Men, Can You Hear Us?

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Women: If you’re willing to comment, is there one thing you wish more men knew or could hear?

Men: Just listen, please. This post is here as a space for listening, learning, and healing.

_______________________

Kate. I wish men understood that essentially all of us have been subject to the kind of behavior described these past 10 days at some point. It makes me frightened to have it so out there right now, and being discredited.

Sherry. My husband is a die hard Trump voter. I wish he understood how much that makes me feel like he doesn’t value my feelings. As if he would allow someone to speak to me and treat me that way.

Teresa. I wish more men saw and understood what women do. We keep households and the world moving and in exchange we are belittled and asked to do more. That’s if we’re not outright assaulted.

Bethie. I wish people understood what it’s like to be stalked like prey. I won’t say just men because there are women who are privileged enough to never have experienced that feeling.

It seems so easy to dismiss. ‘Oh, they weren’t really stalking you. It was a coincidence.’

It wasn’t until I was literally stalked through my apartment complex by someone who lived downstairs from me, and I came home sobbing, that my husband understood. All I did was go check the mail. I passed him on my way out of the breezeway. Walked all the way across my complex. Got the mail, stepped over to talk to the management about something. Came outside, and he was there. Waiting. I took the long way around back home (in plain view of cars/people) and he followed me the whole way. I got lucky in that I ran into a maintenance person I trusted, and she and another drove me back to my apartment and supported me when I told the office what happened. The guy didn’t even live in my apartments. He was just staying there.

And I could share this with people, and I would get told that since he lived in my building, he just happened to be going the same way, as if I was paranoid, and my word about what happened wasn’t enough. My word should be enough. Even if it was a coincidence, my fear should be enough to be validated, not explained away.

Kimberley. I wish it was understood that women have more value than how they look. We are intelligent, caring, and full of promise. We are more than our body shape or our chest size. We also need the men around us to realize that they have the power to teach their daughters to demand respect. By example.

Nikki. Yes, this, about value and appearance. When I’m struggling and you’re trying to build me up, men, don’t start with my physical appearance. That does not help and often makes me feel worse. I am not a thing, an object to be gazed on. I’m a person with feelings and ideas and interests and desires and abilities. Engage me about those. Then we can get to my body after I feel you like me.

Melissa. How much we don’t talk about small things because of how much we’ve been called crazy, bitchy, naggy, whiney, etc., and how important those things actually are. How hard it is to survive a billion “small” things over the course of a lifetime.

Ariel. I wish more men understood that under the broad category of “women,” there are literally millions of individuals. We are all unique, complex beings. Each of us with an intricate tapestry of skills and knowledge and ideas. That our abilities are numerous and should be valued as much as theirs are.

Kimberley. That crude things that are said that they feel are a compliment are usually more of a put down. Personally, I’m not flattered in those cases and it makes me feel uncomfortable and even threatened in some cases.

Kara. I wish men knew what it felt like to work for years at a job trying to move up…and then watch a man waltz in and be given the very position you’ve been working towards. It’s happened to me more than once. It’s happened to my female friends and family. It’s more than just pay inequality.

Jenn. I would like it if, when I described something more subtle I was seeing, like a condescension or abuser-type warning signs in a third party to guy allies, that it wouldn’t be written off as nothing just because they might not see it themselves. I’m a writer. I’m observant and I know a bit about psychology. I’m pretty logical and I’m not emotionally reactionary. So I’d like my concerns/observations taken seriously. Yet there’s a block there that’s not with the women I know.

Jami. I talked with my dad today about a deal he made with a male mechanic in another state, sight unseen, to fix a car. I wondered about the type of business contract he negotiated, and if he had any legal ground if anything went wrong. He was impressed with what I came up with…but they essentially shared a virtual handshake. No contract. I was surprised by this. I let him know that as a woman, as well as a business person, I’ve learned that I had to have contracts in order to protect myself. So, I was proud of myself, but sad, too.

And I almost regretted posting this. I was so sure I’d have to explain that, “Yes, it’s important for every businessperson to make sure to have contracts for everything, but there are still men who are perfectly confident that a handshake is honorable enough. But I know that I would be screwed over somehow with just a handshake. Especially by a male mechanic.” This. Second-guessing myself and having arguments for everything I say, just in case. This is my life, every day. I wish men knew how exhausting this is.

Amber. I wish men understood how it feels to have someone yell “HEY BABY NICE TITS!” out the window as they walk home alone at night… the fear, the panic, the shame…

Vivian. I wish more men could hear “no” without ignoring it or taking it personally. I wish they would respect the power of the word.

Kathryn. I wish they knew how much it hurts to be judged by my weight. I have PCOS and have fought against my body my whole life. I have an eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. I hate my body and always have. You wouldn’t believe how many men have walked up to me in my life and said, “You know, you’d be cute if you weren’t so fat.” Whenever I hear Trump make fun of a woman’s weight, it hurts me, because it’s clear that in his mind a woman who isn’t perfect and beautiful has no worth, and a lot of others seem to feel the same. I’ve always felt worthless because I just wasn’t pretty enough. This campaign has been utter misery for me.

P. Just because I like it when you tell me I’m pretty doesn’t mean I’m going to fuck you. Just because I wear skirts, doesn’t mean I’m not the smartest person you’ve met this month.

Kate. Don’t tell me how to see things or that I’ve got it wrong when even the question wasn’t for you, much less the answer.

Becky. Love us, love our pets.

Janet. I wish men (and a sadly high number of women) realized just how much females are taught to appease and accept. Don’t sit with your legs spread, don’t do too well in science or math class, don’t wear short skirts, don’t beat a male in any sporting or cerebral competition because guys don’t like it/are distracted/it isn’t ladylike – and that last phrase makes my blood boil. Accept the fact that your manager gropes 18 year old you every chance he gets because “that’s just how it is” and when you slap him for it end up on a disciplinary for it. Don’t make eye contact for too long because you’re asking for trouble by sending a sexual message. Don’t avoid eye contact because it means you’re untrustworthy. Don’t where frumpy clothes because men think you aren’t interested. Don’t wear skimpy clothes because you’re asking for someone to rape or sexually assault you. Don’t outshine the men in your class or workplace because it means you slept your way to success. Don’t come stone last because then you’re just another silly little girl. Don’t drink in public because it’s your fault that taxi driver raped you on the way home. The list is never ending and the running theme through all of it is that you are responsible for the actions and reactions of the males you encounter because of the way you look, smell, act, think and dress. It dehumanizes both men and women, because absolving males from their own actions has created the results we see today.

Not all guys take this route and thankfully an increasing number of men are calling it out as unhealthy, but I’m pretty sure most women have experienced this. It goes with having a vagina and it’s as common place as brushing your teeth in the morning.

Megan. I wish men knew that we teach our daughters from the time they’re in kindergarten how to read boy’s body language and what to do to not set boys off just like our mothers taught us. Because we have to live in a “better safe than sorry world.”

Terri. I wish more men understood and accepted that women get older. There’s nothing wrong with being strong and healthy and vital, but gravity is the law and it gets us all. That women over 40-50-60 shouldn’t need to feel like they need to act like aging sex kittens to get or keep attention. When I became a “woman of a certain age” it was like donning an invisibility cloak. I don’t need to be flirted with or flattered, but see me (and know that I have accumulated knowledge, skills, and experience in vast and fascinating ways – but I’ll never pass for 25 again.) Don’t ignore me. Make eye contact with me.

Suzi. I wish men could hear the screaming frustration in my head every time a man ‘explains’ something I not only already know, but I’m a borderline expert or I am an expert in and they’ve watched from the sidelines and know nothing about. I wish men at least kept pretending to enjoy deep conversations about everything even after dating for a month. I wish more men would understand how much of ourselves we give up and how much we’re expected to sacrifice, and with only an occasional reward. I wish more men understood what feminism means instead of automatically assuming it’s some sort of attack.

Patrice. I wish people understood that there are many reasons women don’t report sexual aggression, abuse, and rape… and one of them is that it’s so fucking sad. Infuriating. Unnecessary. We wish it didn’t happen. We wish it hadn’t happened to us. We wish it away, so we don’t have to think about it and talk about it and we can try to tuck it into a locked compartment in our memories… and even now, as brave and bold as it is to speak out about it, it’s painful. For me, it’s 50 years ago. But it isn’t gone. And it can never be undone.

Karen. I wish men knew how it feels like a prison sometimes not to feel I can go out walking at night without a man to protect me. And how infuriating it is to be cheated by mechanics and car salesmen because I’m a woman; I’ve learned to always have a man do the talking in those situations.

And I wish the good men like you (and my husband and my dad and so many others) knew how good they are. It seems like it’s the good men who do the apologizing for what the bad men do.

Julie. I don’t want men, or anyone, to tell me to smile. I will if I want to.

Jami. One time, my mother and I were discussing how we park under lights in shopping center parking lots…but not a light too far from the entrance. We walk around the car to make sure that no one is in or under our car, and that there are no flyers attached to anything, before we get in our car. Don’t leave your purse in the front seat. Have your keys in your hand before you leave the store. Walk fast. My grown up youngest brother was floored. He had no idea we did this. He’d never been taught this, never experienced fear in a parking lot, never noticed that Mom did this.

Kerri. I always lock the car, always look in the back seat, always look for anything amiss. It is almost built in, we have been doing it so long.

Bethie. I walk with a key between my fingers if I go out at night because I might need to punch with them. I don’t take the trash to the apartment dumpster if it’s after dark. I lock the car doors if I get in and need to sit a minute.

Becky. And you watch out for vans parking nearby because they can have somebody jump out and attack you.

Jami. I actually prefer to walk from the bus stop down the alley instead of the street to my apartment. Because the alley is wider, well-lit, and there are more windows looking out over the alley. Because there are bigger trees closer to the sidewalk along the street. So, more places to hide and actually less light! Plus, the sidewalks are narrow and next to the street parking, so I’m walking next to all the cars. I don’t want anyone to be able to snatch me into their vehicle!

Becca. And then they tell you that all this is just paranoia, that you’re overthinking it and worrying yourself because they’ve never seen anything to indicate that this fear is common sense, while we’ve have almost all had cars follow us for blocks or men turn out of their way to follow us, and we know if we don’t take all these measures the answer is going to be that we obviously were careless or didn’t fight hard enough.

Jami. I know where all the local fire stations and police stations are in my neighborhood. Just in case I’m being followed. I’m also aware that not all people have that privilege, to trust law enforcement…but I count on the possible stalker to be afraid of authority figures. And not to know where I live. I always carry some kind of sweater or hoodie. I’m frequently cold, but it also serves as protection from male gaze, effective or not. It also serves to absolve me of guilt, in case anything happens to me.

Bethie. I wish I could say “I publish erotica” without feeling like I need to hush my voice, or be careful who I tell lest someone think ‘badly’ of me.

Nikita. I wish that men would stop telling women to “Just calm down.” I didn’t know that expressing my emotions and opinions is considered being hysterical.

Courtney. I wish men would become more aware of how often they interrupt women. At the next convention panel you watch, just count the number of times a male panelist interrupts a female panelist, and vice versa.

Michelle. Just stop the mansplaining, guys, please, and assume that it’s entirely possible that women know just as much as you, and sometimes about some things, more. And we know it goes both ways.

Alma. Do not use superior height or physical substance to loom or to block exits – when I was at university there was a chemistry weighing room which was literally a cubby hole with weighing scales where you had to go pick up the chemicals you needed for your experiments and there was just the one doorway – only one way in and out. We girls very quickly learned never to go in there alone but always in pairs – because any female on her own would get some guy just leaning on the doorjamb, looking in – doing nothing, really, but squarely in the way of getting out if getting out became necessary and showing no sign that he would give way if that were to become the case. they enjoyed the sense of wary, well, fear for want of a better word, that they caused in the trapped womenfolk inside. It was a power trip. “You aren’t going anywhere unless we permit it.”

Jami. The terror of knowing that men (particularly coworkers) will know I’m on my period, so trying to be as clean as possible and as friendly as possible during that time. Lots of ingrained body hatred within all of us for so many weeks of our lives. So much shame.

Cam. Listen to us when we say there is a problem. Don’t argue. Don’t immediately jump to the gender’s defense. Just listen. There are so many of us with the same stories and we’re still made to feel selfish, weak, bitchy, powertrippy, hysterical, et cetera, just for talking about it. We aren’t allowed to discuss it much less come up with solutions. And how do you fix a thing when you can’t even get people to acknowledge the thing in the first place.

K. I’m not sure how to put this. But it bothers me that a man has to declare a safe space, that so many men won’t just listen and respond respectfully without another man declaring the rules of the space. It bothers me that on my own posts time and again men–it’s always men–will make jokes to “lighten the mood” when I am having a serious conversation. In short, I am tired of the tone even online being set by and governed by men.

This second comment really is for everyone, not just men. But I get it from men more often so I am including it here.

Overthink
Overshare
Overdramatic
Overemotional
Over invested.

STOP IT.

You do not decide what the appropriate reaction is for everyone. There is no baseline acceptable reaction against which everyone must be measured. Thoughts, emotions and reactions aren’t speed limits. Every single time someone says “you’re over[whatever],” what they are really saying is “your Self, who you are, is not acceptable.” And that is just wrong.

Gail. Yes. Also, there are plenty of men who are ruled by their emotions, and these men are usually the quickest to belittle women for doing it, even when we aren’t. Being “emotional” isn’t actually a feminine trait. That’s always bothered me. As a whole, women might be more expressive with emotions, but we don’t have more emotions than men. We express and process feelings differently, and that’s OK.

Jami. Tools (surgical, mechanical, dental, woodworking), phones, weapons, bus seats, and medications tend to be designed for man body shapes. From my experience. Coloring something pink does not magically change its functionality or effectiveness, either. For anyone.

Sheryl. I just wish more men would recognize even a few systemic discriminatory practices that put women at a disadvantage. Even some men with daughters don’t recognize the limitations.

Christy. I don’t like that I have to hide how smart I am.

Glenda. Please, good men, try to understand that sometimes we are reacting to something in the past, not just to an innocent remark or action of yours. Apologies in advance. And now I’m crying and I don’t know why.

Shoshanah. Being dismissed in any situation where I am aggressive or opinionated – things men are proud of – as just “being a bitch.”

If that’s the definition, then you’re damn right I am. Every time I flip off a cat caller or refuse to sit down and have things mansplained to me, I am a fucking bitch. Every time I refuse to go out with someone because it’s my choice, or tell them to piss off for telling me how I should smile, dress, or do my hair, I am thrilled to be a bitch. At least people acknowledge that the bitch is there.

Joanne. My husband and I had a conversation a couple of years ago about sexual harassment and street harassment and the like, and I said it happens often to me, and he said he’d never seen it, and I had to explain that of course he hadn’t, because nobody’s going to talk to me that way in front of a 6’3″ dude who obviously cares about me. And that’s true, but I also realized I don’t mention it when it happens either, because it’s not usually remarkable. And he said, well how can I know what you don’t tell me, if it doesn’t happen when I’m there.

So I started telling him about it every time it happened.

Initially he tried to explain how I might have misunderstood the situation. And man, that hurt. But I kept telling him and just hearing about the frequency of it has been like this slow drip wearing away at his willingness to give strange men the benefit of the doubt over his own wife, and he doesn’t do that anymore, and he’s so much more on board now with understanding that I literally experience the world differently because I’m female. He’s started noticing stuff himself, too.

I’m so proud of the work he’s done. But it’s also exhausting, the amount of emotional labour I’ve had to do to get him there. So I guess what I want men to learn is to see how much work you’re asking us to do for you, all the time. Recognize and thank us and take on an equal share.

Melissa. It’s hard to start mentioning every time something happens because then you have to put it in the forefront of your own mind as well, instead of squashing it into some safe place in the back where you try to forget about it.

Becca. Seriously, why does the man who loves me and supposedly trusts me enough to sleep next to me question what I experience every day that he didn’t see. When he knows I’m not a dramatic person, when he knows I have experience weighing people’s reactions from two widely diverse cultural backgrounds, when he knows I tend to understate things not overstate them, what part of “this happens” is so hard to accept?

Amy. I wish men realized that when we raise our voice is not usually out of anger but out of frustration due to not being heard or even listened to. And we know full well that if we do raise our voice we are suddenly a Bitch, so we wait until it’s the last possible way for our ideas to be heard even though we know it will be lost in translation.

Angela. I wish I didn’t notice the men staring at my breasts all the time. Even when I’m wearing something as racy as a t-shirt. And I wish that when I get angry and cry, that men did not see it as weakness but what it really is: my emotions overflowing my body because I am so upset. Sometimes I can’t help but cry and it pisses me off because I know they see me as weak when I do it.

Kris. I wish I didn’t feel I often can’t look at men directly when walking on the street.

If I get even the tiniest vibe of weirdness, I assiduously avoid all eye contact. I honestly didn’t realize I did this reflexively until I was walking with my brother, and I avoided making eye contact with a man who was trying to make eye contact with me. After we passed him, my brother said something like, “Wow, did you see that weirdo?” And I replied, no, actually I did not, I was trying so hard to not look at him.

It pissed me off that men apparently do not have this problem which I was mostly unaware of until that very moment. It made me feel I was lacking a basic freedom that men possess.

Rachelle. Don’t tell your daughters “you can’t.” They most certainly can. I was lucky that way. My father believed I could do anything. Some of my students and friends were not told that and it damages.

Christina. I resent females being defined by our relationships to men. Every time a book comes out with a title in the pattern of “The So-and-So’s Wife/Daughter,” I want to scream. And it offends me when men can frame their outrage at a female’s mistreatment only in terms of, “That could have been my [female relative].” Way to make it all about you.

Donna I wish men understood that porn is a soul corrosive; no one can touch it and remain unharmed. Run-in with a pedophile photographer: “You’re not good enough to be loved, but you are good enough to be used.” The message pierces, stays, and creates despair because I was certain it was true. I was 14; He was 72.

Julie. The way men leer at my chest. They think that they are appreciating my form. They aren’t. That’s a whole different look than a leer. The leering type? It feels no different to me than if he would have just grabbed me and to be honest? I almost wished they just did because then I could hit them or file assault charges. It wouldn’t feel any different.

And this has been going on since I was 12.

Jennifer. Don’t assume that a woman is going to make “family decisions” and pay her less than you’d pay a man because “she might get pregnant”. This drives me nuts. Many women are not interested in having children. Don’t assume that our life roles are traditional. A lot of us are the primary breadwinners. Respect our capability.

Becca. If you wouldn’t say something about a person in front of them, don’t say it behind their back. “Locker room talk” is something I worry about – I’m working so hard to make a serious career, and unlike you, a conversation like that behind my back could seriously damage how I am seen if a promotion is available or a training opportunity. When you train others to see me as meat it has lasting effects on my life, and when I find out about it that has lasting effects on my trust. I’ve found out after the fact that someone who posed as a friend for years was spreading rumors about how many people I slept with. It may seem like a small harmless thing to you while you’re opening your mouth, or while you’re standing by listening to someone else do it and nodding vaguely but it’s damaging my reputation. If you would hesitate when I’m there, shut your mouth.

Megan. On clothes. I dress for comfort. And wear a lot of black. A lot. I wish men would understand that I don’t want to wear makeup and a “nice outfit.” What I want is to wear clothes that I won’t care if I get a little blood or manure on them if one of my horses go down. I also want pockets to put stuff in. Do you know how many women’s clothes don’t have pockets? I really don’t care how my butt looks in them. I care about functionality. So please stop telling me how to dress.

Nell. Tired of hearing men say “How about a smile? Smile for me.” That just makes me want to say ‘piss off.’

Shae. On the subject of sex. Women are sensual and connect with our feelings more easily than men. We need foreplay…not just slam and bam, thank you ma’am! Please, kiss, caress, and love every inch of us–give us more than ten minutes of foreplay please sir and you will end up having the best sex of your life! Now onto the subject of players. Men, just know this– when you are in a relationship and you are cheating and unfaithful or you are telling multiple women they “are the one, your soul mate, and you want to be with them” trust me when I say that they know you are a cheater or a player. Yes, we know. Now we may choose to either 1)call you out on your bullshit, 2) play your game and play the player (you) ourselves (turnabouts fair play) or 3) stick our heads in the sand and ignore the behaviors because for the time being we are comfortable where we are at. Just know you aren’t fooling anyone and we are all fully aware of and pissed off or amused by your little games. (Yes, I know not all men are players….)

Also, know what an emotional affair is and that it is just as much if not more so damaging to a relationship than an actual physical affair. If you want to keep your woman’s heart, do not ever give her cause to think she can’t trust you with it! Because if she can’t trust you with her heart. she sure can’t trust you with her body, and for women, it is very hard for us to be intimate with you if we think for a second you are going to destroy us emotionally.

C. As a six foot tall woman, I wish men would stop thinking of me as a challenge and alpha male-ing me. I don’t need bringing down to size — and I’m sorry to say that I get this most from men who are shorter than me.

Jessy.  I wish men understood that when I jump, flinch, or avoid eye contact it’s not a personal attack, or to make them feel guilty. If they thought about it they would come to the conclusion that I’m that way because of abuse. A little empathy and understanding go a long way.

‘C’ wonderfully pointed out the height issue. I am not tall myself, but I’ve seen how tall women are seen as someone men have to act macho with. I’m short and I’m tired of being seen as cute and “the right height.” All women are the right height.

I’m fat, that doesn’t mean I’m not worth your time. My appearance shouldn’t dictate whether or not I’m a worthy person. I could be your next closest friend, or someone to talk fandoms with.

Melissa. I also hate being told I’m cute when I’m angry. Like a toddler or a puppy. Someone whose feelings and opinions matter no more than a doll’s.

Thea. I’d love for more guys who know me to acknowledge me as someone who’s good with tech stuff and can help solve problems the average person comes across. I’d also love for guys who have no idea what they’re doing not to try to give tech help. It’s painful to watch and everyone who was already confused only gets more confused (including the guys trying to help).

So, more accurately: I’d love for guys not to assume they know more about tech stuff than girls/women do. Being a guy does not bestow techiness. Having experience with tech, being skilled at problem-solving, and having good communication skills is where helpful techiness comes from.

Courtney. Because of our culture and what it teaches both genders, the fear of being attacked enters my mind Every. Time. I. Walk. Through. A. Parking. Lot. Or go for a run. Or stroll down the street. Or stay home alone overnight when my husband is out-of-town. And I suffer from these fearful thoughts even though I’ve never been physically attacked. (Although I have been sexually harassed.) They were programmed into me with every familial teaching about how and why to dress a certain way; every familial teaching about how and why to act a certain way in public; every chain email on how to protect yourself from rape; every news story of a woman being attacked for no other reason than her existence; etc.

Because of past personal experience and experiences of women in my life, I can’t smile at you the way I’d like to. Though introverted, I am a friendly person who enjoys smiling at people. But men, I can’t smile at you in passing the way I’d like to. Do not tell me to. I cannot do it. Because I don’t know how you’ll interpret it. Every lesson I’ve learned has taught me that to avoid harassment, attack, stalking, and other such horrors, I have to keep my smile under wraps. My smile is not an invitation.

I always, always know when you’re looking at my breasts. You’re not fooling anyone. I’d appreciate it if you paid attention to my soul and spirit instead.

It is your duty to teach your sons not to attack, molest, harass, belittle, rape, murder, demean, denigrate, dismiss, ridicule, mock, humiliate, disgrace, oppress, or otherwise dishonor women.

Lisa. Don’t assume you know anything about my sexuality.

How you treat other men & boys matters too.

Hold the door, don’t hold the door, let me hold the door, whatever gets us all through the door comfortably. But we notice if you only hold the door for women you find attractive.

Don’t treat women in our 40s like we’re irrelevant. It hurts being too old to be considered cute and too young to be considered wise.

There are few things more insulting than having made the effort to think through something that is bothering me, carefully chosen my words to convey my thoughts without offending, — then be met with dismissal or hostility — then be held at fault for finding that upsetting because “I can’t say anything to you!”

Shae. I hate that for a woman to receive help from some men, it expected by those men for the woman to return the favor thru having sex. I hate that women do not receive the same pay a man does for performing the same job. I hate the way our culture sexualizes everything in advertising! There are many things that are greatly disturbing about the way women are treated, put down, manipulated, threatened, abused, sex trafficked and disrespected in this world. Women are the vessels that bring forth life and this is how we are cared for and appreciated?! Where would humanity be if all women stopped bearing and nurturing children?! What the hell guys??! I know there are good men out there that this doesn’t apply to, but overall I am sad to say I think you awesome men are in the minority so please just keep pushing your male friends to be decent by setting a good example and also by calling them out on crap when you see it or hear it and please raise your sons to be gentlemen and your daughters to expect no less than that from the man in her life! Thank you for listening!!!