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.”