I recently watched a video in which a Black woman described a horrific encounter with a man in Houston. The woman, Roda Bashe, explained that after saying no to the man's request for her phone number, he picked up a brick and smashed it into her face before escaping into a car. She was in a crowd of people; she says no one made a move to assist her.
The man was just allowed to escape.
Bashe’s face is swollen as she tries to explain the situation through tears. She questions why a man would hit her with a brick for simply saying no, and why no one stepped up to help her.
I’ve been thinking about a related topic—why women say "yes" when they mean "no"—for a few weeks now, and the video just spurred my fingers to type. You don’t have to go too far beneath the surface to understand the reason: safety.
I’ve spoken to a few women lately and asked them the same question: If a stranger asks for your phone number and you are not interested, how do you respond?
The responses varied.
“Give him a fake number.”
“Give him my number and block him later.”
“Give him my friend’s number.”
“Give him my Instagram.”
“Tell him I have a jealous boyfriend.”
This is a very small sample size, but not a single person told me they would just say no. When asked why, it was some combination of not hurting feelings and being worried about how the man would respond. Even at the best of times, the conversation can go something like this.
Man: Aye, girl, let me get your number.
Woman: I’m flattered, but no thank you.
Man: You ugly anyway.
Some men take rejection personally and lash out as a response.
Furthermore, it is common knowledge that men can be very… determined. Sitcoms and rom-coms of the '80s and '90s taught us if we never give up, we'll eventually get the girl in the end. It doesn’t work that way in real life. More often than not, we'd be better off taking the hint (or the flat-out "no") and moving on to someone who is actually interested.
I’ve watched many of these situations play out in my own life. This was especially true when I worked in customer service. Older men would often ask out my high school-aged coworkers, who would pair a no with their customer service smile. The “determined” men would continue to pursue them, sometimes for several weeks. I'd watch my colleagues decline these advances in every way possible until the only remaining option was cruelty. Even then, the men would often persist.
As a man, I know women sometimes will just say no. I received plenty of no’s in high school. They didn’t really bother me. I was sometimes embarrassed, but I don’t remember it lasting long.
The girls I really liked—the ones that knew I liked them because it was so obvious—never turned me down directly. They would usually just make up excuses not to hang out or talk to me. At the time I remember thinking, Why are you leading me on? I’m making plans and getting my hopes up, and you clearly don’t like me.
In my adulthood, I finally understand their actions: They were likely trying to protect my feelings. Sadly, even at such a young age, they had already internalized the fear of how some men would respond when told no.
I’m far from innocent in adding to those male stereotypes. I don’t remember continuing to pursue anyone once clearly rejected—my confidence was not high enough for that—but I do remember believing if I put in more work, I could likely change her mind. This was definitely the influence of too many books and movies.
For the people who feel women's intentions aren't always to pacify, I agree. This topic initially sparked in my mind while watching some of my students interact from afar. A boy approaches a girl. He speaks—I can't make out what he said exactly, but the girl's response makes the interaction clear. Her loud laugh, which draws attention from other students, is followed by, "Boy, you ain't cute enough for me!" Sure, their brief exchange could've been about anything, but I watched the boy walk away, visibly embarrassed. My mind wandered.
I think it is rare, but women feeling the need to shame and hurt men when asked out is not an unknown phenomenon. When I first started thinking about this, I was sure it had something to do with establishing their own popularity in the high school hierarchy.
There may be some truth to this, but this could also just be a learned response to negate unwanted attention. Either way, we can’t forget about how the boy probably feels. He is hurt. He may be angry. He may start to approach women differently. He may think about women differently. This is not a healthy way to respond—violence against women is inexcusable. However, this may show us how anger forms in some men.
The issue isn’t just a man or a woman problem. It is a problem with our society, a lot of it stemming from old patriarchal systems. Men often feel owed access to women, and women sometimes feel the need to forcefully reject young men in a way demeaning enough to establish boundaries, but also hurtful enough to leave permanent scars.
It feels like anger against women has reached a new high. There are influencers making millions by spewing hate about women—especially Black women. I’ve written about it before, but it is even apparent in my students.
Reading the comments under the aforementioned brick video made my skin crawl. There were, of course, many people showing support for the victim. But many others responded by criticizing Bashe's character and insisting that she deserved the brutality. One person claimed a man wouldn't hit a woman with a brick just because they are rejected. This blissful ignorance possibly leads to these types of incidents continuing to happen.
Related: Male Ego Is Killing Black Women
To be clear, violence against women for simple rejection is far too common around the world. Bystanders watching while she is attacked is far too common.
About a year ago, a woman was beaten and robbed outside of a Harlem liquor store after rejecting a man. The man offered to buy her wine, and when she said no, the man accused her of thinking she was better than him and then apparently challenged her to fight outside the store. She was jumped by men; one of them tried to “bite her eye out.”
All she did was say no, and they attacked her in public with no concern about repercussions.
A few months ago, in India, a teenager was beaten, stabbed, and killed in public by a man. It was described as a lover’s quarrel. Witnesses just observed as the woman was slaughtered.
Roda Bashe was most distraught by how men just stood around and watched. No one tried to help her. No one tried to stop the attacker.
This could be a symptom of Genovese syndrome—bystanders are less likely to help during a crime if there are other witnesses. There is something really cruel about these cases, though. Some people believe it has more to do with the hatred of Black women. I can’t help but think back to Malcolm X’s words: "The most disrespected person in America, is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the Black woman.”
Unfortunately, words from the '60s still hold weight today. I’ve said on more than one occasion that it always seems like Black women are carrying the weight of the community. They are out leading protests and voting. They shed tears when Black men are shot down and often lead the fights for change. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about Black rights or women’s rights, they are somehow making the most waves and receive the least amount of respect. There are arguments to be made that they do not get out of the community what they put into it.
It is sad to hear about men just standing by and watching in this situation after the Montgomery brawl just a few weeks ago.
I’ve been in this situation multiple times. Even when it comes to a complete stranger, I’ve stepped in. Most men who use a brick to beat a woman don’t want to deal with a man standing up to them. They especially would not want to deal with a group of men.
In the end, I don’t judge those men based on their inaction. I judge the people who attempt to justify the attack. I give a side eye to the people who talk about fighting for each other and then say it is okay to stand by and watch a woman attacked with a brick. I roll my eyes when people respond to this situation and others by pointing a finger at Black women.
Those are the people I struggle to understand.
Rejection is never fun. It is okay to be a little hurt. It is a sign of maturity when you can find healthy ways of dealing with hurt instead of hurling it back at someone else. Calling someone ugly as a result of being rejected is one of the most childish things I see adults do on a consistent basis. But there is no excuse to respond with violence.
Next time you feel like a woman is misleading you when she says yes, take a walk in her shoes. She doesn’t know you. She doesn’t know how to respond. She just knows she needs to make it away from you safely. Don’t take it personally.