Given that it’s international women’s day, I figured I’d say something about being a woman, but then I realized what I felt today was missing was a message to men. Men need to be the change we seek. So here are 21 important things men who want to be good to women can do:
1.) Never catcall women.
2.) Never critique women’s bodies or assume our bodies or outfits tell you something about what we want and don’t want.
3.) If you want to know what a woman wants or thinks, just ask her. If she doesn’t want to tell you, that is information too – she doesn’t want you in her business. Respect her boundary.
4.) Learn to discern when women are trying to let you down gently. If she is making excuses or doesn’t seem enthusiastic in her agreement or is on her phone a lot, back off. She probably won’t give you a direct no because she has run into too many men who get batshit crazy when being told no and is being careful.
5.) Truly listen to women when we tell you about experiences and perspectives different than yours or when we want something different from what you want. This versatile skill works just as well in the bedroom as it does in the boardroom or when visiting at your Mom’s.
6.) Never hit on or ask out a woman while she is working.
7.) If you think a woman walking down the street or commuting on a train or a bus is pretty, appreciate her beauty quietly in your own mind and leave her alone. She probably has already been hit on by several random men today and it is really unpleasant and often scary to have the public sphere be one giant advertisement for dick. Don’t contribute to it.
8.) Never make it hard for a woman to turn down a date or sex or a hug.
9.) Respect that no matter what the movies say (which are usually written and produced by men) if she wants you, she will make herself available, and if she doesn’t, she will probably be a nice person but keep a boundary. Don’t think there is anything you can do to make her want you or owe you or date you if she doesn’t, because there isn’t.
10.) Understand that not all women are the same and most do not look or act like the ones you see on tv. Some are tall and strong, others are petite and fast. Some can do complex math in their head. Others can easily remember a conversation from last week. Some are the funniest people you’ll ever know. Only by actually spending the time getting to know this individual woman will you know about her.
11.) Respect that women can choose to bring life into this world and choose not to. It is a special thing that belongs to most (but not all) of us. You will probably feel like a bystander to this process. But you can be a good bystander, a helper. Ask her what she needs and don’t try to control something that doesn’t belong to you.
12.) If you become a dad, start off changing diapers and cuddling your little one from day one. Take parental leave. Men from previous generations rarely got this sort of bonding because they thought it was women’s work. And their lives were more emotionally distant from their family because of it. Yours doesn’t have to be.
13.) Don’t make dumb blonde jokes. Don’t make fat chick jokes. Don’t make rape jokes. Don’t make jokes about how you’d bang her or not bang her. Do not engage in “locker room banter” that degrades women. Some men are just talking when they do this. Others act on it. The talk enables those who act to then pass it off as a joke or a misunderstanding. Don’t enable misogynistic behavior in other men.
14.) If a woman tells you a man you know was a creep to her, believe her. Never try to figure out why someone you thought was a “good guy” would act like that or say “sometimes women lie about this” and “maybe she’s not telling the whole story.” Just believe her. You will have this happen at least once in your life, but probably many times.
15.) When you see a man treating a woman badly, say you think it’s wrong and that he should treat her better. Simple as that. And be prepared for him to react badly towards you. Because if he’s treating her bad out in the open, he probably feels really entitled to.
16.) Help make sure your female colleagues are getting paid as much as you are, and promoted at the same rate and that they aren’t interrupted in business meetings or excluded from things you do as a group outside the office for fun.
17.) When trying to help empower girls and women, make sure you don’t pressure her to become a certain kind of girl or woman that you’d like her to be, but leave room for whatever kind of girl or woman she wants to be. That is true empowerment.
18.) Don’t make her compete with you, fight to be heard, or use a lot of energy defending herself or her ideas if you can help it. Don’t play devil’s advocate to rile her up. She already deals with more “well, actually…” crap than you could imagine and there are better things she could do with that time and energy.
19.) Don’t offload your tasks and logistics onto her, ask or expect her to do a bunch of little things you could do for yourself. Pick up your own socks. Learn how she likes the bathroom cleaned so when you do it, she doesn’t have to go behind you and do it again. Remember to buy your own birthday cards and gifts for your friends and family so she doesn’t have to.
20.) Don’t assume that a woman in an office is a secretary or receptionist. If you’re unsure, ask her what her role is. Expect that there’s a chance she might be the boss, or at least a manager.
21.) Know that being good to women in these ways will not usually bring you accolades and even if people are trying to give you cookies for it, it’s not because you’re the best thing since sliced bread, but because the bar is set real low. These things should all be normal, but they’re not. But most likely some men will make fun of you for doing these things and some women will be confused by it. You will also be doing more work than a lot of men do. But the women you interact with will have better lives because of it. And you will feel good about it, like you are contributing to a better world. Because you will be.