We were grabbing a bite of lunch at a small cafe, in a mall, right across from a booth that sold jewelry and where ears could be pierced for a fee. A mother approaches with a little girl of six or seven years old. The little girl is clearly stating that she doesn’t want her ears pierced, that’s she’s afraid of how much it will hurt, that she doesn’t like earrings much in the first place. Her protests, her clear ‘no’ is simply not heard. The mother and two other women, who work the booth, begin chatting and trying to engage the little girl in picking out a pair of earrings. She has to wear a particular kind when the piercing is first done but she could pick out a fun pair for later.
"I don’t want my ears pierced."
"I don’t want any earrings."
The three adults glance at each other conspiratorially and now the pressure really begins. She will look so nice, all the other girls she knows wear earrings, the pain isn’t bad.
She, the child, sees what’s coming and starts crying. As the adults up the volume so does she, she’s crying and emitting a low wail at the same time. “I DON’T WANT MY EARS PIERCED.”
Her mother leans down and speaks to her, quietly but strongly, the only words we could hear were ‘… embarrassing me.’
We heard, then, two small screams, when the ears were pierced.
Little children learn early and often that ‘no doesn’t mean no.’
Little children learn early that no one will stand with them, even the two old men looking horrified at the events from the cafeteria.
Little girls learn early and often that their will is not their own.
No means no, yeah, right.
Most often, for kids and others without power, ”no means force.”
from "No Means Force" at Dave Hingsburger’s blog.
This is important. It doesn’t just apply to little girls and other children, though it often begins there.
For the marginalized, our “no’s” are discounted as frivolous protests, rebelliousness, or anger issues, or we don’t know what we’re talking about, or we don’t understand what’s happening.
When “no means force” we become afraid to say no.
I had my ears pierced twice. The first time when I was four and didn’t know what it even meant. All I knew was The Mother had them done and whatever. Yeah, there was screaming. Also, getting your ears pierced when you’re four comes with the risk that if you take out the earrings, they grow shut! So, when I was eleven, I had to get them re-pierced. Which, I have to admit, was a much more traumatizing experience. I just remember screaming and fighting in the chair because I didn’t want it done, but I’d jokingly suggested getting it done because it was cheap and the mother went “Good point, we’re getting it done.” Yeah, just. There’s a large message to this post than the ear piercing thing, but this is not a single thing, and I’ve been going some mental places lately that are reminding me how little my opinion and desires meant in the face of other people when I was young. I cried when I turned 25 because that meant there were no more age-related rules telling me what I could and couldn’t do, and that my choices were my own fucking business.(via bitchwhoyoukiddin)
YES THANK YOU. I have had very serious discussions with my husband about this when he suggested that he or his mom might want to take Josie to get her ears pierced. I have made it EXTREMELY clear that neither I nor anyone else is going to fundamentally alter her body until she is old enough to reasonably consent to it (and it won’t happen if she doesn’t). PERIOD. I don’t care if it’s “just piercing her ears,” it’s not going to happen. Honestly, I’m getting angry just thinking about it.