An Open Letter to White Dudes on the Internet Who Want to Teach Me Things
Okay, so I hate open letters, you hate open letters. They’re tired and played out and I’m already planning my punishment later today for ever typing the words “An Open Letter” up there. I haven’t decided what exactly it will be but it probably involves watching a Trump speech on the economy/foreign policy/global warming with my eyes open Clockwork Orange-style because that is literally the only way that trash can be consumed. So yeah, trust. I know this is a shitty way to talk to people but there are just so so many of you and we really need to talk.
First, let me say I’m a big, big fan of a lot of your work (more specifically Star Wars (the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, obvs), Sherlock Holmes, Craft Beer, early 90’s indie rock) and am lucky enough to personally know some incredible members of your tribe (my super sweet husband and beautiful son) not to mention my dad (a Vietnam vet, ex-truck driver who refuses to eat at Hooters on work trips because it’s demeaning to women. IKR? Too good to be true except it’s not, he’s really real.) These guys are also white dudes but they do not constantly want to teach me things on the Internet. I’m just using them as an example that I do personally know and love some white dudes so you don’t take this the wrong way, know what I mean, because sometimes you take things the wrong way.
Anyway, I’ve wanted to write you this letter for a long time now because there’s just something you need to know, something I’ve wanted to say for awhile that I think a lot of women have wanted to say for awhile and maybe not found the words for and that is this: STOP.
That’s it. Just: STOP.
Stop confusing our Facebook statuses with the comment section of the Boston Globe. Stop thinking that every time we have an opinion or a thought and we share that opinion or thought that we are by default welcoming your opinion and thought not just once but repeatedly, restated, a dozen times in a row. That, to quote a recent White Dude on the Internet Who Wanted to Teach Me Something, “If a post is public you are essentially inviting discussion on that post.” White Dudes on the Internet, that’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works.
Sometimes, yes, as women we post things on the Internet because we want to have a discussion about those things. Pictures of our kids/dogs, whether the Yankees suck, which food truck has the best tacos, these are things we post and enjoy spirited comment and debate over. All are welcome here! All opinions matter on these topics! But that doesn’t extend to everything we post because not everything has a point/counterpoint argument.
For example the words “I am fearful for my life and the lives of people I love if Donald Trump is elected.” is not a phrase that has a counterpoint. There are absolutely zero “Well, actually…” rebuttals to that statement. So why the fuck do I keep seeing them? Why, white dudes? Why?
I know it must be scary right now to be a white dude. When you look at the demographics and realize you’re only 31% of the population (though you control 99% of positions of power) it has to freak you out. When you’ve had 8 years of a black man as president to be potentially followed up by a woman maybe now you’re just realizing that you might have to share all this “leading” that you’ve had the lock on for hundreds of years. I’m here to reassure you that it’s ok.
You can still contribute to the cultural and political landscape as a minority in really amazing ways. Just look at what the African-American community has given us for hundreds of years as an underrepresented group to see the potential. Jazz, poetry, basically every interesting pop culture phenomenon that has ever existed, Beyonce, Leland Melvin, Shirley Chisolm, Serena Williams, Black Twitter. The fabric of America is woven with the contributions of millions of people of color both known and unknown who have enriched our lives with their words and and their brains and their excellence. They will never be celebrated enough for it but still they contribute. And if you try hard enough so can you!
But in the meantime you need to chill. You need to stop thinking that women only exist as entities for you to react to. That every post we post is invisible until you respond to it/debunk it/validate it. As a woman you need to know that this isn’t only infuriating it’s exhausting, it’s insulting. When a friend posted on my status during the Democratic Convention a few weeks ago that it was more fun to post his dumb politics on my wall than his own I had to tell him that it wasn’t fun for people who felt their lives were threatened if the election went the wrong way. That we have to explain that people’s legitimate fear should not be “fun” to our friends is just gross. I told him I’d delete any additional posts if he didn’t stop and he respected me enough to stop. Unlike the guy I had to unfriend and block after he not only mansplained feminism to me but tagged me in an insulting post for all his friends to see.
Every woman I know has a story like this. Every woman I know is worn out by the endless barrage of white men who feel they know their lives better than them. Like the guy who explained to my working mother friend what life was like for working mothers. Because an article that you read one time in the Wall Street Journal is *exactly* the same as having to find a room at work to pump in when you’ve slept three hours the night before. If on an article about gender inequality in Olympics coverage with cross-references and bullet points and a dozen women saying “yes, this is how this makes me feel also” you think your repeated 1000 word comment rebuttals are crucial to a deeper understanding of the topic then you should know it really isn’t. I promise, it just isn’t.
Pro Tip: if you never comment on your female friends’ posts, if you’ve never liked a picture of their dog/kid or said “great job!” when they’ve done something awesome then you should keep your opinions to yourself when it comes to political posts. Engaging with people about politics at all is a right reserved for people who don’t troll exclusively for politics. If your finger is hovering over send, stop first and ask when you last interacted with this person. If the answer is “right after the passage of Obamacare” then keep your sending finger to your fucking self. Your opinion is definitely not needed.
The idea that “if you post it I’m allowed to piss on it” is not far removed at all from “if you don’t want me to shout at you, you shouldn’t wear short skirts.” Or, “if you don’t want me to touch your ass you shouldn’t have stood so close to me when I had so many beers.” The idea that women only exist to be responded to, that we are not fully actualized until a man comments/touches/intervenes might be how things have worked for a long time but I’m here to say they don’t anymore. We’re done. And we need you to stop.
Having to fend off repeated unwanted and disagreed with comments is not fun. We don’t like it. We hear your opinion, odds are we have heard it before, probably a hundred times, and we do not care. You have nothing to teach us about: our own experiences, our feelings, our lives. If you say your piece and we disagree with you then move on. Post on your own wall. Or maybe, this is crazy!, maybe just this once listen to us and actually stop.
I would never presume to speak for people of color but I know that when white men do this to me as a white woman it is degrading. I can only assume it’s that times a billion when they try to explain away your feelings about race (when any white person tries to explain away your feelings about race.) So maybe, White Dudes on the Internet, when you have the impulse to pipe up on your “friend’s” page when they try to relate their experience of racism you should shut up then too. For once just don’t talk. Don’t talk, just listen.
So one more time guys: this isn’t fun for us, this isn’t a game, this is exhausting, we already know what you’re going to say, we’ve heard it a hundred times before and we do not care, so just Stop. For god’s sake, stop thinking only about yourselves and how you feel about your place in the world, stop assuming we need your opinion to fully function, hear us when we say we are fearful or outraged or indignant or tired. Just finally once and for all, STOP.