Dear Men: Women Don’t Belong To You

As women, we’re rarely just that. We’re someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s wife, someone’s girlfriend—and, let’s be real, we all know that ‘someone’ is a man. Fathers give their daughters away on their wedding day as if they are a possession to be passed along. Men will whisper in my ear that I am theirs as if it should make me feel something other than claustrophobic. My friend brags about sleeping with a millionaire’s wife, not a married woman whose husband is wealthy. 

When did we become objects to be kept? Well, I suppose the better question would be, when will we stop being those? I know people will say ‘not all men’. I know people will point out that they are treated well by men in their lives, and I don’t doubt that can be the case. This is not a piece about abuse. It’s about entitlement, about the lack of need to do better. It’s about wanting to be my own person. 

You shouldn’t be told not to hurt women because we’re someone’s daughter/sister/wife/girlfriend. You should be taught not to hurt us because we ourselves are someone. A father shouldn’t give his daughter away so that someone else now needs to take care of her. He should be laying her hand in her new husband’s as a reminder to treat her right and let her blossom like he had and that he’ll always be watching. I shouldn’t feel claustrophobic when someone tells me I’m theirs, because my first thought shouldn’t be what would happen if I let someone else touch me, what would happen when he realizes I want to be my own person. My friend shouldn’t be bragging about the millionaire’s wife in that way because she is not her husband’s possession to give. Sure, part of the appeal is the fact that she is married, but I guarantee you she had as much say—probably more—in what was happening as her husband. It’s her consent he needs, not his.

I know my friend means well, I know fathers don’t necessarily see their daughters as possessions, and I know the man who whispers in my ear is trying to be sexy and protective. I know all that. Yet I can’t help but feel a little icky about it. Why? If it’s things I know, why do I still feel like that? 

Maybe it’s because I know. The implicit understanding of what is really meant by those things is what gives me the ick. The fact that my thinking about this in detail might get a response of ‘oh come on, you know that’s not what I meant.’ Isn’t it, though? On a deeper level, the societally influenced subconsciousness teaches men exactly that — that women are something they are entitled to, and sure, also that they need to protect and cherish, but it’s because they have a right to us. And for women, we’re taught to play it off. To know better than take it too seriously. 

And then something happens. Some crime makes the headlines: a man took from a woman — probably even one he swore to love and protect — whatever he wanted, maybe even her life. And suddenly the world is shocked. How could this happen? How could he ever justify such awful actions? 

I think you know how.