In Writing

Hi guys. Women here. We wanted you to know that we need you and it’s not you that we mean when we talk about how some guys are jerks. Just in case there was any misunderstanding.

Being a woman is awesome. (I’m sure you like being a guy too). But sometimes it can be a drag, especially around guys who are jerks. No, we don’t mean you. We know that most men are good guys. You should know that every single woman you know has had a negative experience with a guy who is a jerk. You know the kind – the ones that grope or catcall, the ones that react to women like you might to a car you want or a cool leather jacket (except with a vagina). Then there is the even smaller subset, the ones who hurt and victimize. In fact, a recent government study showed that 1 in 5 American women have been raped in their lifetime. One in four have been hit by an intimate partner. So think about all the women you think are cool: the nice woman at the place where you get your morning coffee, that co-worker that always makes you laugh, your sister, a little girl you watched grow up into a bright young woman. Now do the math. We’re getting hurt in huge numbers. And we need your help to stop it.

I was moved to write this open letter to you guys after reading the story of Laura Ramadei, a waitress who posted on Facebook about having her ass grabbed by a customer. I’ve never been a waitress, but I’ve had my ass grabbed by men I didn’t want grabbing it. The first time I can remember I was 13 years old and walking home in my Catholic school uniform. A guy came up behind me across the street from a park (I remember the exact spot) and reached his hand so far up my skirt he got past my butt to my crotch. I wasn’t scared in the moment – I walloped him hard with my schoolbag full of textbooks and he ran away – but I did get scared later, wondering how things might have turned out if I’d have been walking on the side of the park instead of across the street or if my whack with the schoolbag had enraged him instead of scared him off. It’s the kind of calculus every woman learns to do.

Laura Ramadei was doing her job and some jerk with a sense of entitlement (allegedly, I have to say) thought that he had a right to put his hand on her ass. When reached for comment, the hedge fund guy in question said he’s grabbed many butts in his time but not hers. He did, however, admit to saying something like “I’d like to take you to go, with nothing on,” (so charming for a married guy). He also called her a cunt for posting about the exchange.

Because, you see, guys who are jerks really hate it when women speak up and shine a light on their obnoxious or abusive behavior.

But, don’t worry, we do anyway.

Here’s where you come in. Very often when stories come out about a guy who’s a jerk, it turns into a conversation about “women are” and “men are.” Sometimes it seems that good guys feel lumped in with the jerks. You’re not.

Women are many, but we do live in a culture in which nearly all of us have had some experience with being objectified and victimized. Men are many, and most of you are our sun and stars, the guys who are sweet to us and bring home takeout and make us laugh and turn us into better moms and sisters and girlfriends and women. We love you. We simply adore you. It’s not you we’re talking about. We have a problem with the guy who would call a woman a cunt. We know you don’t do that.

This week, Emma Watson made a speech in support of the #HeForShe U.N. initiative for gender equality. She asked that men join in demanding equal rights for the women. The internet lit up with wonderful support from you, the good guys. A few of the other guys did things like allegedly threaten to hack into her iCloud account and distribute any sensitive pictures found on there (there’s no evidence that those even exist) in retaliation (questions have arisen about the source of the threats, but the fact that this was used as a tool is telling). In fact, the whole nude-picture-leaking scandal this month goes to prove that there are some people who attempt to diminish women’s humanity by reducing them to objects to be ogled, regardless of privacy and protections. Woman-hating is real, guys. It’s not just the rantings of unattractive and angry women who are out to get all men. It’s affecting a woman you love right now.

Attitudes change when society no longer tolerates them. There used to be a time when it was okay (in America) to have separate water fountains (and everything else) for white people and black people. I grew up hearing “fag” used as an epithet. Neither one of those things is acceptable any longer. (Well, it was never acceptable, but you know what I mean). Sure, racism and homophobia still exist, but we’ve made strides because good people everywhere agreed on the fundamental rights of all people: to have respect, to be safe and have equal opportunity.

In the complicated web of gender politics, it’s as if some people still believe that men and women could ever be on opposite sides. How could we, when we live together, sleep together, work together and rely on each other? We aren’t. And that’s why we need you, guys. To speak up. To not join in when a buddy acts like a boor. To say, “Not cool, bro,” if you see a guy do something like what the hedge-fund guy did to Laura Ramadei. To stick up for us. We’d do it for you. We do it for you, the good guys.

To all those who do, thank you.

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