Learning to say “No, thank you” and the Season of Bad Men
Hunting season. Shopping season. Holiday season.
So many seasons, so little time … right?
I think we need to squeeze in one more: Bad Man Season.
That’s the way Molly Fisher, the host of The Cut on Tuesdays podcast, recently described fall. When you consider the list, I think it’s safe to say that Fisher is on to something.
Oct. 7, 2016: Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” footage is released. You know … the “grab them by the pussies” commentary.
Oct. 5, 2017: The New York Time’s exhaustive Harvey Weinstein report is published, which added another match to the smoldering embers of the #MeToo movement.
Sept. 27, 2018: Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, recounting memories of being assaulted by then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
And new this year:
Sept. 30, 2019: Track coach Alberto Salazer, who oversaw Nike’s elite Oregon Project, was banned from the sport for anti-doping violations. Runners Kara Goucher, Mary Cain and now Amy Yoder Begley said Salazer manipulated and verbally abused them, shaming their bodies and pitting them against each other.
While the public revelations about these incidents are new, the incidents themselves, however, are not. They’re old and institutional in a very “Oh, he’s just like that,” kind of way.
This new awareness that yes, these incidents and others like them (insert reference to Charles Barkley’s long-running domestic violence commentary) are actually bad? I think it was summed up best by Amy Schumer in her “Growing” stand up act on Netflix.
“I’m so grateful to this new generation of women that came along and they’re like, ‘Hey, have you been getting sexually harassed like this your whole lives?’
And we’re like, ‘Oh, yeah!’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah. You wanna do something about that?’
And we’re like, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s a very good idea.’ They’re like, ‘Yeah.’ And we’re like, ‘Oh.’ We’re so used to it, you know?”
It seems like, finally, we’re getting less used to it. And, thankfully, the discussion is moving from “leaning in,” which we know doesn’t always work, to “saying no.” Instead of doing more and saying less, we’re increasingly looking around and giving a very polite, “No, thank you.”
Right? No, thank you. Via Lauren Fleshman.
I was reminded -- again -- about the power of “No,” when I read a speech recently delivered by activist Yara Shahidi. She said:
“The conclusion I came up with is that to be a woman is to be an abolitionist. To be a woman is to understand the power of our yes, of course, but to understand how groundbreaking and system shaking it is to say no. But it’s because no is productive.
Our no doesn’t just sit still saying, ‘I am okay being discontent with the system in front of me.’ Our no takes action. Our no stands up. Our no is allyship. Our no understands that I must advocate for something greater than myself because I am you and you are me and we are of each other. Our no understands that we are tearing apart this system, what it means to connect in spite of. But it’s because of our differences in creating spaces to celebrate one another.”
Massive, culture-influencing institutions like Hollywood and sport and government and the workplace don’t just change on their own. Steps toward equality only happen because of people stand up, speak out and (GASP!) ask for more.
And that’s hard work.
While yes, it has been another Season of Bad Men, it’s been a full year of hard work by many -- women and men -- who want more for themselves, their kids and others who don’t have enough. And for their bravery, their voices, their action, I am thankful.
Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.