Sunday, January 24, 2010

Who You Callin' Feisty?

This week we are addressing the question posed last week by Maggie May

Are American women feistier than their British cousins?


First of all, in the interest of decent debating, we should define “feisty". The American Heritage dictionary has touchy, quarrelsome, spirited and frisky; while gives full of animation, energy or courage; spirited; spunky; plucky, as well as ill-tempered, pugnacious, troublesome, and difficult. Interestingly, the Cambridge Online dictionary has the most favo(u)rable meaning with “active, forceful and full of determination”. Over here in the States I’d say it’s definitely a positive attribute to which many American women aspire.

Hmmm. In my experience, American women definitely think of themselves as being very feisty, able to stand up for themselves and generally “spunky”, but having been brought up as one of their British counterparts, I have to say I see myself in a similar vein. I’m not sure where the idea comes from the British women are in the least bit meek or mild. In fact, I would go so far as to say that British women hold back far less than my American friends. I have a great group of English girlfriends who come to the States for a long weekend every year. They often stay with me, and my American friends think they are almost shocking in their openness and willingness to “go there” in conversations. However, a quick Internet search on “Feisty American women” brings up a slew of articles and blogs in which American women call themselves “feisty”.

So personally, no, I don’t think American women are feistier, it’s just that “feisty” is the word of choice in the States. I’m trying to think of the British equivalent?


Like Toni said, a lot of it comes down to what you mean by "feisty." I tend to think of it as straightforward, not taking any guff and not the more disparaging connotations of the word. So when I call someone feisty, it is a compliment, not a criticism.

That said, I have to agree with Toni here, too. While I can point to any number of American women who fit the "feisty" bill, I have to admit that they are edged out by the women I have met here in Britain. They seem less willing to suffer fools and are quick to let you know where you stand with them.

So on the scale of feistiness, American women are feisty, but British women are just that bit more so.

Your mileage may vary.

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  1. aah - we Brits are by far the feisty-est. We prefer the term plucky I think. Although that rather brings hens to mind - but the little beasts are rather obstropulent, so no matter.

    My American friends seem rather more polite then we Brits - as in, not quite so 'pushy' when push comes to shove.
    Love this blog! :o)

  2. I think there are feisty women in equal quantities on both sides of the pond. But Americans can be more into saying what they think to people they don't know well. So maybe people have the impression they are feistier, because they don't have that British reserve (which goes out the window once you are with good friends...)?

  3. Hmmm, well I'm a stroppy cow when I want to be, but I'm a pushover when it comes to my friends wanting help with stuff, and I have a fair dose of British reticence, as long as I'm not pushed too far, in which case watch out!

    I say what I think to those who know me well, and also online as hey, who cares if people don't like it, but I'm quieter and less pushy in most of life.

    My friends vary hugely, from very feisty to hardly at all, so a total mix really.

    So, in conclusion... er, I dunno!

  4. Yes, I have to agree with Nappy Valley Girl. American women will say more things to random people at random times, and will be unafraid to bitch at a perfect stranger who is causing them trouble.
    It also depends where you're from in America...I would say in Baltimore, we are WAY more feisty than any British woman I have ever met. And New Jersey girls? Don't even go there. Brooklyn women? Feisty women. Plus, I'm Cuban American, so I would say the large growing hispanic-American population definitely wins this contest.

    If you're talking all-white upper class Southern women or California girls versus any British woman, than the British woman would more than likely win the feisty competition.

  5. Oh my........ I see I started something with a remark I left.
    I tend to think of the word *feisty* means to be plucky and able to stick up for yourself and not be *walked all over* as we say here.
    Seems we (Brits) are well able to defend ourselves compared with our American cousins then! That is good to know!

    Nuts in May

  6. I think 'feistiness' is a female condition rather than cultural. Its just the name that changes--British women are plucky or lively, where American women are feisty or spunky.

  7. Garsh, I was going to say American women, definitely, but now you've made me reconsider. Let's just say where I live women are not afraid to speak their minds and to a perfect stranger as well. I've had my share of confrontations, one of them in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Sometimes I have no problem letting a stranger know when they are doing something wrong or unfair. In this case it was something dangerous. I agree with the other commenters who said it may depend on what region you are from. Southern women are much more polite.

  8. Ah southern women - they don't call them "Steel Magnolias" for nothing. They may not say something to your face but they can be very passive aggressive in getting what they want and generally making their feelings known.

    And yes, I wasn't saying that either race of women was the more feisty, it's just not a word that's used in the UK much.

    And as for women talking to complete strangers about absolutely anything - you lot haven't spent much time in the north east of England it seems. You can't even wait for a bus without hearing someone's life story!

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  10. I don't know about feisty, but can you please stop talking about spunky women?

  11. What about the word 'sassy'? That's one I hear a lot.

    Or 'assertive'?

    I certainly feel more able to say what I want in a situation here than in the UK. I don't seem to get caught up in so many of those conversations which go along the lines of:

    "whatever you want, it's fine with me"

    "no, YOU say what works for you, I can be flexible"

    "honestly, it doesn't matter to me, YOU decide".

    I find it refreshing to be able to say "this works for me, does it work for you?" without it seeming pushy. Is that feisty?

  12. I'm with Nappy Valley Girl, the Americans are far more likely to say what they mean with people they don't know so well, whereas the Brits won't. I alwasy think that the Americans are more fiesty myself..

  13. hhhmmm...being a Southern American gal, I would say we reserve our sass for when it is most needed. Until I spent two weeks with some friends of my husbands in Scotland, I had no idea that I could be told off in so many ways or that screaming and calling names was a way to communicate. Wow. We just didn't do that in our household although my mom could put a person in their place and never even break a sweat!


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