Talking to our children about consent is an incredibly important conversation to have. Consent is still a bit of a buzzword societally, but the principles of consent are imperative. Teaching our kids about it doesn't mean a thing if the rest of the world isn't going to help make sure that it's actually happening. Recently an employee at accessories chain Claire's quit her job because she was reprimanded for not piercing the ears of a child who didn't consent. So, she wrote an open letter to the company about their policies surrounding consent, opening up an important dialogue.
Raylene Marks, who worked at a Claire's in Edmonton, Canada, detailed the truly distressing experience in her letter. A young girl had come into the store with her mother to have her ears pierced, which is normal for a Claire's store. But after sitting in the chair, the girl became hesitant and changed her mind.
According to Marks, the girl's mother was sending mixed signals, telling her they could "go home at any time" and yet, staying in the store. As the girl cried, Marks determined that there was no way she would be piercing the girl's ears, as she was very clearly distressed and unwilling.
Even though the girl is seven years old, Marks claims that she was "articulate, smart and well aware of herself and her body.” Additionally, she “expressed that she didn’t want us touching her, that we were standing too close, that she was feeling uncomfortable” and on top of that, “made it clear she no longer wanted to get her ears pierced.”
While the mother told her daughter they could leave the store, Marks claims that she was still trying to pressure her daughter into going through with the piercing.
It is not uncommon for young kids to be very into something when it's abstract. Ear piercing is a surprisingly controversial topic of discussion, and a lot of that conversation revolves around consent. Some parents believe in allowing their children to make the decision and give their consent to the body modification, while other parents do the procedure when their children are babies to avoid complications.
But Marks's concerns aren't solely with the mother of the child, but how the situation was handled by her manager after the child and her mother left the store. She explains that she told her manager the little girl refused outright to the piercing, and even if the mother had consented, she wouldn't have been able to do it. She says, "I was firmly told, "You would have had no choice but to do it."
"So if a mother is physically restraining her daughter, holding her down and saying, 'DO IT,' while that little girl cries and asks me not to, do I do the piercing?" she writes. "My manager did not hesitate to respond, "Yes, you do the piercing."
Raylene Marks left her job at Claire's of her own will over receiving a disciplinary action that would have likely led to her getting fired in the future.
Thankfully, Claire's corporate did see Marks's letter and released a statement via PEOPLE.
“In relation to the ear piercing incident involving the former employee Raylene Marks, we believe she acted appropriately and in line with our policy by refusing to do the piercing,” the statement says. “The policy is in place to ensure that if a child is distressed or resisting, Claire’s employees have the right to refuse to continue the piercing. We are investigating the specific store instances she mentions, and will take appropriate corrective action. We will also be reviewing the policy to ensure that the intent is clear.”
Thankfully, this ended well. Hopefully, we continue to have positive conversations around consent.