I feel that I have a responsibility to teach my boyfriend about the female experience so he can go out there and A) set a better example for all men and B) show women that men aren’t all that bad. I have a unique position to teach my man how to just be better without sounding angry or like I’m lecturing him. He already knows that I love him and that I know he has the best intentions, so I can give him some feedback without it coming off as mean or hateful. He knows that I’m a reasonable human being because he knows me well now. So, if I suggest he tweak certain behaviors around women, he knows that I am probably right. If you love and/or live with a man, take the chance to teach him about the female experience.
Don’t walk behind women at night
When it comes to women walking alone at night, there are a lot of things men can do to make us feel safer. But one really simple one is this: just leave some distance. Assume she feels uncomfortable about you being behind her, and act accordingly.
Please wait at the bottom of the stairs
If a woman is about to go up a flight of stairs in front of you, hang back for a moment. Stairs create the perfect angle for, um, peering and we just feel like the guy behind us is staring at our butts the whole way. Even if you aren’t, just stay back and give her some room.
If you’re a stranger, don’t walk her to her car
If a woman doesn’t know you, don’t offer to walk her to her car. It seems nice but, she perceives you as a threat, too. Now, on the flip side, if a woman does know you, don’t let her walk to her car alone.
Really listen to your female colleagues
Women are so used to having male colleagues blow them off in so many ways. They interrupt. They look around the room when the woman is talking. Make an extra effort to make a woman feel heard when she’s talking. We have a long history of being ignored: help correct that.
Don’t give advice that isn’t asked for
Really—don’t. Don’t do this with men or women, but especially not with women. For some reason—perhaps because we smile and are nice—men often feel they can give us opinions and advice we didn’t ask for.
Let us initiate hugs
If you aren’t sure how to greet a woman, let her lead the way. She’ll do what makes her comfortable. If she goes in for a hug, great! Now you know you’re on hugging terms. If she reaches out a hand, shake it. Don’t force a hug on her.
Don’t tell us about your sex life
Don’t talk to women you don’t know very well about your sex life. It feels creepy and invasive—like you’re assaulting their ears. Only tell a female friend about your sex life if she asks about it.
Clarify “As friends”
If you want to get coffee or a drink with a woman as a friend, just say that. It makes it easier on everyone. It lets her avoid the confusion and worry that she’s leading you on by going.
Leave our appearance alone unless we’re friends
Don’t comment on a woman’s appearance unless you really are friends. “Those pants really flatter you” sounds very different coming from a man I’ve met once or twice than from a true buddy I’ve hung out with.
It’s okay if we’re single
If you know a woman who is a total catch, you don’t need to set her up. It’s okay if she’s just…single. Offering to set her up, out of nowhere, makes her feel like you’ve been thinking about her in that way. If she asks if you know anyone for her, great—then you can set her up.
Knowing one woman doesn’t mean you know women
Don’t assume that you understand all women just because you know one woman. Yes, you grew up with a sister or you have a female best friend. But that doesn’t give you authority to speak on behalf of women. Imagine if women felt that way because they knew one man. Ha!
Sometimes, we need a save
Sometimes, women really do need a save. What I mean is, if you see that a man is clearly making a woman uncomfortable—if she’s telling him to leave hear alone and she’s looking around nervously—step in. If you see the signals that she needs help, help.
Talk to us like one of your bros
Why is it so hard for men to just talk to women? Try to remove the fact that this is a woman from your brain. Remove the concept of gender. Talk to women like they’re just…you know…humans. Remove the fact that this is a gender you could have sex with or do have sex with. Really, just look at the individual in front of you, gender removed, and talk to her. Talk to her like one of your bros.
But talk to your bros better
Now, I have to quickly make this distinction about the last point: talk to your bros respectfully, too. Don’t say things about women, to your bros, feeling it’s safe because there are no women around. Don’t say things about women, to men, that you wouldn’t want to say to a woman.
Don’t be impressed because we’re women
Please, please, when you give a compliment, don’t add some comment about her being a woman. Don’t say she’s assertive “For a woman.” Don’t say you’re impressed “That a woman” did that.