so i found a link to this piece over at shakesville, and it suddenly opened my eyes in a way that i hadn't expected. of course i'm used to discussing & reading about issues of consent as relates to sexual violence. and that means i'm conscious about issues of consent in other areas as well. and certainly this is hardly new:
We grow up learning that “No” is rude. It’s more important to avoid
hurting other people’s feelings. It’s important to be polite and
accommodating. Setting boundaries and prioritizing our own comfort and
safety is selfish. We push these lessons even harder on women, expecting
them to be caretakers, putting everyone else’s needs above their own.
but something really clicked when i read this personal experience in the comments:
But the thing is, excuses can be overcome. I learned this when ... they wanted me to sing in their
choir. I didn't want to. But instead of saying, "Oh, no thank you," I
made excuses. And the choir director overcame each of my excuses--at
some effort to herself--and at 22, I felt cornered and sang in that
choir. I didn't want to. It was a bad choir, and I did not like it.
was also a huge life lesson. Excuses make things into a negotiation.
Some things are negotiations. Some things are not. If you really mean
that you would love to sing in that church choir except for the
following factors, by all means say so. But if what you mean is that
you would rather fend off rabid hyenas with a nerf bat, just say no
i can't sing & i've never been in a choir, but oh that story is so familiar. i definitely have this inability to give an outright "no" to a request. i'll often try with the excuses, but more often, it'll be a deep sigh & "ok, i'll do it". it's usually because i know the people around me are equally stressed if not more so; and the people willing & capable to take on that particular bit of unpaid work are just so few & far between. so i try to think of where i can fit it into my schedule & carry on as best i can.
just lately, i've taken on a position that i seriously didn't want. i said "yes" under pressure & have since been carrying it out to the best of my ability. but i've also been feeling quite upset about it. and reading the whole piece and some comments have really made clear the source of my distress.
it's because the people around actually knew that i didn't want to take on this role - they knew it quite clearly. there was no ambiguity, because i'd been quite clear on the matter. but they chose not to respect my feelings, they chose not to respect my boundaries. they didn't ask me about how much stress i was already under, and whether or not i was going to cope with the additional workload.
on the plus side, they promised to fully support me & do whatever was asked of them. and they have done that - i am feeling well-supported in the role. but the resentment i've been feeling is all about having my boundaries ignored. just being able to recognise that is actually a huge help. and this:
When someone says no, the correct response is “Okay.” If you don’t
understand, that’s fine. You don’t have to understand. Maybe the other
person will be willing to explain. Maybe not. But they don’t owe you an
You have the right to say no, period. And if someone can’t accept that, then the hell with them. The problem isn’t you.
yes, yes, totally yes. excuse me, i'm off to say "no" to someone about an unpaid job that i just don't have the energy to do. and i'm not going to feel guilty about it either. it's my right to say no.