This year for our post-Thanksgiving movie-watching tradition, my husband and I picked Major League. I remember enjoying it when I was younger, and was longing for a movie where the comic underpinnings didn’t rely solely on fart jokes and body humor. So we put on PJs and curled up with the movie on. It was all well and good until the love story between Rene Russo and Tom Berenger started. Maybe 20 years ago this was my idea of good romance, but watching it this week my husband and I were floored.
It goes a little like this: Renee and Tom’s characters dated years ago. When he comes back to play baseball he runs into her. She tells him she’s with someone new and gives him a fake phone number after he tells her he will not go away until he gets her digits. When he finds out it’s fake, he goes to her workplace to talk to her. She tells him in no uncertain terms that she is not interested in rekindling things. He then follows her home only to discover he actually followed her to her fiancé’s house where they both tell him, once again, to buzz off. Since his last stalking attempt failed miserably he follows her home from work again and enters her home without an invitation. She tells him that she is getting married and does not want to relive the past. She moves away from him as he moves towards her but eventually he pins her to the wall. Finally she gives in to his attempts to charm her and they kiss very dramatically.
Call me a crazy feminist…but come on! I can’t be the only one who sees the danger in showcasing a man who blatantly ignores a woman telling him no repeatedly and then have the story end up with them blissfully happy together. Because he obviously knew better than her, right? When she said “no,” what she really meant was “try harder.” When she said “no,” what she really meant was “show me something different.” You see, she didn’t actually mean no. A girl who says no and means it, is a tease.
The idea that men are subconsciously taught to push against women’s rejection of them is one that I have been thinking and talking about a lot lately. I was recently sent an article that discusses how “No Means No” and “Playing Hard to Get” cannot co-exist in a society trying to do away with rape culture. Women who say no when they want to say yes to simply play the part of a good girl—like they were taught—are only serving to reinforce the idea that no isn’t a stop sign but rather a sort of yield. If we want these words to have any meaning we need to start using them unequivocally as they were meant to be used.
How many women have been convinced into going on a date or going to bed with someone they previously turned down? My guess would be that it’s too many to count. Admittedly, it’s happened to me. “No” in this day and age just seems to be an invitation to get creative. The advice so many women receive to play coy and to let the man be the aggressor is outdated. It causes confusion in both individuals and, in the worst case, serious and harmful consequences. Because when “no” means anything other than no, we are essentially putting both people’s consent into the hands of just one person.
In today’s world we are teaching our young girls to be strong and stand up for themselves. We are teaching them to raise their hands in class and demand as much pay as their male colleagues. We are teaching them to speak loudly about the things they believe in. Isn’t it time to also teach them to put what they want out of a relationship into words? Shouldn’t all women say no only when they mean it and say yes when they want to? Shouldn’t all women be their own arbiters of who, what, and when is right for them?
Playing hard to get has no place in a world where men and women are equal. It cannot exist if “no” is a giant DO NOT PASS GO sign, as it should be. So go forward as a strong and confident individual. Don’t play games or indulge in the chase, because all that is doing is diluting your no. Stand up today and take back your no. Even if it hasn’t always been respected, it means something. Really, it means everything.
Brandi is a lawyer in Denver who spends very little time actually lawyering. She can usually be found working for free at a non-profit, hiking up mountains, or bossing her husband around because he made the mistake of asking her for help with his business one time. She’s horribly technologically inept (unless people still use AIM in which case she’s a genius) and takes one bite out of every donut instead of finishing a single donut in its entirety, which is probably a metaphor for something but she hasn’t figured out what it is yet. You can read more from Brandi on her blog, Randi Nickle.