Dear Menz

I love men. I’m even in love with one of them – so much so that he lives in the same house as me.

My mister is the kind of guy that downloads The Bachelor for us to hate-watch together, who sends me links to feminist podcasts and silly pictures, and also makes cups of tea without me ever having to ask. A keeper if you will.

Unfortunately there’s a bunch of other dudes out there who are really un-woke when it comes to showing basic respect. Sadly I have to talk right to their faces and sometimes I don’t even get paid money to do so.

Today I was reading this article which talks about when women get harassed online and menz can’t deal with boundaries. It’s outrageous to me that ANYONE would spend actual time trolling women who dare to disengage from being disrespected in their own online spaces – but you know, people are jerks.

This made me think about all the other times women try to set boundaries and men just can’t respect them. So here is a handy list for all the things that I as a woman don’t owe you:

A smile – I’m generally a smiler. It makes the world a bit nicer and I think if we all smiled a bit more there’d be much less misunderstanding and assumptions about people. That said, I don’t owe you a smile. If I’m smiling at you it’s an attempt to be a decent human, it’s not an invitation to talk, nor is it some sort of veiled come-on. If I was coming onto you – you would totally know about it.

Telling women to smile is shorthand for trying to control us. Your capitalist patriarchy might want women to be smiling complicit sex robots, but even if we were robots, at some point we would be self-aware enough to be sick of your shit. Smiling is a choice not an obligation.

My time – Time is a very precious commodity. How I choose to spend mine depends on my priorities and how much space I have in my day. Like anyone with a brain, I am up for a mind-bending chat, a philosophical meander or even a gossip from time to time. However, if you’re the sort of man-ego who likes to download buckets of meaningless verbiage on me because you like the sound of your own inflated sense of self, please don’t expect me to fucking listen.

Conversation flows two ways – if you want to rant about something, start a blog – that’s what I’m doing right now.

My attention – Another precious resource in the hyper-saturated information age is one’s attention. Please don’t try and attract my attention; if I’m not coming at you with an open expression that’s willing to engage I’m probably thinking about something else that isn’t you or your need for validation.

An apology for taking up as much space as I do – This is in no way just limited to fat women, but I think we feel it more keenly than our smaller sized sisters. If I had just a dollar for every time some dude had invaded my personal space, made me feel like I needed to fold myself into a smaller space to accomodate them or had to shrink away to avoid an unwelcome touch, I would be set for life.

You can just assume there is a 1.5 metre radius inflatable bubble that I live in that you aren’t welcome to come into unless I ask. Pressing up on the train, in the coffee queue or the “accidental” brush of your hands where they are not welcome is not only gross but technically assault. Just stop.

Politeness – Being part of the working world requires a basic sense of the social niceties. I make it a point to be polite; it’s not only good customer service but it’s also good human behaviour. However if you are rude, racist, homophobic, talk over the top of me or just an old fashioned misogynist all bets are off. This isn’t exclusively the domain of menz, but don’t they get so emphatic about their right to have fucked up opinions?

I have opinions too – and you’ll hear all about them if you take my initial politeness as a sign you can drop your hateful little “truths” on me. I am a master of telling you you’re wrong while simultaneously being “polite”. It’s a gift, I know.

An explanation of my mood – Yes, I’m the first one to admit it, I’m kinda moody. I have days when it’s best for everybody if I just hunker down with headphones and not talk to anyone at all. In fact, I’ll generally make an announcement that it’s a grumpy day just so there’s no misunderstanding about my behaviour, lack of interaction or directness.

Some of us have a finite amount of emotional energy and we choose to save it for the things that matter. That said, we don’t owe you an explanation about why we are in a certain mood, nor do we want any commentary about it. Men have an out when it comes to showing emotion in that they’re not expected to display any. I think that’s dumb too, but men get to be silent, distant, angry and blunt without anyone accusing them of being “moody” or “difficult”.

In the end my dear menz, all we women really want from you is respect. Respect for our boundaries, respect for our intelligence and respect for our autonomy to decide what we want from other humans. Whether it’s deleting an unwelcome comment on our Facebook page or just refusing to engage in another round of “justify your existence/ opinions/ moods/ actions” – back off and settle down. You have better things to do and be.

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