Going about your day as a woman can be an exhausting process, since there are so many sexist things women hear on the regular that put us down and make us question ourselves. Many of us hear these so often that we get desensitized to them and view them as normal. We shouldn't forget, though, that we deserve much better.
What if, instead of telling women how to please men, we taught them how to please themselves? What if, instead of teaching them that their bodies are public property, we taught them to honor and respect their own boundaries and demand the same treatment from others? In short, what if, instead of teaching women that they are objects, we taught them that they are subjects — and taught others the same? Not only would it make it easier simply to be a woman, but moreover, it would also empower women to make the world a better place in all sorts of ways.
Men don't always realize that women are victims of harassment, sexism, and mistreatment every day, and the things we hear on a regular basis can really take a toll on is in the long-term. Here are some of the comments directed toward us regularly and what we deserve to hear instead.
1. What We're Told: "You're Being A Tease."
Like many women, I've heard this (or variations of it, like "you shouldn't lead guys on") for pretty much any behavior I've engaged in that isn't an outright rejection — talking to someone at a party, hanging out in someone's room, wearing a particular piece of clothing, you name it. These kinds of comments can make women cautious about just being nice. Friendliness should not have to feel like a liability.
What We Deserve To Hear: "Thank You For Honoring Your Boundaries."
It took a while for me to realize that, in fact, consent for one thing is not consent for another. Even if we flirt with someone and even if we sleep with them, it's not on us if they're disappointed we don't want to do anything else. If anything, they should be glad we're making sure we don't get into a situation that makes us uncomfortable. And they themselves should be thankful we're not putting them in a situation that isn't mutual. Who wants to do something with a partner who's not enthusiastic?
2. What We're Told: "You're Being Too Sensitive."
This is something men hear as a form of masculinity policing, but women also hear it in a slightly different manner: To communicate that what we're saying doesn't have any actual validity, since we're sensitive, or "hysterical," or (to add even more sexism to the mix) on our periods. This especially comes up when we try to talk about sexism, as if noticing injustice were itself unjust. It can also come up in relationships we try to discuss our feelings or concerns.
What We Deserve To Hear: "That's A Good Point."
Usually, "overly sensitive" people are just observant people. They're not making anything up; they're just noticing what's already there that others may not see, whether that's a societal problem or a problem within an interaction or relationship. If something is hurting you, the other person should be concerned about how to avoid hurting you in the future, not whether you should have been hurt in the first place.
3. What We're Told: "You Shouldn't Eat That."
Whether or not anybody overtly says this to us (and there are plenty of cases when they do), a slew of articles, books, and news specials about nutrition basically amount to "you shouldn't eat that." We also get this message from weight loss ads, celebrity gossip, exercise classes, and everything else that focuses on what size or shape people are.
What We Deserve To Hear: "Your Body Knows What You Should Eat."
Amid all the rules we hear about diet, we're not often told that our own bodies are actually the best judges of what we should and shouldn't eat. It might seem obvious that the hungrier you are, the more food you probably need. But growing up, I was so bombarded with advice about how much I should eat that it actually took me until my late teens to identify the sensation of hunger. From a young age, we should be teaching everyone — but girls especially, since we often teach them the opposite — to listen to what their bodies truly want.
4. What We're Told: "Why Are You Still Single?"
This is sometimes said in an accusatory manner, or sometimes it's a backhanded compliment implying that you have too much going for you to be single. Either way, the implication is that all women want to be in relationships at all times, which is pretty darn sexist.
What We Deserve To Hear: "It's Wise Of You Not To Be In A Relationship For Its Own Sake."
Instead of being made to feel like we need to change our relationship status, we should be taught that there are many good reasons to be single, like not having the time for a relationship, preferring casual dating or sex for the time being, or wanting to find the right person before we jump into anything. Being single is a good decision in these and many other situations, and we shouldn't have to feel like we need to apologize for it or change it.
5. What We're Told: "You're Being Sexist Against Men."
If you're a woman who talks about sexism, changes are you've been accused at some point of being sexist against men — even if you're literally just stating the facts, and even if you're talking about larger societal power structures that neither men nor women are responsible for.
What We Deserve To Hear: "Thank You For Sharing Your Experiences."
Instead of reacting defensively, people who hear us talk about our experiences with sexism should acknowledge that this isn't always easy to talk about (often because we get comments like this) and be grateful that we're taking the time to teach them something, because women aren't endless resources to teach people about misogyny. Especially if we're opening up about something personal, we at least deserve faith that we're bringing it up with good intentions.
6. What We're Told: "Here's What Men Will Think Of That."
On top of constantly getting advice about how to style ourselves, what to do in bed, or how to act at work according to what men think, we sometimes hear supposedly feminist advice with the same logic. "You don't have to wear makeup — guys like a natural look!" "Don't diet — men love curves!" This is not only heteronormative, because not all women even date men, but also sexist, because not everything a woman does has to be about men.
What We Deserve To Hear: "What Do You Think Of That?"
Rather than teaching women to see themselves from an outsider's perspective, we should teach them to get in touch with what they think. What clothes do they like to wear? What pleases them sexually? A lot of women unfortunately have trouble answering these questions because we're so often taught to see ourselves through the lens of hypothetical men. But a woman can't make herself happy until she knows how to do that, and the first step toward helping her figure that out is to ask her.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy(6)