HOW SOCIAL COUNTERREVOLUTIONS BEGIN: ‘No’ Is a Woman’s Most Powerful Word.
Whether or not “no means no” might have been adequate to prevent the problems of date rapes behind the sock hop, it was not adequate to all the difficulties we faced. My generation drank more than our mothers had, so that women were more frequently incapable of saying no, or much of anything else. There were no parietal rules to keep us out of each other’s rooms, or force us to come home at an early hour. Nor could we fall back on “nice girls don’t”; we had to refuse this specific man each time, not on the grounds that some external force was stopping us, but because we simply didn’t want to have sex with him. That’s an uncomfortable conversation, and modern though we may be, most of us still hated uncomfortable conversations, especially if we’d had a few and just wanted to go to sleep.
I’m not calling for a return to single-sex dorms, curfew rules, and the presumption that “nice girls don’t.” I’m just pointing out that these things gave our mothers an easy way to say “no” that didn’t have to be explained or defended, and wouldn’t be taken as a specific rejection of this person right in front of you. We were chanting a slogan designed for a world that no longer existed. In the world where we lived, it required an assertiveness and a confident self-knowledge that a lot of 19-year-old girls found hard to muster. It required actions we weren’t always willing to take, like loudly saying “no,” and leaving if he persisted. In other words, it left us vulnerable, though not in the same way that our mothers had been. . . .
It is not the word “no” that women are struggling with; it is the concept of utter refusal. That is what has to change, not the words to describe it. It is perhaps unfair that this burden should be placed on women, especially when we are socialized to be accommodating and “nice” (especially to men). Unfortunately, no one else can bear the burden of deciding who we want to have sex with, and then articulating it forcefully.
Nor should feminists be eager to help women avoid the burden of deciding, and then stating their opinion in the strongest possible terms. “No” and “I don’t want to” are great tools for women to master. For centuries, society protected nice middle-class women from having to use them by deciding what we wanted, and punishing anyone who wanted anything else. Now that those rules are gone, some feminists are essentially advocating handing the burden of deciding what we want over to … men, who are supposed to guess whether we are offering “affirmative consent,” and be punished if they guess wrong.
We’ve reached the point that yes doesn’t even mean yes. Meanwhile, as Don Surber notes, under modern feminism even women bosses in the workplace want men to spare them the pain of definite statements.
The point of her piece was that men have to understand the rules of women in the workplace, and not that women have to understand the rules of business. She uses a wifely logic:
I’ve been at countless meetings at various news organizations where a male editor, suggesting a story idea, loudly declares something like: “We need a piece on the drop in gas prices!” A woman, making the same point, might ask hesitantly: “Has anyone noticed that gas prices are falling? Do we know why?”
Both are saying exactly the same thing: Get me the damn story on gas prices, and get it now.
It’s the old if-you-really-love-me-you’d-know-what-I-mean routine.
But actually they are not saying the same thing. One is giving an order (“We need a piece on the drop in gas prices!”), the other is asking pointless questions (“Has anyone noticed that gas prices are falling? Do we know why?”). The problem is the second speaker is not saying what she means, which means she is a poor communicator, which makes her a bad boss. The whole piece is that kind of passive-aggressive nonsense.
This is what a feminist looks like, at the end of 2014. Women used to be made of sterner stuff. No wonder so few women self-identify as feminist now.