March 23, 2010
“Rue the day? Who talks like that?”*
Growing up in a relatively feminist era is not without its drawbacks. I say this because I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who, in her determined and steady way, worked her way through barrier after barrier – as the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, then a college and graduate school student, then as a woman in the world of business, and then as a female professor, complete with PhD, in the realm of academia. For as long as I can remember, nobody has ever questioned Dr. Taggart’s qualifications, or wondered if she was capable of making decisions for herself, or thought that she “didn’t really mean” something once she’d said it.
And because she never once acted as though this was any kind of spectacular achievement, because she never once implied that her career was anything out of the ordinary, I always thought of it as a consequence of the force of her personality. I never really considered how many people she’d had to ignore, or to dismiss as ignorant, when they suggested that a woman might not be capable of deciding what she wants in the next ten minutes, let alone achieving great things outside of the home.
And so, when I was told that “no” meant “try again more forcefully, later”, I thought perhaps it was a consequence of me not being forceful enough. That I must have sent some kind of mixed signal.
Because it was nearly unfathomable, to me, that someone might actually believe that no meant something other than no. That someone might be so incredibly self-absorbed that he could convince himself that “no” could mean exactly what he wanted it to, even though a plain language reading of the word indicated the opposite.
And so I put it out there now. There are, in fact, people who think that “no” sometimes means “yes”. And who are willing to take the chance that they are imposing themselves on someone who does not want them, who has in fact said no, and who will afterward be unhappy with the fact that her/his wishes were not respected. They genuinely believe that this is how the world works – that women don’t mean it when they say they don’t want something – and if they do, it’s just because they don’t know better.
How do we fix that?
*Real Genius. Of course.