It's no secret that Maxine Waters is nothing short of inspiring, and last week she took this to a new level when she stood up to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In the video, Waters repeatedly 'reclaimed' her time after the Senator dodged her questions.
Needless to say, the video quickly went viral and a new meme legacy was born. But the video also spawned another swirl of feedback on Twitter after a Slate writer named Will Saletan shared Waters' video, adding some advice of his own: "Teach your daughter to say 'No' firmly and mean it. Men sense women's willingness to yield. Make clear you mean business," Saletan's tweet read.
Soon the debate around the word "no" began gaining traction. No, as many pointed out, means no—and there shouldn't be any debate around how it's delivered.
As many of us know, saying "no," is often not enough. Making sweeping comments like this only perpetuates the idea that the responsibility lies with women — to say "no" louder or more often — and allows men who harass and assault to continue shouldering the blame for their actions.
It's definitely helpful for women to practice being assertive like Maxine Waters, but ending misogyny and sexism simply isn't predicated on women's ability to say "No."
Additionally, besides the fact that women who do say "No" are often labeled as bossy or unpleasant, passing judgment on how women say "No" ends up looking an awful lot like old-fashioned victim-blaming.
Ultimately, dismantling a culture that objectifies, belittles, and abuses women requires more effort and accountability than just telling women to be more firm when they say no; this assertion misses the point entirely.
If we really want men to stop being abusive, we need to start teaching little boys — and grown men — to respect a "No" from a woman, no matter what.
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