Men Need to Stop Telling Women What to Write, Say, Think, Feel...

Mature woman with laptop writing in book at table
Mature woman with laptop writing in book at table

I'm a feminist author/blogger, and with that comes much unwanted attention from men who believe they know better.

Before I launch into my rant, I'd like to make something very clear: I'm not referring to all men. There are plenty of awesome men out there who support women authors and bloggers. This post isn't about them. It's about the other kind of men - the ones who simply cannot resist the urge to mansplain.

After my very first article for The Huffington Post was published, I started receiving emails and comments; and several of those comments were from men who think they know better. They felt it was their duty to explain to me what I should have written.

One man commented on my Facebook post and complained my article was lacking in substance. He explained he's had experience in editing, and suggested I take his constructive advice. He thought he was being helpful. He felt I should have fallen all over myself thanking him for his unsolicited superior advice. When he saw I wasn't filled with gratitude, he copped an attitude. After some other commenters called him out for his chauvinistic behavior, he went missing. Typical. (His comment had many typos and he wrote "effect" when it should have read "affect." But hey, typos happen.)

I wrote at length about how some men feel they have the right to tell me what to post, how to behave and what to say in my book, American Woman: The Poll Dance:

"You shouldn't only post about all the egregious things happening to women. You should only focus on positive stories."

"You need to get out more."

"You have issues with your father and only talk about your mother."

"Feminism is killing you."

"You have enough rights, why must you take on the ERA?"

"You must hate men."

Those are some of the nuggets I've received from men who identify as progressives. Sometimes they'll email me; sometimes they say it to my face. Most feel comfortable emailing me because they only know me from social media. They read my Facebook and blog posts and make all kinds of assumptions about me. The worst was when an angry man, who was insulting and made personal attacks on my Facebook friends, told me I have deep anger issues with my father. He sent me a private email to mansplain what he thought my problem was. I attempted to be civil and made him aware that he didn't know what he was talking about, and that my family was none of his concern. He continued to enlighten me on my own life and I defriended him. Another social media casualty.

Ever since I've been vocal about women's rights, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), I have noticed certain men try desperately to take me in hand, believing they and they alone know how the world works. They come at me with what appears to be concern for my well-being. They attempt to guide me in the right direction -- which, to them, is for me to shut up about it. My posts make them "wince," as I have been told.

What they fail to realize is they only add fuel to my fire. For all the talk about how unattractive angry feminists are, they are actually creating not only an angry feminist but a more determined one. With every little dig and every little unsolicited suggestion, I only grow firmer in my resolve.

I've been told by progressive men that I shouldn't go on a "witch hunt" when I express desire to single out male senators who are not supportive of gender equality. Witch hunt? What? A man actually said this to me. A friend. A feminist man! He obviously doesn't realize the sexist implications of the phrase "witch hunt."

Social media has given these mansplainers a platform, and it's so prevalent, there is a book titled Men Explain Things to Me. Clearly, I'm not the only woman who's been contacted by a concerned misogynist and told what to write or how to conduct myself.

The male compulsion for telling women how to behave is what's driving the flood of misogynistic legislation; whether regarding abortion, contraception, or equal pay. My story is a mere example of the systemic oppression of women that's being codified by the Republican Party. Yet another reason why it's so astonishing to hear mansplaining from progressives, too.

Everyone's a critic. That's okay. I'm a critic on occasion, but what I don't do is tell other writers what they should write about. I haven't received one note, comment or message from any women explaining to me what I should write about. In fact, women often thank me for writing the very words that are upsetting the 'splainy men.

Men who give unsolicited advice about what I should or shouldn't be saying are sexist chauvinists who just can't stand that a woman has a voice. To them I say with a smile; too bad.

I'd like to encourage every woman to not back down to these insecure bullies -- because that's really what they are -- scared, insecure bullies who are afraid of powerful, confident women.

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