I Write Letters

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

Dear Men:

Stop telling me how I should feel or what I should be doing about Trump.

Now, just to be clear, right up front: What I'm not talking about is respectful, good-faith discussions among colleagues and peers about big-picture strategy or even minutiae like the efficacy of calling a Senator's office versus emailing.

What I am talking about is the steady drumbeat, day after grim day, of men telling women that our feelings or priorities are wrong.

Men who insert and assert themselves to tell us that our responses to Trump aren't the "right" responses, or that we shouldn't be writing about, or protesting, or tweeting this but instead should be dedicating our time and energy to that.

I don't want to hear your opinions of how I should be feeling, or how I should be spending my time resisting, or on what you think I should be focused. I don't want to hear your condescending lectures about how I should be feeling or interacting with Trump supporters. I don't want a single syllable of your unsolicited advice.

It doesn't matter if you're Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times or some rando on Twitter. Keep that shit to yourself.

If you want to use "I" language to talk about how you feel or what you are doing in this moment of rising fascism or what you believe is the best approach or primary area of focus, have at it. Set an example, in your own space, if believe your strategy is better. But don't get up in my grill to audit me.

I didn't ask you, and I don't care.

I am not new. More than 20 years ago, I dived into activism by protesting my university using student funds to bring Ralph Reed to campus as a speaker. (We won, by the way.) There are 13 years of public archives of my written work. I'm a 42-year-old fat feminist woman whose body has been politicized her entire life.

And yet you talk to me like I'm a ninnybrained noob who's never thought about this stuff before.

Trust this: I have.

Now I would like you to think about this: Telling women what to do is one of the most pernicious and inescapable aspects of institutional misogyny. It doesn't matter how independent, how smart, how tough, how educated, how successful, how financially independent, how close to bearing the highly subjective cultural markers of "respect-deserving" a woman is. It doesn't matter how determined we are to persist. It doesn't matter if we have reached a certain age, or journeyed well beyond.

There are still men, not deterred by an urge for decency nor by their own intellectual mediocrity, who think they have the right to tell us how we should feel and how we should behave.

It is, though they would surely bitterly resist acknowledging it, evidence of their intractable belief that they own us. And that they are further obliged, by virtue of said ownership, to instruct us; to insert themselves uninvited into the lives and spaces of women they don't even know, in order to tell us what we should be feeling and thinking and doing.

You don't own women.

And if you're a man who reflexively agrees with that—maybe even feels his hackles slightly raising that I would even presume to say it, the mere statement itself an offense with its implication there are men who don't agree—yet you're also a man who feels it's his right to tell a woman she is not complying with his ideas about the way she feels and spends her time, then you need to have a long think about what it is that you think confers that right upon you.

Because guess what? It's a feeling of entitlement, which is rooted in cultural narratives of ownership.

And that thing you insist is "disagreement" is actually auditing. You are positioning yourself as an auditor when you cannot abide silently a woman doing something in a way you would not do it, but instead must interlope to try to "correct" her.

Even before you try listening, to see if maybe it's not that you disagree but that you don't understand.

You are, of course, welcome to disagree with my priorities all the fuck you want. But you are not welcome to tell me about it and expect me to give a shit.

And if, for whatever contemptible reasons, you cannot keep your auditing to yourselves, and you come into my space or orbit with a patronizing lecture or admonishments to follow your roadmap rather than my own, then don't be surprised when I push back.

You can tell me, in response to my defending my own boundaries and right not to be audited by every dude who happens across my timeline or blog, that I'm a fucking cunt, and that I'm the reason that we can't have unity, but understand this: It is you who are the barrier to unity. You and your shitty entitlement and your asserted "right" to audit women.

I never want to hear again some dude who's come at me with what I should be feeling or how I should be responding to Trump, positioning his opinion as the objective truth, and then respond to my lack of gratitude by scolding me for not appreciating that he's "on my side."

If you are lecturing me instead of listening to me, you're not on my side.

And if you cannot contain yourselves from pestering me about how I should be spending my time out of a sense of basic decency, then do it to avoid looking unfathomably stupid. Because no matter how I'm spending my time, I can guarantee it's more productive than spending it telling other people how they should feel.


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