In response to the mass shooting in Isla Vista, which appears to have been motivated in part by the shooter’s deeply ingrained misogyny, much digital ink is being spilled across social media to refute the experience of women. The #YesAllWomen hashtag has alternately been empowering women to speak up, been hijacked by trolls, and been whined about by aggrieved men concerned that women may not care enough about what they think about what it means to be a woman in 2014. As such, I feel compelled to share my rules. These are not for debate. They are mine. I have not asked you to soften them, annotate them, or amend them. If you choose to proceed, sit down, fasten your seat belts, listen and follow.
1. You do not have default access to my body — not with your eyes, not with your words, not with your fists, not with your genitals, not with your politics.
2. If you do not have an advanced medical degree, a speculum, and an appointment I’ve booked through your receptionist, I’m not interested in what you think I should do with my reproductive organs.
3. Unless I ask, your opinion about my looks is irelevent. I don’t care if you like my hair straight or curly, or worn up or down. I don’t care if you like my outfit. I don’t care if you think my stilettos are very tall or look uncomfortable. I didn’t get dressed to earn your approval this morning; I got dressed so I wouldn’t be naked.
4. I don’t care if you’ve noticed I’ve been losing weight or working out.
5. I do not owe you a smile on the street. I can look serious whenever and wherever I want to.
6. You are not due any acknowledgment when you comment on my body or my outfit on the street. I am not a bitch if I flatly ignore you or tell you to stop talking to me.
7. An adult woman can have sex with whomever she wants, whenever she wants. She can have sex with a different man or woman every night of the week and your opinion of that is completely irrelevant.
8. If you’re not one of the men or women she chooses to have sex with, it doesn’t make her uptight, frigid, or — and this appears to be the preferred ironic insult — a slut.
9. In a professional setting, I will demand high standards and I will advocate for my position. I will not modulate for fear of being “pushy,” nor will I engage in some sort of mental calculus about whether I’ve spoken up too many times in a meeting. I will not cringe and apologize when asking you to do something or soften the blow when delivering warranted criticism for fear of being labeled a bitch.
10. If your out-of-the-gate response to women engaging in discussions of men doing horrible or inappropriate things is “Not all men…” you are undermining what they’re saying about the misogyny, sexism and chauvinism they experience. There’s a severe problem in this country right now. Your being a great guy isn’t the issue at hand.
11. There’s nothing wrong with most porn, but if you get your jollies by watching porn in which men simulate raping women, you need to take a moment and think about why that excites you.
12. My daughter will not be rude to you on my watch. But she does not need to hug you or kiss you or pose for a photo with you. If I don’t know you, she does not need to speak to you. If you do not get the response you seek from her and you say “She must be shy,” you will hear from me.
13. If I choose to walk or jog at night, I am not an idiot. Men who choose to attack women at night are criminals. Direct your disbelief and disgust at them.
14. I can have no children, one child, two children or six children and none of those scenarios warrant your opinion about how I’m doing being a modern woman right or wrong.
15. In discussions of sports, science fiction, action movies, gun deaths, finance, politics, history, and home repair, you are incorrect if your default assumption is that you’re going to need to educate me when you disagree with me. Using Google doesn’t make you the expert, professor.
16. In discussions of pregnancy, childbirth, female sexual assault, misogyny, feminism, chauvinism, workplace inequality, oral contraceptives, or abortion, your attempt to rebut my opinion with any derivation of “What you don’t understand is…” makes you look like a buffoon.
17. If you point to women sometimes asking men to open a jar or kill a bug as your refutation of feminism, you’re doing logical equivalence wrong.
18. Women sometimes lie about rape. This does not mean your default when a woman reports being raped should be to assume she is lying. A woman who says she was raped by an athlete from your favorite team doesn’t need to meet some higher burden of victimhood.
19. Nothing that you will ever hear about an alleged rape case from a newspaper, cable news show, on talk radio or a blog will qualify you to determine that the woman was not raped.
20. If you put your hands on a woman in anger, she has nothing to apologize for about that assault.
21. If you think the word feminist connotes a negative, and wrinkle your nose when I tell you I am one, you are part of the problem.
22. If you think my having been in a sorority undermines my feminism, and wrinkle your nose when I tell you I was, you are part of the problem.
23. My rules are not necessarily the same as another woman’s. We are not a monolith. This is not proof of any exasperating, confounding reality about womankind other than that womankind is made up of different women.
24. If you bristle at a woman saying she has rules, you need to think about why a woman in 2014 feels the need to sit down and spell any out.