Kit Steinkellner
September 26, 2014 2:51 pm

Sometimes someone will say something to me and all the security alarms in my brain start going off like crazy, because I know the comment in question is undermining and demeaning and would NEVER be directed towards a man. The worst part is, it feels like the people spewing these comments don’t even realize how they could possibly be “misconstrued” as offensive. So, to help clear things up, here’s a list of things I think everyone needs to stop saying to ladies, stat.

1. “Smile.”

Women don’t owe the world smiles. This seems to be a hard concept for a lot of people to grasp (which may explain why so many catcallers seem to view what they’re doing as a compliment–which, in case I needed to clarify, it most definitely is not). When someone tells a lady to smile, the subtext is, “Your pleasant attitude is my GOD-GIVEN RIGHT.” Newsflash, rando, smiles are earned. So earn one.

2. “Whoa whoa whoa, it MUST be that time of the month.”

Unless you’re my gynecologist, I don’t want to hear ANYTHING about my period from you. This is such a messed-up way of using a woman’s biology against her; messed up and all kinds of inaccurate. Lots of women are not emotionally impacted by their menstrual cycles. And for women who are, it’s a chemical thing. Humans are affected by their body chemistry ALL THE TIME, and men have hormones and mood swings and are emotionally affected by their body chemistry, too. Check your inaccurate misconceptions about biology and the human experience at the door, pal.

3. “Calm down” or “Relax”

I pick my battles very carefully, so if I’m not calm and relaxed, that means that whatever is going down is NOT something it makes sense to be calm and relaxed about. This sort of links back to the previous point as well in that it implies women aren’t allowed to feel things and have those feels be acknowledged as legitimate. If you’re trying to make me feel weird about wielding emotional power as a woman, it’s not going to work.

4. “You’re not being classy/dignified/ladylike.”

And I don’t care. I really don’t. You’re saying this because you think I care about being classy/dignified/lady-like. I don’t. I care about being kind and strong and smart. So next time, try giving me grief about something I actually care about being.

5. “Men are intimidated by powerful women.”

Guess who else is intimidated by powerful people? EVERYBODY. When you use the “your awesome job is going to scare away potential boyfriends” line, you’re trying to scare a woman into making herself smaller and less of a threat. It won’t work. The truth of the matter is, the only potential significant others who are going to be scared away by your awesome job are probably horrible significant others. Who wants that? Nobody ever, that’s who.

6. “You’re over-sharing.”

Here’s another explanation for what we’re doing: we’re expressing our opinions and being open and honest about how we feel. There seems to be a double standard with this one. Women are labeled (and self-labeled) over-sharers all the time, while men manage to largely avoid the term—even though they’re pretty open and honest about their opinions as well. We kind of need to drop the negativity associated with speaking openly about our feelings. It’s just not doing anyone any good.

7. “You look tired.”

You know why I look tired? Because I’m working my butt off to do cool things all the time and I’m constantly doing my best to try to have an awesome life. My face is puffy, my eyes have bags underneath them, but it is BAGS OF AMAZE and PUFFINESS OF PRIDE. I know people (usually) have good intentions when they say this—they’re concerned. But it kind of flies in the face of all we’ve accomplished and suggests it’s more important to look vivacious than to do awesome, tiring stuff. Just sayin’.

8. “You’re being bossy/aggressive/shrill”

Here’s a litmus test for whether or not you should use an adjective. Would you feel JUST as comfortable using that adjective with a man as with a woman? Would you call a dude bossy, a man aggressive (in a non-physical manner), a guy shrill? If the answer is no, you shouldn’t be saving all your super-special, super-judgmental descriptive words just for the ladies, so retire those adjectives from your vocabulary. Nobody needs them.

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