Read a Girl's Guide to Not Behaving

In this excerpt from Dear Rebel, a woman shares her experience with standing up for herself. 

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While gender equality has come a long way, there are still some deep engrained expectations we have for girls that differ from the ones we expect of boys. Often, there's less room for girls to be boisterous or loud. Instead, girls are raised to be polite, pleasant and accommodating. This doesn't seem like such a bad thing—until that girl becomes a woman who hesitates to stand up for herself.

One woman who understands this very well is Catt Sadler, who contributed her story to Dear Rebel, a collection of essays, poems, self-portraits and more, all directed at young girls who will one day make their mark on the world. Below, read about how Catt Sadler decided to stand up for herself—and women around the world.




Dear Rebel

By Rebel Girls

A Guide to Not Behaving 

I know most of us have been brought up to “behave well,” right? Traditionally, that has meant being polite, thinking of others, being grateful for what we have, and carrying ourselves in a way that is pleasant and “nice.” When I was your age, that was me. I prided myself on having good grades, being liked by everyone, and always doing the right thing in the eyes of my peers and elders.

From the time I can remember, I was also asking questions of those around me. Whether it was with a hairbrush in the bathroom mirror or a fork at the dinner table, I would pretend I had a microphone in my hand and ask people to share their stories with me. I was from a small town, which made me curious about the world and all the different people in it. My curiosity always led me to investigate things. I loved it! Later, I went to college and eventually decided to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. I would faithfully watch my heroes, TV journalists like Oprah Winfrey and Katie Couric, do the job so bravely and effortlessly—I wanted to follow in their paths.

You can imagine my excitement when I secured my first job in TV reporting. After years of dedication and hard work, I made my way to Hollywood and became a host on a network that was seen all over the world! My experience served me well, and I was on TV every day with the best of the best! My dreams had come true!

People always tell you to dream big, but what happens when the reality is even better than you dreamed it would be? Well, that was my life. My career took me all over the planet. I covered a royal wedding in London, interviewed the best athletes in the world at the Olympics, reported from the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in France, and talked with A-list celebrities at movie premieres in Brazil, New York, Toronto, and beyond. All of this while having a stylist provide me with the most beautiful clothes, plus talented hair and makeup artists who made me feel extremely beautiful every single day! But the work itself— and the research, preparation, knowledge, and instinct it required—also contributed to my confidence. I grew confident in myself and my work—work that I loved immensely.

After more than 10 years at this job, my self-worth grew, and my experience spoke for itself. Until, well, it didn’t.

On set, in the studio, I worked alongside a man who did the same job as me. In fact, we started the exact same year and often cohosted red carpet shows and presented the daily news together. He was very talented, and he was my friend.

One day, one of our bosses told me something in secret that would change my life forever. She called a meeting with me to tell me that I was “severely underpaid.” Naturally, I was concerned. So I did some research, something I was accustomed to doing. Eventually, I came to learn that she was telling the truth. My male counterpart was making more than double my salary for doing the exact same work! As you can imagine, this made me very sad, disappointed, and even embarrassed.

I knew of other strong, bold women who spoke out about equality like Gloria Steinem, Oprah Winfrey, and Jennifer Lawrence, and so I felt emboldened to do the same. After 12 years at the company, I asked my employer to pay me what I deserved—in the ballpark of “equal” to the man I worked with. But they said no.

I had a decision to make. Would I stay at the job I loved and be undervalued for my work? Or would I walk away and stand up for women’s rights publicly?

The first option felt like what I was always told to do. Behave. Don’t rock the boat. Be grateful for the job hundreds of thousands of women would die to have!

The second option felt right in my soul. I kept coming back to the idea that I had to use my voice. That truth is the most important virtue. That if I spoke out on this issue, maybe, just maybe, I could be a part of a much-needed change across all industries. Women everywhere, in all jobs, were being paid far less than their male counterparts, and this was not acceptable. I felt compelled to help change the system.

Was I scared? Very.

Did I know what would happen if I left my job and spoke out publicly about my experience? No. There was no safety net. But then one of my dear friends asked me: “Do you bet on yourself?” And the truth is, I did. I do. I knew that all those years of hard work and dedication shaped me into an incredible journalist who would land on her feet and who could carve her own path. And that’s exactly what I did.

You know what they say about behaving, right? Well-behaved women rarely make history. I’ve been able to share my own story with women and girls around the world. I’ve heard countless stories from women who told me I inspired them to ask for a raise or use their voice to get a promotion or even leave their job for a better one to get what they deserved!

Imagine if I had stayed quiet? I wouldn’t have the chance to share my story here with you. I might not have my own production company or host my own podcast like I do today. Times are changing, and we are making progress. Girls, remember, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and ask for what you know you’re worth! I promise you, it’s always the right thing to do.

catt sadler dear rebel

Catt Sadler is an American entertainment journalist. Previously a reporter for E! News, she now hosts the podcast It Sure Is a Beautiful Day.

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Dear Rebel

Dear Rebel

By Rebel Girls