This is not a topic that has a strong or direct link to my usual topics, but it’s something I want to write about anyway. It possible that my status as “woman who is on the spectrum” has influenced the way I view this particular issue, so I suppose there’s a weak tie-in.
I want to talk about rejection. Specifically, how we reject people, and how people raised as women in particular (the group generally expected to have to do the rejecting) are taught to reject people. A while back I was reading a thread online that started with one person telling her story about someone asking her out on a date and her rejecting him. In this particular instance it was someone she liked as a friend, but was not attracted to in any way. So in her rejection, she wanted to be “nice.”
Her method of doing so was to instead be indirect. Instead of telling him, straightforward, that she wasn’t interested in that way, she said “I appreciate the offer, but that after the last guy it will be a loooong time before I would date anyone.” Which, apparently, was technically true. It just wasn’t the whole truth, or even really the most direct and relevant truth (that she’s just not into him like that). However, the thread was really quite full of people (also self-identified women) agreeing with her that it was the nicest possible way she could have rejected him. SO nice. TOTALLY nice.
It echoed a previous instance of rejection I had read about (this time in someone’s livejournal post). A man asked a woman out, she wanted to reject him nicely, so said (essentially) “oh, sorry, I’m not dating right now.” And described that as “so nice.”
In both of those cases I wound up with my eyeballs popping out and my jaw on the floor, wondering how being indirect (or outright lying) could possibly ever count as “nice.”
Honestly, I suspect the answer is somewhat gendered. We live in a society where people raised as women are taught to be indirect, often in a nasty combination of penalizing women for being direct or assertive, and teaching women that they are never to give a man sadfeels no matter what. It’s true that it’s not fun to be rejected (and despite my gender, I know this personally. women get rejected too, sometimes in really nasty ways), so what’s a woman to do if she’s not allowed to be direct or give a man sadfeels? Apparently, the answer is to say things like “oh, I just don’t want to date right now.” It even goes to the point that if a guy doesn’t “get the hint” THEN it’s ok to be more direct. Which was referred to as “being cold” in the aforementioned discussion. I do find it interesting that being truthful is cold, but being not-so-truthful is, I guess, warm.
In both cases I turned to men I knew and asked them if they would consider that form of rejection nice. Man-types, by and large, seemed to disagree. I asked two basic questions: If someone wanted to reject you in a “nice” way, how would you like them to do it? and If you wanted to reject someone, and wanted to do it “nicely,” how would you go about doing so?
Both questions got fairly consistent answers. The guys I talked to would prefer the message be plain and direct. That it isn’t mean for someone to say that they just aren’t into you that way, even if it isn’t fun to hear.
Of course, I am biased. Indirect communication tends to range from confusing to ragey for me, and I often resent it. I see conversations (again, usually amongst woman-types) online about getting their needs met, and the totally casual discussion of passive-aggressive ways to communicate, and it gets so frustrating. It’s always termed “being nice about it” or “dropping hints” or such, and if someone doesn’t understand those hints, it consistently means that something is wrong with them. From my perspective, that’s absolutely horrible. The fact that it appears to be ubiquitous just makes it worse.
I would say this is something where gender issues intersect with autism issues. Being female (read: having boobs), I am expected to conform to the typical standards women are held to. As someone who cares about gender issues, I don’t want women to be held up to those unreasonable standards designed to keep our boundaries mushy. As someone on the spectrum, I am barely capable of meeting those expectations or understanding the indirect communication of other people anyway. Can we please change things and acknowledge the value in being direct?