It’s been a shit couple of weeks for women, you guys.
I mean, more so than usual. Birth control regulations rolled back. Harvey Weinstein. Cam Newton. I got into a Twitter fight with an asshole who a) didn’t understand why we were mad about Cam Newton and b) didn’t understand why saying “wouldn’t it be funny if men talked about getting their nails done?” wasn’t funny either.
I don’t want to only write when I’m angry. I’d rather spend these words talking about Jake Gyllenhaal’s Boston accent in Stronger. (It’s goooooood.) I’d really like to go back to a time when I didn’t feel terrified every day and didn’t know who Tommy Vietor was. (That’s a lie. I don’t ever want to not know who Tommy Vietor is again.) But I feel helpless about the state of the world 99.99% of the time. My Senators and Representatives are Democrats. I live in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. I may go broke donating to various causes and campaigns (Swing Left is going after Paul Ryan!) because I feel like it’s the only thing I can really do.
Well, that and write. Maybe I can put down some words and motivate a few of you. Maybe I can get one or two of you to think about things a bit differently. Maybe words can make a small difference.
So today I want to talk to you about being a woman.
It’s not always the big things. It’s also the millions of small things we’ve all experienced every day of our lives that we stay quiet about. That individually don’t seem like a big deal, but accumulate over the course of a lifetime. The tiny transgressions that we all accept as part of being a woman that men will just never understand.
Like having your period. You think you know about it, right guys? You date a woman and you think you understand. We get irritable for a few days every month and make a mess in the bathroom waste basket and don’t want to have sex. That’s it, right?
Want the truth? It’s pretty awful. For up to a week every month – that is one-fourth of the bulk of our lives – we feel atrocious. You might spend a day feeling like your insides are tied in knots and being pulled tighter and tighter every hour: crippling cramps that make you lose your appetite and make you nauseous. I was literally woken up by cramps last week, that’s how bad the pain was. I took some Aleve and laid back down in the fetal position, but eventually I had to get out of bed and go to work. Every single woman you know has been at work while dealing with a constant sense of pain in their abdomen, and you would never ever guess it. Because while we have our period, we are attending meetings, leading presentations, chasing after kids, and working out (praying your tampon doesn’t pop out during Warrior 2), all while our bodies are bleeding profusely 24 hours a day. Some more profusely than others, I should add. I have friends who have had debilitating periods, where they feel like they can’t go out in public because there is so much blood or periods that go on for weeks.
This is just something we all deal with.
And speaking of tampons: in a lot of states, we literally pay for being a woman. Tampon taxes are a real thing, and it’s fucked up: we are taxed on a product that is a necessity for one gender. And it’s not just tampons. Women’s razors are also priced at a premium despite being essentially the same product as men’s razors. We literally pay more out of pocket while also making less.
Speaking of razors… we don’t really love shaving our legs. Sure, it feels nice and smooth when you do it. But in the summer, when you’re wearing dresses every day (pretty much the only advantage women have over men is the ability to wear light cotton dresses to work in the summertime), the shaving thing gets tiresome. And I’m only talking about my legs. Bikini line? Down there? You don’t even want to know. It’s work, guys. And it is not pleasant work. How much is too much? How much pain are you willing to take? How does hot wax sound to you guys?
What I’m getting at is that stuff just doesn’t happen magically. We fucking work at it. We do our hair and our makeup and shave and pluck. And sure, we could choose not to, and I’m sure there’s going to be a man out there reading this who’s thinking “but I like the natural look! Women shouldn’t do too much,” but he’s wrong. Because even the “natural” look takes work. Contrary to what Beyonce said, we did not wake up like this. I look nothing like a Kardashian, and even for me it takes roughly an hour and a half to shave, dry my hair, straighten my hair, put on what limited makeup I wear, and get out the door. And yet we do it every day and we don’t say anything about it.
And an aside: we did not do all of this because we wanted to have sex with you. Please continue to refer to above.
So then we get on the subway, and we try to sit down. We make ourselves tiny, legs pressed together or crossed, and a dude sits next to you and spreads his legs wide because… well, I’m not really sure why. Maybe he thinks his penis is just too large and he’ll crush it if he closes his legs? Spoiler alert: he probably won’t.
“What’s the big deal?” you’re probably thinking. “It’s one guy.” Sure, one guy at a time. But it’s one guy every few days, for decades, and at a certain point you’ve dealt with thousands of manspreading guys while you try to shrink into yourself to avoid touching him.
Everything is like this: it’s the one guy who gets a little too close to you on a crowded subway train and makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s the one guy who catcalls you as you walk down the street. It’s the one guy who makes a comment about your skirt at work. It’s the one guy who tells you to smile more. It’s the one guy who asks you obscure sports trivia to prove that you’re really a fan.
One plus one plus one plus one.
It adds up. It’s every fucking day, every fucking guy, even the “good ones.”
And that’s just the little stuff. If you’re still reading – and I sincerely hope you are – let’s get into the important stuff. Like how we fear for our safety way more than you do.
This should all go without saying, but here’s a refresher:
- Do not force sex on a woman. If she is struggling or pushing you away or saying no, for god’s sake, SHE DOES NOT WANT TO HAVE SEX. If she’s into it, she will let you know.
- Do not expose your penis to us. We do not ever want to see your penis unprompted.
- Do not touch us.
- Do not ask us to touch you.
- Do not ask us to show us your breasts.
- In general, assume that unless you are Oscar Isaac or Chris Evans, every woman alive does not want to have sex with you, so stop trying. In fact, very few women want to have sex with you, and you don’t get to decide whether we want to or not, and the sooner you realize that and take a cold shower and zip up your pants, the better place the world will be.
Every time we go on a first date, we take a risk. We take a risk that the man isn’t going to rape or kill us. We check in on social media or we tell our friends where we’re going, just in case.
We feel a little scared when you’re walking home in the dark, no matter how safe our neighborhood is. We feel a little nervous when we’re the only other person on a subway car with a group of guys. (Not thugs, but literally any guy. The guy in the collared shirt and the boat shoes is just as dangerous to us.) We sometimes think about how a man could crawl up our fire escape and into our window when we’re home, because it happened once when we weren’t home, and we’re only on the second floor and that’s the reality of your life. We constantly keep your eyes on your drink at bars and parties, just in case.
The risk of violence is just a fact of life when you are a woman. It’s everywhere. And every day, we wake up and we walk out the door, and we push all of those fears out of our mind because we have to in order to survive.
Every. Single. Day.
Men, in general, will never feel any of these feelings. White men especially will never understand.
So when you wonder why we’re all so angry, so on edge, so paranoid about every development, set off by the tiniest transgression, keep all of this in mind. We’ve been putting up with a million tiny things for as long as we’ve been alive, and most of the time you’ve never noticed. And then last year, we watched a smart, poised, qualified, prepared woman lose a job to an unqualified rambling buffoon who bragged about sexual assault, whose administration seems more concerned with protecting Nazis than the average woman.
I’m fed up by him, by Harvey Weinstein, by Cam Newton, by all of it. I’m fed up by all of the other seemingly innocuous annoyances that have built up over the years, and I’m done giving fucks. Did this make you uncomfortable? Good. Women have been uncomfortable forever, and I’m done keeping quiet about it.
Thankfully, many other women are too. The women who are coming forward with testimonies about the atrocities they suffered at the hands of one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers are unspeakably brave. They deserve to be believed and commended. So do the women who spoke out against Roger Ailes. So do the women who gave testimony of sexual assault at the hands of our current President, a man who is literally on tape bragging about the exact acts they recounted.
2017 has been terrible for us, but it also made us realize that no one is going to speak on our behalf. Nothing is going to change unless we demand it. 2017 has been rough for women, but maybe someday we’ll look back at this year as when everything started to change: when women decided to stop staying quiet about injustice. So stop being quiet, ladies. If you have a story, I pray you find the strength to tell it. If you don’t have a story, I pray you support women who do.
And men? Be our advocates. Let us speak and believe us when we do. You’ll never completely understand, but you can try, and it starts with listening. Ask your wife or sister or friend how her day went and really listen to her. Don’t dismiss accounts of assault as women seeking attention, because coming forward with a sexual assault allegation is probably the hardest thing a woman can do. Back us up. You’re an integral part in this.