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Hallie Golden

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Glamorous Refusal holds space for “no” in Capitol Hill and beyond

The organization transformed a storefront into a place to “activate refusal”—but it’s bigger than just a location

Late last month, hundreds of people gathered in Capitol Hill for a large skateboarding event. There were skate ramps and instructors, along with demonstrations and film footage of expert skateboarders. But rather than being overrun by boys and young men, it was dominated by women, girls, and gender non-binary people of all ages.

The evening event was meant to showcase women embracing an activity that is typically dominated by men. It was a “really amazing celebration of women doing this kind of radical gender-defying act,” said Emily Orrson, founder of Glamorous Refusal, a new Seattle organization that partnered with the skateboarding non-profit Skate Like a Girl to put on the event.

This was just one of the many events that has come out of Glamorous Refusal, a new magazine and platform in Seattle that celebrates and explores the act of saying “no.” It has facilitated over 18 events around this theme since launching last month in a boutique pop up shop in LoveCityLove, a space for artistic collaboration.

Glamorous Refusal’s neon sign announces the space at LoveCityLove.
Courtesy of Emily Orrson

Orrson said the unique venture came from her own personal struggle with saying “no.” But as she started discussing it with others in her community, she realized that this is an issue many people face.

“I think we live in a world that conditions us to say ‘yes,’” she said. “Women especially are bred to be socially obliging and to appease and that generates a culture where we end up defaulting to ‘yes’ almost automatically without thinking through how we really feel about things.”

Supported by the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture through a smART ventures grant, she and a team of artists and writers worked for about eight months to put together the biannual publication. They released the first edition of “The Magazine of Glamorous Refusal” last month. It’s packed full of photos and accompanying articles, fiction, and poetry that offer advice or simply celebrate refusal. For example: There’s an image of a women hurling a toaster, which is meant to illustrate glamorous refusal of domesticity, and a Q&A with a gender reconciliation therapist.

Issues of “The Magazine of Glamorous Refusal” line a shelf at LoveCityLove.
Courtesy of Emily Orrson

But Orrson also wanted to offer the community a space where visitors could express refusal in real life. That same month, Glamorous Refusal took over the pop-up shop so that community members could “activate refusal in their own events,” she said.

From a drag show to a photography event and neon art exhibit, people affiliated with the magazine as well as members of the broader community have found a variety of ways to showcase saying “no” in the space.

The platform has been so successful that Glamorous Refusal and LoveCityLove ended up forming a partnership. This means Glamorous Refusal will now have a go-to space for future events (LoveCityLove even named the pop up space “Glamorous Refusal”) and a spot to sell the magazine (its next issue will come out in the spring).

“That is how I hope that Glamorous Refusal will continue to function at LoveCitylove, as an open space and a platform for people who want to come in and say and express refusal,” said Orrson.

She said she’s been very happy with the response and hopes in the future to broaden the platform’s reach beyond just the pages of the magazine and events in the LoveCityLove building.

“I want to live in a world where saying no can feel good, or if not good, maybe even powerful or glamorous,” she said.