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August 27

Dare I Say No?

By Ella Miista
Every woman is familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of being approached by some douche that can’t take no for an answer. This morning an image was making rounds on Facebook. A woman was assaulted at carnival after she had the audacity to tell someone off when he invited himself to touching her bum. I stand by what I said – it’s about celebrations. “Carnival is supposed to be about community and good vibes,” the woman herself wrote on the post. But, at an event that big, it’s unfortunately a numbers game. Someone awful might show up and ruin the day for everyone. In her case, it was definitely ruined as she spent nine hours at the A&E after the man punched her in the face. She’s since made her Facebook private so out of respect to her privacy I’m not posting the photo of her bruised face. A simple Google of “black eye” should give the idea. She also wrote:
“The saddest thing about this for me was discussing with my friends afterwards whether in future it’s best not to do anything at all. Maybe it’d be safer to just ignore it when someone invades your space and body. But I can honestly say I will always stand up to someone who thinks they can get away with this behaviour and I’d take a punch again from this loser or any other loser who thinks it’s OK to treat women like this.”
It really isn't. Of course this case was quite extreme. It’s awful to say the least. Not being able to take no for an answer is never OK – this even if they don’t end in rape or assault. Sometimes they end with crushed egos, sometimes with insults. “See you in another life, fatty,” was an exceptionally charming way for an overly eager guy to depart from me after I made it clear I’m not interested. All of us at the Miista studio had a laugh and my best friend has a new nickname for me. I found it amusing but only because he made it clear after a month of trying to get into my knickers that I’m actually disgusting. Really, you’re only offending yourself – I already know what I look like. What I don’t find amusing is the idea of entitlement. I’d like to think it’s common sense rather than low self-esteem but when someone rejects me, openly or not, I don’t push it further. Of course I’d rather not be rejected again and again, but if someone’s made it clear they’re not interested there’s probably not much I can do to change their mind anyway. Why be a fool then? This mindset however doesn’t seem to extend to all the people one might meet at festivals or concerts, bars or clubs, or even on the street late Friday night. Cat calling is one thing. I once had a homeless dude stop me and my friend on the street to compliment us on our tattoos and that was charming. Some across the street shouting he’d like to bounce on my behind isn’t, even if he’s incredibly attractive. But really, it’s only a sign of the caller’s mental capacity. We yawn, roll our eyes and carry on walking. It’s as appalling as it is funny that people think this is the way to assert themselves over others. But, so long as it ends with the crude comment, fine. Again – it only says something about him. I wish we all had it in us to explain to those people why their behaviour is wrong, but sometimes it’s easier to let go. The problems arise when they’re persistent. Maybe they’re not absolute human waste. Maybe they’ll approach you at a bar and offer to buy you a drink. Maybe on another night you’d be up for it but you’re out to celebrate your mate’s birthday. God knows. You might politely smile and say no thanks. You could say you’re spending time with friends. Look, often the guy will be totally cool about it. Other times they’ll try to convince you. Maybe they assume you’re playing hard to get? Maybe they’ve seen one too many romcom where the guy pesters the girl until he gets her? GOD KNOWS. How many of these times do you automatically make up a reason to get rid of him quickly – the reason almost always being that you have a boyfriend? It’s an easy way out. Odds are that unless it’s an actual violent criminal, they’ll back down. Problem sorted, but every time we do that, we essentially say we have to be claimed by someone to not be interested. It’s annoying to think that every time a situation like this takes place we have to consider the bigger picture. What if I don’t want to consider the bigger picture because I’m out to have a good time? Most women probably don’t want to discuss feminist theories when their intention was to dance to loud music. No one, not a woman nor a man, should need an excuse to reject someone’s attention. If the person is nice enough, the rejection will probably be polite but that no should always be taken at face value.
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