I’d like you to remember the last time you found it difficult to give an explicit “no” to somebody in a non-sexual context. Maybe they asked you to do them a favour, or to join them for a drink. Did you speak up and say, outright, “No?” Did you apologise for your “no?” Did you qualify it and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it today?” If you gave an outright “no,” what privileged positions do you occupy in society, and how does your answer differ from the answers of people occupying more marginalised positions?
This form of refusal was analysed in 1999 by Kitzinger and Frith (K&F) in Just Say No? The Use of Conversation Analysis in Developing a Feminist Perspective on Sexual Refusal. Despite the seeming ambiguity in question/refusal acts like, “We were wondering if you wanted to come over Saturday for dinner,” “Well, uhh, it’d be great but we promised Carol already,” they are widely understood by the participants as straightforward refusals.
K&F conclude by saying that, “For men to claim [in a sexual context] that they do not ‘understand’ such refusals to be refusals (because, for example, they do not include the word ‘no’) is to lay claim to an astounding and implausible ignorance of normative conversational patterns.”
This is a really interesting application of conversation analysis, an approach to interpersonal interaction, which is used across linguistics, sociology, anthropology, speech-communication and psychology.
Hollaback Edinburgh has just released research outlining the experiences of 100 young people aged 12-25 in Edinburgh.
Key findings include:
- The majority of the respondents were 18-25 (94%),
- The majority of respondents self-identified as female (85%),
- Almost all the respondents had experienced some form of Street Harassment, with the most common being an experience of someone whistling, shouting, or beeping their horn at respondents (86%),
- The most common reaction to Street Harassment was a feeling of anger, seconded by a feeling of vulnerability,
- When asked who they told, the majority of respondents told friends,
- One respondent reported that the “Police invalidated my experience”,
- Many respondents highlighted that “banter” is often used as an excuse.
Some respondents reported that Street Harassment is seen as “normal”, and they worry that feelings of shame, anger, and vulnerability will be seen as “making a fuss over nothing”.
However, as the following results show, almost all of the respondents changed their behaviour and actions, and were keenly aware of the potential threat of violence from these incidents, highlighting the impact that Street Harassment has on young people in Edinburgh.
Read the full report: Hollaback report 2013