As women in a historically male-dominated society, we have become so used to putting up with misogynistic and patriarchal ignorance that seems to go unnoticed by even the men closest to us.

Part of this is so ingrained in how men interact with women, and the other part of it is exerted expression of willful degradation of women in general. Either way, it's time for us to let these boys know that we are not cool with it!

As the discussions of gender roles, anti-misogyny, #TimesUp and #MeToo have been the center of attention lately, as well as powerful voices of women like Janelle Monáe and Cardi B reclaiming the divine feminine narrative through creative expression, "Mansplaining,” which has been a thing since forever, is being less tolerated by women. Mansplaining (a blend of the word man and the informal form splaining of the verb “explaining”) means "(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident and, often, inaccurate way.

Through my own negative experiences with men, I've uncovered different ways in which we run into mansplaining and ways in which we can combat toxic masculinity and misogyny within everyday communication and interaction with men, and on a macro scale.

When Men Use The Word “Female” When Addressing Women In Conversation

As a woman, how many times were you engaging in a normal conversation with a man and then, boom! He nonchalantly acknowledges a woman in casual conversation — as “female.” For any man reading this paragraph, let me set up the scenario.

Just a week ago, I was working the door at a popular bar, and the man, whose name we'll say is Kenny, was not found on the list. He aggressively claimed that he indeed RSVP'd, but never received a response email. I called his bluff and asked him to pull up his email, and though he was in fact on the list, something else about his email bothered me. The words I read on his RSVP stated, “Kenny plus 3 or 4 females.” I almost wanted to pretend like I did not care about the fact that he was on the list. Why could he have not just wrote Kenny + 4, or Kenny with four guests? His innate conditioning as a man in this society blindly allows him to not see why that is problematic. How weird would it sound if Kenny was Kelly, and wrote on her RSVP, “Kelly, plus 3 males”? It doesn't even sound right when you read it.

When women address men, we call them men. When was the last time you as a woman were talking to your homegirls, about a guy that you're dating and addressed him as “so this male I'm talking to right now…”? I'm pretty sure that this is not likely. Men need to understand that by refusing to equate a woman with more than her sex is a microaggression that subjects women, and perpetuates a misogynist and patriarchal society that clearly degrades and marginalizes women.

There are female cats, dogs, turtles, elephants …. people have even claimed that bell peppers have a gender! Either way, opting to call a woman female over just calling her a woman, is part of an old toxic masculine paradigm.

Men, we respect you and address you as a man, not male. Please return the favor.

Ladies, the next time you feel like biting your tongue, or grinding your teeth when a man ignorantly uses the word female inappropriately, please kindly ask him to refrain from doing so, and briefly explain to him why.

Catcalling Isn't Innocent

We live in a world where if you have a vagina, you most likely fear for your safety on an everyday basis. This is not an exaggeration. Everyday women walk the streets with an underlying anxiety and paranoia of being catcalled, or harassed by a random male stranger.

How many times have you been minding your own business, only to be verbally or physically ambushed by a man, or group of men? I have even gone as far as crossing the street if I see a group of men ahead in order to avoid dealing with the headache of potential harassment or, in the very least, uncomfortable staredowns. I liken this paranoia to the same feeling a person of color might get when police officers are driving behind them on the road. It's an inherent sense of fear that exists due to a pattern of conditioned societal norms.

Please do not ask me to smile, as if you are entitled to your perceived notion of my attitude. Please do not ask if you could walk with me along my trip, as if you are entitled to disrupting my solitude. Please do not comment on my appearance, as if you are entitled to disclosing your sexual attraction to my body. Please do not curse me out or berate me when I do not accept or respond to your harassment, as if you are entitled to my acknowledgement of your intrusion. Above all of these requests, I ask that you respect my boundaries, not only as a woman, but as a human being.

Men, if you have a hard time understanding why catcalling of any kind is not innocent, and a direct assertion of your disrespect for women, just ask Dave Chappelle. Surprisingly, he has been able to “mansplain” his awareness of the misogyny, that women likely face on an everyday basis by comparing it to receiving a large amount of drug money to carry on his way home. “Jesus Christ, if motherfuckers knew much money I had in this backpack, they’d kill me for it. Then I thought, ‘Holy shit, what if I had a pussy on me all the time?’ That’s what women are dealing with. […] If those same drug dealers gave me a pussy and said, ‘Put it in your backpack and take it to Brooklyn,’ I’d be like, ‘Nigga, I can’t accept this.’

Ladies, the next time you have to school a man on the inappropriateness of catcalling and he's not trying to listen, just put on that Dave Chappelle skit.

Why Rape Culture Is Real

Piggybacking off the last topic of catcalling, rape culture is the larger epidemic that encompasses this. By definition, rape culture is a sociological concept that describes “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” (Wikipedia)

In addition, “behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence or some combination of these.”

Social movements such as “Me Too” and “Times Up” has ushered a wave of women standing up against the quieted trend of men getting away with assaulting and raping women by sweeping this abuse under the rug, and condemning or disbelieving any woman who stands up for herself or demands justice. From Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, to James Franco and Aziz Ansari, women are demanding that abusers from both ends of the spectrum are held accountable for their actions.

Recently, in a personal experience with a hostel mate, according to him, one of the critiques men apparently have with these movements are that they seek to equally punish men for sexual wrongdoing of all levels. He even went as far as to say that rape culture is not real. Clearly he seems to only hear what he wants to hear, and willfully denies the truth in the purpose of these movements. Of course, if a man uninvitedly slaps your ass while out dancing he should not receive the same penalization as a man who drugs and molests you while under the influence.

The whole point of this conversation, however, is to acknowledge that regardless of the level of wrongdoing, the realization of rape culture, no matter how trivial or non-existent you think the violation is, must be addressed with the same vigor as a rape suspect. No one says that someone who smacks your butt should be thrown in jail. The problem is, no one speaks about why a man who smacks your butt needs to be set straight too.

In another recent conversation with a man, he disclosed to me his opinion about a woman who was raped. He said that rape has a positive effect on a woman in the long run. In his clarification, he said that a woman learns from the experience. If he can nonchalantly say this with a straight face to me, a woman who has experienced sexual assault and comes from a family and circle of women who have experienced it as well, what makes you think that he thinks twice about penalizing a man who unsolicitedly gropes a woman on the dance floor or passive-aggressively tries to coerce sexual intercourse?

Ladies, if you are unfortunate enough to have a man like this in your life, cut him off. This is a clear display of your zero tolerance for misogyny at any level. After my hostel mates displayed their ignorance, I completely ignored their presence. The second one thought that we were all cool and the next day he texted me an invite out to eat. I responded to him with a stern warning to never say another word to me again, and I blocked him. For the duration of my time in those hostels, neither men ever dared to approach me again. For what it is worth, I planted a seed. A seed that hopefully sprouts into a positive change in their toxic masculinity.

Sexualization And Narration Of The Female Form

For as long as I can remember, the policing of women and their bodies has been dictated by patriarchy. From high fashion gatekeepers, to hip-hop music video directors, what is considered attractive when it comes to how women should look, act, speak and express themselves has been contorted through the lens of the male gaze. Some men can't even walk down the block without mentally undressing a woman they're attracted to.

This is not to say that women don't also check men out, but we don't have a whole system that degrades men. I can't even use the word matriarchal, because that is not the opposite of patriarchy, due to the simple fact that “rule by women” has never existed in the patriarchal sense of “rule.” (Johann Jakob Bachofen, The Mother Right)

A recent article on xoNecole described the raw truth about the extent that women go to alter their bodies to fit a cultural expectation of an artificial and monolithic view of ass and tities, or the “bad bitch” physique, which has led to artists like Keisha Nicole putting her body through extremities that ultimately led to poisoning her own body. No doubt the pressure to fit into male orchestrated boxes have led to many women doing the most to feel attractive toward men.

It is also safe to say that patriarchy and toxic masculinity has also perpetuated divisive riffs among women of color when it comes to colorism. When you watch music videos, you are sure to see a light skin, “good hair having,” stretch mark free, voluptuous woman as the featured model. The assertion that light-skin is considered exotic, and dark skin is considered less than, has rooted itself in our popular culture. Though times are changing and representation of all shades and body types of melanin are being embraced, we cannot be blind to how the narrative has been shaped by misogyny to begin with.

Men, your sexual preference is individual to you. One man might find a well-endowed woman attractive, while another man might be more interested in a slender or petite woman. Either way, the female body is not yours to control, influence, critique or hyper-sexualize.

Ladies, your body belongs to you. Whether it's light skin or dark, whether it's shapely or slim. We are entering a phase of divine feminine reclamation of not only our bodies, but also our vaginas, wombs, femininity, masculinity, self-expression and self-care. Present yourself as it is most true to you, and no one else. Do not be ashamed of your own body, and do not allow male policing or sexualization to make you feel guilt, shame or unworthy.

Balancing The Divine Masculine And Feminine Energies

Lastly in this discussion, is the concept of balancing both the divine masculine and feminine energy within everyone. We have been socialized to believe that being a man means to be wholly masculine and being a woman means to be wholly feminine. This is an illusion that keeps the balance between both male and female identities compartmentalised in this way. Think of gender identity in terms of Yin and Yang. There is not one without the other.

“The divine feminine is not exclusively gender specific — nor is the divine masculine. As we heal, the divine aspects of what appear to be two dualistic genders are eventually desired, integrated and embodied to replace our sense of separation. Both feminine and masculine divinities are simply healed expressions, or attributes of our recognized and embodied oneness.” (Nouk Sanchez, “Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine”)

As women are embracing the divine feminine, there is an awakening that many believe is occurring for the divine masculine. As women begin to rise and take hold of their masculine energies as leaders and freethinkers, men are being prompted to dissolve the toxic masculine ego and learn to live from a state of being heart-centered.

The key to understanding this concept is to realize that no matter what your sex or gender identifier is, the two polarities that exist are of the divine masculine and feminine energies. To ignore this is to ignore your own spiritual and energetic elevation. This inner alchemy is what will allow every human being to understand empathy, compassion, unconditional love and Universal Oneness.

Through these understandings, systemic structures such as patriarchy, misogyny and racism can, and will be, dissolved.