativity.jpg

Revealed: the jobs that are most often linked to depression


The best A-list Instagrams from the weekend

From Lupita Nyong’o’s chilled afternoon to Serena Williams’ girls’ night out

by Nicola Colyer
21 Aug 2017

UKIP candidate suggests paying British Indians to leave the UK

And Twitter responds perfectly

by Moya Crockett
21 Aug 2017

Elisabeth Moss denies that Scientology is anything like Gilead

The Handmaid’s Tale star discusses the parallels between her show and her faith.

by Moya Crockett
21 Aug 2017

JK Rowling spots mansplainer in the wild, and deals with him perfectly

The Harry Potter author won’t let any woman’s confidence be knocked by mansplaining

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Aug 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Nicki Minaj’s vintage look to a Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants reunion

by Nicola Colyer
18 Aug 2017

Chris Brown tried to excuse his attack on Rihanna, and it’s not OK

“Violence is a choice he made – and he alone is responsible for it”

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Aug 2017

Serena Williams on how skin colour affects what people think of her

“I feel like people think I’m mean”

by Amy Swales
17 Aug 2017

This Hocus Pocus star’s pregnancy announcement is pure 90s perfection

“I smell children…”

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Aug 2017

Anna Faris on knowing when to call time on an unhappy relationship

“Don’t be afraid to seek your independence”

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Aug 2017

Why Taylor Swift’s sexual assault verdict is a victory for womankind

The pop star has completely changed the narrative

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Aug 2017