I recently finished watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a new show on Netflix about a woman who was kidnapped by an evil reverend and held underground for fifteen years with three other women. The show begins with their rescue - after which the four "Indiana Mole Women" appear on the Today Show, with Matt Lauer.
During the interview, Lauer asks each woman how she ended up in the bunker. One woman, Cyndee, recounted:
I had waited on Reverend Richard at a York Steak House I worked at, and one night he invited me out to his car to see some baby rabbits, and I didn’t want to be rude, so…here we are.
To which Matt Lauer replied:
"I’m always amazed by what women will do because they’re afraid of being rude…"
This is a point I've touched on a couple of different times in The Happy Talent.
The first time was in my inaugural post, Advantages of Traveling While Female, in which I wrote:
I think women are most likely to get hurt because they are afraid to be “rude.” If something gets weird and you feel uncomfortable, SAY SO. Confront the person. YELL if you need to. Storm off. DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO. This person is disrespecting you, and there is no reason you need to respond politely.
Arguably, hitchhiking on a scooter might be safer than hitchhiking in a car... But you should probably wear a helmet.
Regarding the "I'd rather hurt his feelings" bit - you're probably hurting his feelings a lot less than you think.
Which brings me to my second "be rude" post. In Why Most People Suck at Saying No, and How You Can Start Improving Today (which was later published in TIME), I wrote:
When it comes to drugs and unwanted sex, we teach our kids to "Just Say No." But in reality, hardly anyone ever “just says no.” We say, “I would, but…” "If it had been any day but today…” In other words, when people ask for something, you’re probably giving them an explanation/excuse as to why you must say no.
As a woman, you're often put in this weird situation where people don't listen to you when you try to politely say no. It's well-documented that a woman's no is ignored much more often than a man's no. Which is probably because women are more likely to use "hedging language," or polite words that soften what they're saying.
To quote the former article again,
In a way, saying no is a low-level form of aggression (one of several reasons why women tend to have a harder time of it than men). But since people are generally cooperative and social, we overestimate the cost of saying no. (Which is why, generally, if you ask for something, people say yes — even if the reason you give for the ask is complete gibberish. Asking, "Can I cut you in line to use the copier, because I am in a rush?" is just as effective as asking, “Can I cut you in line to use the copier, because I need to use the copier?”)
I repeat: WE ROUTINELY OVERESTIMATE THE COST OF SAYING NO.
Keep this in mind next time someone asks you for something. Saying no isn’t as bad as you think.
So, basically, women should practice using less hedging language while saying no -- and worry less about how hurtful the other person will find it when you say you don't want to go to his car with him to see his bunnies. It will hurt his feelings a lot less than you think. And if a dude does get all pissy at you when you say no to him... is he really someone whose feelings you should care about? Is she really someone you want to be involved with?
Remember: when you do something because you're afraid of being rude, you are giving away time, money, energy and EVEN YOUR SAFETY. And you might never get it back.
Indeed, as I wrote in 3 Things I Wish All Girls (and Women) Knew,
I wish more women knew that it's okay to tell someone to fuck off. To get out of my house. To stop following me. To back off. If someone isn't listening to you, it is okay to yell. It is okay to call for help. It is okay to be rude. I mean, let's be real, here.
If you've said, "No," and the guy answered with, "Oh, come on!" -- or by simply ignoring you, or by pretending to comply for a moment before trying again, or in any way other disrespecting your wishes -- which of you is actually being rude?
If you've told someone you don't want him to drive you home or walk to your door or come inside, and he tries to anyway... how are you possibly the one who is rude? In what universe?
And, actually, quite honestly, I totally get why it feels rude to be direct, raise your voice or otherwise enforce your boundaries when someone is ignoring them. I feel "rude" all the time. For example. The other day, I was playing frisbee with a girl friend of mine and a dude we'd randomly met in a cafe. Though he'd been nice all afternoon, he suddenly started negging me. For reference:
So I told him, "Give me back my frisbee."
He looked stunned. "Seriously?"
"Yes. Seriously. Give me back my frisbee. Now. I'm leaving."
And I left.
Because he had been rude to me. He had insulted me. I didn't feel obligated to be polite to someone who treated me badly. I did not feel the need to make an excuse ("Oh, umm, I think I should get going soon. I have a... meeting at six?"). I did not feel the need to give him an explanation ("I don't appreciate that you insulted me. Negging is like, the most disrespectful thing ever, and people who neg are pathetic.") -- because, remember, explanations only give people a way to work around your excuse or objection.
But even so, I still felt a little rude.
Which is why it is SO important to reframe your thinking about "rudeness." And to maintain that thinking. Take time to remind yourself, regularly, that you don't owe anyone anything. Even if he complimented you. Even if he bought you dinner. Even if whatever. You owe him nothing. If he tries to make you feel like you do, he is manipulating you. Don't let him.
Reframe, and maintain.
Finally, in The Stanford Kink Klub has the healthiest sex on campus. Here's why, I shared a horrific story about a house party I attended last summer. I was sitting in the hot tub when I saw a man dragging a clearly very intoxicated (and hardly even conscious) woman into the pool house. I heard some people sitting around a bonfire discuss the event:
"I can't believe she's doing that! She has a boyfriend! What's Jordan going to think?" one girl exclaimed.
Why didn't they act? Why didn't they do something to stop their friend from being raped at a party until I, a complete stranger, said something?
I don't know. But I suspect it had something to do with a fear of "seeming rude" or it "being awkward."
Shitty ass friends. Whenever I see a girl who might not be okay, I stop her and the guy who's dragging her away. I usually pretend I know her.
"Hey! How are you!"
And then I hug her and say quietly, "Do you know him? Are you okay? Do you want me to call someone? Do you need a ride?"
Most of the time when I do this, the girl smiles back at me, appreciatively, and says, "Yes, he's my boyfriend," or, "Don't worry about it - I already called someone." But on one occasion, the girl indicated that she didn't want to be with the guy, so I shooed him off.
"Sorry to cock block, but we've got a LOT of catching up to do! I'll take her from here. Have a nice night!"
Would she have been raped if I hadn't been afraid of "being rude?" It's impossible to say. But rape is horrible, and I don't want to take those odds.
That got a little wordy. If you've been skimming to this point, here's the TL;DR:
1. Women, you're not as rude as you think you're being.
2. Women, when you politely decline an advance, request or invitation from someone and he/she persists, it is that person, not you, who is rude.
3. Women, you don't owe anyone anything. If they try to manipulate you into thinking you do, you can literally tell them to fuck off.
4. Women, if you are afraid of "seeming rude," you are literally putting your life (and the lives of those around you) at stake. What's more important - not risking hurting someone's feelings, or not putting yourself in danger?
I leave you with this:
Burn it into your memory. Share it on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or whatever other social network you're using. Make it a point to put yourself and your safety ahead of some random dude's feelings. It might make you feel guilty at first, but go ahead and go out there and #BeRude.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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