No Means No

I wrote a post in 2012 called, Saying No Can Be Difficult as a Woman, and to date it is in my top 5 list for most popular post.  I received quite a few messages from woman, identifying with my thought process and sharing stories of their own.  It was both encouraging to have dialogue and incredibly depressing that so many have felt this social constraint when it comes to saying no.  We as a gender feel conflicted in many cases, feeling that it is rude or aggressive or just plain not feminine to say no.  As I mentioned woman are socialized to please, to be peacekeepers and to find passive ways to solve issues rather than use the simplicity of no.  And to have it heard, understood and instantly accepted.

As a result, we do not use no effectively.  As controversial as this will sound, when men hear woman say no, often they think we are playing, being coy, or that we just don’t truly mean it.  Why? Because we do not use the word with conviction.  We are not used to saying no flat out, so when we do, it is with apprehension, nervousness, or even a touch of ambiguity.  Woman do not practice saying no in the same manor that men do.  Our body language does not always match the words coming out of our mouths.  We do not say no with confidence, we say it with the subtle or emotional mannerisms and  language that we use in our normal social interactions.

I need to be very clear here.  Just because woman are not socialized to use no, or use it without assertion does not mean that men should ever ignore us when we use it.  And there are massive campaigns out there right now, emphasizing that No Means No.  And this is necessary and correct and positive!  Each individual should know without a doubt the meaning of No and Stop.

However, woman, we need to do better.  We need to raise our children to practice the word no, regardless of gender.  We need to emphasize to our teenagers that when you use no, you mean it.  In a perfect world it would effective on its own, but we do not live in perfection.  So we need to incorporate a firm body language, stoic stance, remove playfulness from our voice and say no whenever we need or want to.  And then have it heard, clearly the first time, every time.

I have written before about the way we are trained to be coy.  And to that end I have worked hard to rise above my old wishy washy way of subtly saying no, and to start to say no the moment I am uncomfortable and to educate, report and block people who cross lines or ignore my use of the word.  If we all work together we can bring back the meaning of no.  By understanding how we educate our children, reinforce these behaviors in our teens, and finally take full and complete ownership of the word as adults we will make this a better place.  End rant.

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