To the Vast Minority of Men

You are the ones we are taught to fear.

My entire life I've been surrounded with good guys; from my dad to my romances and my friends. I was lucky enough to have a plethora of models to base my expectations on. These men are gentle, respectful and kind. They know how to express their masculinity without discounting my strengths as a woman. I never felt objectified or worthless. I was never afraid. I was spoiled into the belief that perhaps all men were this way, and that hundreds of years of discussion and awareness had brought an end to sexist behavior.

This article is for the sliver of the male population that have convinced me otherwise.

To the doorman at the party I arrived to a bit early:

A door is not a permanent object. Oddly enough, they do open. When my friends and I showed up 15 minutes too soon to your apartment, I did not know I was walking into a trap. See, you wanted more girls in the room. Society has told us that a party's enjoyment levels increase proportionately to the amount of women present, right? So you signaled for your friends to draw us in, and it worked. Who can resist loud music on a Friday night? The problem, though, began when we wanted to leave. We were the only women there at all, surrounded by men our age or older drunkenly dancing around. It was obvious we were the odd ones out, and it made us very uncomfortable. There were too many stares coming our way. I turned to grab the door but... you stood in front of it. Each time I tugged a little on the handle you let it open an inch, and then slammed it with a giggle. I just wonder where the joke was? As women, we know that college parties hold a particular amount of danger. We are taught not to take drinks from people, or stay too late, or go without friends. Yet, we are never taught what to do when we want to leave, but cannot.

So, to the doorman: It may have been a joke, even a flirtatious one, but nothing about it will ever be funny to me. I have had far too many nightmares about what could happen if I lost control of my choices at a party, and making me fear that I had does not come across as cute.

To the professor who noticed my shoes and not my mind:

The thing about college is that on any given day I might have eight different things to do and places to be. On this particular one, I had an interview that required business casual attire. Heels make me feel powerful. Something about knowing I can balance my whole existence on the tips of my feet is uplifting. They are my version of a power stance, and I certainly needed that to ace my interview. I sprinted from there to the review session for your class. I was sitting in the hallway when you announced your arrival with, "you better watch out, my wife might try to steal those shoes. She'd look great in them." I laughed and gave a quiet "thank you," but your fixation did not stop there. You interrupted my questions to comment on the shoes. Everything from the noise they made on the floor to the color of the leather they were made with seemed to amaze you. I left your office entirely uniformed on the course material, but with every aspect of my footwear locked away in memory.

To the professor: Thank you for the compliment. I am not ungrateful that you drew attention to my power play. However, I am disturbed that they took priority over my intellectual growth. I wish you would see me more as the student in the front row of your class and not a circus animal walking about on stilts.

To the boy in the parking lot:

We were leaving our favorite study spot in our favorite suburb when you approached us. My friend and I, walking side by side, were joined by a third link in our chain. You started with "hi there ladies, how are you?" Simple enough. Maybe even nice. You seemed like a salesmen, perhaps, or someone in need of directions. Yet, you kept pace with us. "How old do you think I am?"

"How old are you two?"

"Would you like me to stop following you? I just got dumped by my girlfriend actually, so I've been looking around for someone new. Where are you parked? Oh, you don't want to answer?"

If you have to ask "does me following you make you uncomfortable?" you've probably already surpassed the boundaries. We kept giving you signals to leave. Silence, quickening of pace and even a few "no thanks." It would not shake you.

So, to the boy: I was so afraid you had a weapon. I was concerned that we would say something as simple as "please leave us alone" and you would hurt us. We stayed silent because the fear of pain was greater than the fear of you. Do not treat women like playthings. We are not here for you to harass on the street when your past relationship fails. We are not simply creatures to be hunted.

To the majority of men:

This is happening in front of everyone's eyes. I know you will never act out in the way these few men do. I believe you value every human around you for their abilities and skills, woman or not. Most importantly, I think the only way to fix this is if every facet of society, including every gender, recognizes the problem as a whole.

These examples are mild ones, and women across our country and the world experience much worse on a daily basis. Let's stop this dangerous minority from harming our women, men and our society as a whole. We can do it together.