I Write Letters

[Content Note: Intersectional misogyny; violence; rape culture; reproductive coercion; slurs.]

Dear Men:

You don't own women.

You don't own our bodies, and you don't own our voices, and you don't own our thoughts, and you don't own our emotions, and you don't own our lived experiences. They are not yours. They don't belong to you.

You don't own women.

I'm taking time out of my life to tell you this, to tell you that you don't own women, because there seems to be some confusion on that matter.

I'm not just talking about the men who literally buy and sell women without their consent, nor just the ghoulish specimens of humanity who keep women or girls captive in the disgusting predators' caves they call homes, nor just the domineering fathers and husbands and male guardians or partners of any disarmingly innocuous title who control women in their orbit with vicious and unyielding vigilance, nor just the men who invoke some deity or other, some ancient religious verse, to assert their dominance over womankind.

Although those men, too. They don't own women.

I'm also talking about the men who, in their everyday interactions with women, use their physical presence to intimidate us. Who touch us without our consent. Who talk over us. Who condescend to us. Who patronize us. Who silence us. Who gaslight us. Who invade our safe spaces. Who mansplain. Who make misogynist jokes. Who leverage male privilege against us. Who steal our ideas. Who take the credit for our work. Who use racism again women of color. Who use homophobia against lesbians and bisexual women. Who use transphobia against trans* women. Who use ableism against disabled women. Who use ageism against older or younger women. Who fat shame fat women. Who body police all women. Who use any axis of marginalization, any vulnerability, against women. Who won't promote women. Who won't pay women a fair wage. Who refuse to support our right to bodily autonomy. Who refuse to recognize our agency. Who deny us equality. Who audit our emotions. Who filter our lived experiences through their validity prism. Who demean us. Who contradict us. Who tell us to shut up. Who want us to disappear. Who tell us to suck their cocks and make them a sandwich and go away. Who tell us they are our allies, and then aren't. Who betray us. Who creep on us. Who avoid accountability to us. Who treat us however the fuck they want, because they can. Who abet other men treating us however they fuck they want. Who bask in the luxury of privilege to not have to give the tiniest, infinitesimal shit about the harm done to us by being treated the way we are treated by men every day of our goddamn lives, who never have to know the ache of this oppression.

Those men. They don't own women.

The men who rape us. Who harass us. Who use the rocking motion of a packed commuter train as cover for rubbing themselves on our thighs. Who masturbate in front of us. Who send us unsolicited pictures of their dicks. Who flush our birth control pills down the toilet. Who poke holes in condoms. Who trick us into bed, into marriages, with lies.

They don't own women.

The men who keep us out. Who won't vote for us. Who won't hire us. Who undermine us and say it's for any other reason than that we are women. Who accuse us of looking for things to get angry about. Who tell us we are oversensitive. Who call us hysterics. Who conflate their privilege with objectivity.

They don't own women.

The men who call us bitches. Who call us cunts. Twats. Whores. Sluts. Skanks. Slags. Slappers. Coozes. Tarts. Breeders. Slits. Gashes. Holes. Bimbos. Hookers. Hos. Tricks. Tramps. Squaws. Witches. Hags. Battle axes. Shrews. Nags. Muffdivers. Trannies. Chicks with dicks. Cows. Chickenheads. Butterfaces. Cum dumpsters.

They don't own women.

The men who don't respect our space, our boundaries, our rights, our humanity. The men who have contempt for our taking up space in the world. The men who listen, but don't hear. The men who roll their eyes at posts like this one. The men who are already formulating their protests as they are reading these very words.

They don't own women.

The men who think they are good men. The men who think that being our allies consists of saying it, but then turning on us like snarling beasts the moment we say they have made us unsafe. The men who think they have a right to tell us what it is that we need. The men who think they need to explain to us what feminism is, what womanism is, what womanhood is. The men who claim they don't even want to own women, and yet behave in ways, constantly, that indicate they believe that they do.

You men that I am describing. You don't own women.

You men who are thinking: This isn't about me. I don't do that. Even though every man—every single man—every last man I have ever known has done something, some thing, and usually lots and lots of things, that suggest he believes that he owns me, or another woman, even if just in a single moment, a fleeting moment. Because the message that you own women is powerful. But it is wrong.

You don't own women.

You don't own women.

You don't own me.


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