Response to “The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About”

I was scrolling through my newsfeed on facebook, and I came across this gem:

Straight away from the title, figured it was a 3rd Waver post.

Before we get started – anyone here ever play Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past?  I know that’s a weird turn, but bare with me.  Link uses a mirror to transport between the “light world” and the “dark world”.  I’ve sometimes wondered whether or not these weren’t the exact same worlds… when link looks in the mirror, maybe he sees a part of himself that makes him reflect on all of his past actions.  Maybe he questions whether or not he’s really the good guy, and this makes his world seem “dark”… so when he looks away from the mirror, that’s what he sees.  A dark world.  It’s the exact same world, but everything appears different, because when your thoughts are dark, your world is dark.

The movie “A Beautiful Mind”, which was based on the life of John Nash, does a fantastic job of showing how a person can live in a completely different world from the rest of us.  I also explained in another post how people may genuinely be experiencing a mental health challenge if they walk around each day, truly, honestly believing, that everyone around them is a potential threat.

I work in mental health and have received numerous trainings in psychology, and I’m certified as a peer support specialist, as recognized by the state of Oregon.  So I handle topics that I consider might be related to mental health issues a lot more delicately.  If a person really is experiencing a challenge, it’s not something I want to be overzealous with.  Part of the 4th Wave movement is checking the 3rd Wave back into reality, and this is a major part of what motivates me.  People who are mentally and emotionally wounded, who are trying to recover, may have their recovery severely disturbed once they encounter a narrative that tells them all men are rapists, all men control everything, they’re all out to get you, you have to be careful because they’re everywhere, male gaze, man-spreading, man-splaining, so on and so on.

It actually saddens me to imagine what it must be like to be constantly scMental healthared everywhere you go.  You can’t get on a bus without feeling as though you’re getting stared at.  You can’t sit down because the guy’s leg is slightly taking up too much space and you can’t simply ask him to move over.  You can’t walk alone anywhere, because you think you might get raped.  You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is start preparing yourself for what you believe is a horrible, horrible world, filled full of people who – for whatever reason – are all out to hurt you.

As for the article:

>> There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about?

^^^ Most of these claims have been refuted a thousand times by multiple peer reviewed sources.  I’ve probably linked this page more times than any other page.  It’s unthinkable how sexism is a rampant systemic thing, when as a woman, I can point the finger at any guy at work, at any time, say he’s harassing me, and HR will launch a full investigation.  Men can’t do that.  I can.  The wage gap is probably the second most common thing I link.

So it’s not that they aren’t important, it’s that they’ve been addressed, and have been refuted with peer reviewed data more times than creationism has been refuted by evolution.

But you still believe it anyway – and this is where we’re getting into the sensitive part of this.

>> We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves.

^^^ If anyone out there reads this, and has had similar experiences, I would first ask why you’re uncomfortable.  Why do you think the interaction you’re currently having will anger a man?  Not a woman – specifically – a man.  Why do you believe you’ll be endangered?

>> We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment.

^^^ Most adults will encounter a situation where someone says something offensive – either because they don’t know they’re being offensive, or because the offending person is angry and is trying to get under your skin.  Sometimes the best thing is to ignore it and move on.  But if you’re ignoring it because you feel threatened, again, why?

Why do you walk around feeling threatened?  Do you feel this way all the time?  Walking in public, at 2pm in the afternoon, next to a park where children are playing… a man talks to you, and you feel threatened?

>> We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on.

^^^ I get this all the time.  Men hit on me, and of course I enjoy it.  Why wouldn’t I?  A man is giving me his attention because he finds me pretty and attractive.  Why is that a bad thing?  Occasionally a guy might be *really* direct – but hey, some guys are that way.

>> We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.

>> It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch.

^^^ I’ve been living as a woman for 2 years.  I’ve gone to clubs, pubs, meetup groups, and I very frequently do peer support and outreach at the homeless shelters.  I go under bridges and talk with the homeless people who are there, and I do this by myself.  I walk across town pretty frequently.  I talk to whoever wants to talk.

I honestly can’t imagine why I should feel scared that someone – just totally out of the blue – is going to scream at me, or put me in any sort of danger.

Now, if I had experienced a severe and traumatic experience, like domestic violence, then I may be suffering from PTSD.  Symptoms of PTSD involve reliving the experience of the event when you encounter an emotional trigger (that trigger might be talking to a man).  But if you’re experiencing symptoms like this, or if you really believe you are in danger for no other reason than a man is talking to you, I strongly urge you to speak to a counselor.

>> It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.

^^^ No, it isn’t.  Men do not frequently beat women all over town all day long.  You may FEEL like you are always in danger, but you ARE NOT.  You are safe.  The men around you are normal people.  They aren’t going to suddenly attack you just because you spoke to them, or moved the wrong way.

>> Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s ages actually came on to us while we were working the cash register.

^^^ It’s extremely rare that men sit and *stare* at your cleavage, generally because doing so would get reprimands from everyone standing around him.  It’s not considered socially acceptable.  I mean even if I go out wearing something low cut, and a guy looks at my chest even slightly too long, he’s likely to be corrected by someone else standing nearby.

You might feel you’re being stared at, but I’ve never in my life seen someone stand there and just *STARE*.  Probably their eyes dart down at your chest a few times.  This is perfectly normal and everyone does it.

What’s more, interpersonal skills is something we try to teach clients in DBT therapy.  If someone you don’t feel attracted to is coming on to you (happens to me all the time), what you do is politely tell that person to stop.  An example might go like this:

The guy: Hey baby, come on! Let me get your digits!  (asking for my number)

Me: No, I don’t want to give you my number, but thanks for your interest.

The guy: You know you want to. It looks like you’re about to! Come on, out with it!

Me: Sir, I don’t appreciate this. I’ve said no. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but please stop.

100% of the time, the guy stops, and doesn’t feel at all like he’s lost any respect.

It’s because I acknowledged that he was giving his best shot, but also let him know this wasn’t going anywhere, and did so with direct eye contact and a firm voice.  These are skills not everyone has, but interpersonal skills are things that everyone can learn.  If you’re not able to tell the other person that he’s coming on too strong or that you want him to stop, then there’s no way for him to know.  And there is absolutely nothing at all wrong for a woman to express her interest in a man – or a man to express his interest in a woman.

Another example might go like this:

Random guy: (From across the street) Hey there! How you doing sweetheart??

Me: Oh I’m fine, thanks so much for asking. 🙂

Guy: Hey come here for a minute.

Me: No thanks, I gotta go somewhere. Maybe some other time!


Me: *goes over to the person*

Guy: Hey can I get your number?

Me: Sorry, I don’t give my number out to just anyone.

Guy: Oh I’m too ugly?

Me: No sir, that’s not what I meant. If I knew you beforehand, like from work or something, then maybe I would share my number with you. That’s all.

Guy: Can I get a hug?

Me: No you can’t. 🙂 I don’t hug random people either.

Guy: Well alright then. My bad.

Me: Okay! See you later!

This person did nothing wrong by asking for my number. Asking me for a hug was a little rough and maybe lacking of social skills, but you know, there was a time when I lacked social skills too. I don’t blame other people for lacking them. Plus I was never in any danger.

I could be an insensitive bitch by telling him to get lost and storming off.

Some folks would point out that it’s not my job to make him feel better.

Not caring about other people’s feelings is exactly what “insensitive” means.   Being unnecessarily rude to others is what being a “bitch” means.

>> They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down.

^^^ What gets me is if I like a guy, and he selfishly turns me down, all my girlfriends will give me total support and say what a total bastard he was for being that way.

But if he likes me, and I turn him down……….. then all my girlfriends will give me total support and somehow, he’s still a total bastard.

It’s normal to have hurt feelings when someone rejects you or turns you down.  Men line up for women and do everything they can to impress us.  They work hard so they can afford the most expensive suit they can find, will go so far as to rent and expensive looking car just for that night, then put on their best “game”, and from there we turn down the ones we don’t like and send them on their way.  We do the choosing, because we’re the ones with the agency ( … in a patriarchy).  But yea, this is generally how the dating game works.

But no, he’s not going to suddenly beat you up.  If this theory were true, then I should see men beating up women at least every few minutes in any club I go to.  Just explain that you’re not interested, with direct eye contact, a firm voice, and with respect, and he’ll get the message, and feel respected.

>> Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will  allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.

^^^ See, this isn’t normal.

Normal, average, mentally healthy people do not walk around constantly fearing assault this way.  I’m friends with lots of women.  We don’t all walk around being smothered by this air of oppression, feeling forever frustrated, holding in all these emotions because we’re surrounded by imagined dangers.

>> We learn at a young age how to do this.

^^^ BINGO!

Somewhere, somehow, you LEARNED this.  The idea that the world is a horrible, mean place, full of people who will jump out and harm you the moment you let your guard down, is a LEARNED style of thinking!  Its not how most people think and feel.

I met one woman near one of the homeless shelters who was convinced everyone around her was a pedophile, and kept her phone wrapped in paper and plastic because she thought people were using it to spy on her.  I’m not licensed to diagnose thought disorders, and I lack the training to do anything more than facilitate basic recovery.  But what I WOULDN’T do is start telling her that “yes, there really ARE pedophiles around here! They’re everywhere!  And they’re listening to your thoughts!”  That would only make her anxiety and insecurity worse.

>> We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation?

^^^ Again, if you go through your day, honestly scared that every person you meet, may at any time, fly into a rage of violence at the drop of a hat, simply because they are male and for no other rason, please, please be aware that these thoughts are not in line with reality, and that you are not actually in danger.  If you are distressed this much, there is help.  Call a help line and ask where mental health resources are in your city.

>> It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.

>> It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.

>> It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.

^^^ This honestly does remind me of the movie A Beautiful Mind.  The poor fella honestly, truly saw a little girl, an FBI agent, and a college friend – and 3 people that only he could see.  They walked around and talked, just like everyone else, and were so real that he finally only became aware when he noticed that the little girl he saw never got any older.

I met a guy on the bus the other day who told me someone was using sorcery on his leg.  I tried to talk to him about this – but I only ended up validating his concern that spells were being cast on his leg.  He got louder and louder, and shouted for the wizard on the bus to stop using sorcery on him.

When I stayed over at the Peter Paulson during my transitional housing, there was a person who was utterly convinced that magicians lived in the building, and they were attracting ghost.  He thought this was what made the building hot during the summer, and he’d often times leave his room, scared to stay inside, because of the ghosts the magicians were summoning.

Some people might read this and laugh, but I work with such people on a regular basis, and it’s terribly sad.  They cannot find any sort of peace.  They live in a completely different world than the rest of us, and their delusions, to them, are totally real.

If you truly believe you live in a world where men control everything, and you have to go through a mental checklist because you’re afraid someone might spontaneously burst into a venomous rage, I really do wish I could help you.  Hopefully this site may help counter some of this narrative and provide you with actual facts and statistics on these issues.  I was once terribly afraid of flying, but after reading up on the actual statistics and seeing that flying was the safest way to travel, I was able to get over my fear.  I’m hoping this site might provide a similar effect.