One year ago, we published an issue of the Mercury for International Women’s Day with only women and nonbinary contributors. This year, we’ve been asked again and again if it’s “really that bad” and what men can do to help.
There are a lot of things that would help—keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, equal representation in Congress, a president who isn’t a serial sexual assaulter, the ability to get the health care we need when we need it, and the freedom to walk home alone without fear. To answer your question, yes, it really is “that bad.” It’s always been “that bad.” Welcome to the Upside Down that women and nonbinary folks call another fucking Wednesday. You’re late to this party, and it’s time to catch up. We’re tired of explaining and asking nicely.
So these are our demands. If you really care about making lasting change in the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, you’d do well to pay attention. And if you read through this list and still have questions and need a woman to answer them for you? First, ask her what her hourly rate is for emotional labor, and pre-pay on Venmo. Also, bring snacks, but don’t offer to buy her a drink, unless she requests a bottle of gin as payment, in which case, buy Aviation.
THESE ARE OUR DEMANDS:
No more guns for domestic abusers.
The face of domestic terrorism in this country isn’t the racist specter sold by conservative media outlets. It’s white guys with a history of domestic violence and ready access to weapons of war. That’s the common denominator when it comes to mass shootings. It’s not complicated, contrary to what a spineless GOP would like us to think. The simple truth is that if we made it harder for men with records of domestic violence to get guns, we might be able to reduce the number of mass shootings in America. Too often, though, laws that limit access to guns for domestic abusers do so only for people who’ve been married to their victims. The Oregon state legislature has already voted to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” but it should be the law of the land nationwide, and even more could be done to keep guns away from would-be mass shooters. And luckily, we already have a great model for making it absurdly inconvenient to get something: the rigmarole many women have to go through to obtain an abortion or birth control. The overreach doesn’t make sense when it comes to these things—no woman I know has ever shot up a pharmacy because she needed a new NuvaRing—but for guns? It’s a no-brainer. Men who want guns should be put through a tedious and expensive vetting process with a 48-hour waiting period and mandatory sign-offs from their bosses and their parents. People could consciously object to taking any part in a gun sale, applicants would be shamed, and there would only be two types available, neither of which is an AR-15. Women have been navigating this kind of multistep process forever. And guns kill people. Birth control saves lives. MEGAN BURBANK
Stop talking over us. (Translation: shut the hell up.)
Lots of men talk way too loudly—be aware of your decibel level, especially in public (pretty un-cute to yell about Bitcoin on the bus, my dudes) and in work meetings or interpersonal conversations with women, since you might be inadvertently silencing them simply by speaking at an unnecessarily high volume. Also, make an effort to acknowledge credit where it’s due; don’t claim responsibility for accomplishments that aren’t your own. You know what they say about male privilege: If you’ve got it, flaunt it, and by “flaunt it,” I mean use it as a megaphone for the women around you, and not just your wife/daughter/mother/the ones you’re attracted to—amplify the voices of all women. Yours might be drowning ours out. CIARA DOLAN
Equal representation in Congress and a president who isn’t a bigoted white dude.
Luckily, more than twice as many women are running for Congress in 2018 when compared to 2016’s numbers. At latest count, 431 women will run (or are likely to run) for House seats in 2018, compared to 212 in 2016; 50 are likely to run for Senate seats, compared to 25 in 2016. Congress has steadily been getting more diverse, and the 115th Congress set a new record for racial and ethnic diversity, though it still lags in comparison to America’s demographics. It’s time for our leadership to reflect what our country is really made of, and we can achieve that by supporting the qualified, hard-working women and people of color seeking office. And we’re not sure why this isn’t already a thing, but: There needs to be a law against sexual predators running for public office of any kind. If enforced, we can really “drain the swamp,” avoid having another catastrophe in the White House, and make room for more women, trans, and nonbinary people in Congress. JENNI MOORE
Paid maternity leave, comprehensive reproductive health care coverage, equal pay, and full control of our own fucking bodies.
If we don’t have bodily autonomy, nothing else really matters, and no medical procedure is as embattled as abortion. But abortion is common and normal—nearly one in four women will have one before turning 45, according to pro-choice research center the Guttmacher Institute—and polling from the Pew Research Center shows that a majority of Americans (69 percent) support abortion rights. Oregon passed landmark legislation this year ensuring that all reproductive health care needs are covered by insurance, while also codifying health care protections for undocumented and transgender patients. That’s huge, but we can’t stop there. We’d like to see equal pay protections implemented across every industry; improved systems for handling cases of sexual assault and harassment inside and outside the workplace; a law mandating paid maternity leave; and laws that continue to advance access to abortion rather than blunting it, so we can create a culture where people can access the health care they need with dignity and without stigma. MB
Free tampons everywhere.
Can someone explain to me why more than 50 percent of the population has a monthly menstrual cycle, causing us to bleed profusely into our panties, as we battle debilitating cramps, headaches, nausea, and PMS... and yet we ALSO have to expense this phenomenon every month for the first 50 or so years of our lives? Yeah, there is no good reason. I won’t go into a birth control rant here. (Senior Editor Megan Burbank has that covered, as does the Daily Show’s Michelle Wolf when she rightly says, “If men got periods, we’d have a three-week work month.”) But at the very least, women deserve free feminine hygiene products. No person with a menstrual flow should have to be stressed about their feminine hygiene because they can’t afford products. (Those interested in immediately helping women and girls in need should check out PERIOD: The Menstrual Movement, formerly known as Camions of Care.) And no more tampon machines; all they do is repeatedly eat your quarters and then don’t even have the decency to dispense! JM
The ability to walk home alone at night.
When you’re a woman (and this is especially true for WOC and trans/nonbinary folks), getting home safely after dark can pose a unique challenge. If you’ve never put your keys through your fingers like Edward Scissorhands while stealth-creeping to your destination, eyeing every shadowy corner with suspicion, you probably can’t understand how stressful it can be. A few tips on how not to scare the ever-living shit out of those of us who are just trying to get home to feed our cats: Don’t walk behind a woman walking alone down a darkened street—cross over to the other side, or wait until there’s plenty of distance between you. Another suggestion I’d like to submit: a curfew for men! In an ideal world (i.e. Themyscira), women would be able to enjoy the wonders of moonlit night walks without having to assess the threat level of every single dude around them. But perhaps for now you could just cross the street and give us some space. CD
Equal expectations in parenting and housework.
Don’t use your own ignorance as an excuse for slacking in your domestic life. Placing the burden of household work on the women you live with is unfair and degrading. It isn’t ancient wisdom passed down through generations of mothers and daughters—you, too, can learn how to properly make a bed, cook something other than a Hot Pocket, or do laundry without turning all of your clothing pink. (But if you ask a woman to teach you, be sure to pay her.) Another important note: Being a mom is probably the hardest job imaginable—just because it isn’t rewarded by capitalism doesn’t mean it’s not challenging, exhausting, and valuable. Domestic labor is labor. Have some respect. CD
“Women-only” cars on public transit.
When I visited Japan last year, I was amazed by the country’s efficiency on escalators, the cleanliness of its public transit, and its ability to actually respond to the sexual harassment/groping problem plaguing its trains: In addition to a communal effort to yell the word for “pervert” and ensure they are arrested, Japanese trains also have women-only cars! First introduced in 2000, Japan’s single-sex cars are identified by pink (I know) “Women Only” stickers in English and Japanese. While young boys are allowed to use these cars, men trying to get on are ushered away by station officials. Other countries like India, Thailand, and Mexico have tried this as well, to varying degrees of success—some even have women-only taxis! This isn’t to say that segregating women is the solution to sexual harassment (that’s gonna be a longer process), but it would be a helpful accommodation if and when you find yourself getting harassed. Bring on Girl Uber and Lyft! Guber? Gyft? IDK. JM
Street harassers should be fined.
In France, officials recently decided that street harassers—any man who infringes on “the freedom of movement of women in public spaces and undermines self-esteem and the right to security”—will face a fine of €90, which will basically double the longer it goes unpaid—just like a parking ticket! Don’t want to lose money? Then don’t undermine my self-esteem or right to security while I’m paying for my burrito, waiting for my ride, or otherwise minding my own business. It’s that simple. It’s sad that this might be what’s required to teach some men how to behave in public, but if imposing a fine helps reduce the number of daily comments we receive about our bodies, we’re here for it, and we demand it. JM
Cool it with the transmisogyny.
Get it through your skulls: Trans women are women. If you have made literally zero effort to educate yourself, here’s the TL;DR: Having a vagina doesn’t determine whether or not someone identifies as a woman, because gender is not determined by genitalia. Cisgender men: Treat trans women (nonbinary folks, too) with the same respect you’d give to cis women—actually, treat all women/NB folks with the same respect you’d give to another cis man. Fellow cis women: Put down your pussy hats. If your feminism doesn’t include trans women/NB folks, it’s not actually feminism. Another important reminder: The average life expectancy of trans women of color is literally 35 fucking years old (the national average is 78), which is largely due to the violence perpetrated against them. The way our country treats those who do not adhere to the poopy skidmark that is the gender binary is despicable—just stop ridiculing, harassing, and terrorizing them. CD
AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, WE ALSO DEMAND...
Priority access to weight machines at the gym. Ever notice that women don’t grunt to show how strong they are when they lift weights? That alone should get us to the front of the line. MB
Sartorial equality now! Contrary to what the fashion industry has long implied with their sexist designs, women and nonbinary folks don’t walk around clutching our purses all the time. A lot of us don’t even carry a proper “purse” anymore, instead choosing the optimal hands-free existence that men have enjoyed for decades. When women are working—or you know, just living—we often like to have our phone and other small objects on our person, too. So can we get some REAL FUCKING POCKETS in here, please? Or at least stop inserting those abominable fake pockets on our slacks, dresses, and blazers, which only add insult to injury. Also, I realize not everyone’s going to be with me on this, but: Motion to replace all high heels with wedges, or even better, sneaker wedges. That way, we have a slightly better chance of escaping on foot, if and when we’re chased by an attacker. JM
A bar where men are not allowed to talk to you. I love reading alone in bars. Here’s what I don’t love: being hit on, being leered at, and being mistaken for a high-end call girl by strange men, just because I happen to be a woman who loves reading alone in bars. Unless I know you personally, I’m there alone because I want to be, and you’re ruining my peace and quiet. Clearly, ladies who like to read alone in bars need our own creep-free locale. I suggest we call it Peace and Quiet. (Ps and Qs for short!) MB
A behavioral foul system. When my little brother was in grade school, he had to abide by the stoplight system: Good boys got green cards, testy boys got yellow cards, and bad boys got red cards. I’d like to suggest such a system for cis-het men nationwide: If you do or say something that indicates you might need to pause, reflect, and consider the consequences of your actions, you’d be given a yellow card. But if that’s not enough to slow your roll, you’d be slammed with a red card, meaning you’d be instantly ejected and sent home until you could learn how to be a decent human being. Oh, and you’d have to wear a dunce cap that says, “I am part of the problem.”
Foul system too complicated? Enter male silencing cards. These wouldn’t be necessary if men simply stopped mansplaining, catcalling, or offering unsolicited advice/compliments. It honestly seems like a lot of you can’t even tell when you’re doing this, so until you’re able to recognize it independently, we’ll each carry a pocket-sized card that will alert you to shut your mouth immediately. Mine, for instance, will be in the shape of a small stop sign to make the message as clear and easy for you to understand as possible. CD
More episodes of Queer Eye. Because if men are only going to listen to other men, then the men giving advice simply must be fabulous. BRI BREY
Male birth control. Guys, it’s time. For too long, people with the capacity to get pregnant have shouldered the burden of staying baby-free. In my 30th year, I realized I had been on SIX different methods of birth control. Six! And this is typical. Among my friends, I hear numerous stories of cycling through methods, often prescribed early for off-label reasons, and suffering through side effects—everything from heavy bleeding to depression—until you find the ones you can live with. Birth control is a scientific miracle and a modern innovation we should all be grateful for. For women, it’s also a nuisance. A recent study of male birth control was halted after participants reported side effects quite similar to what women deal with every day from our pills, patches, IUDs, implants, and injections. And while we don’t condone suffering for suffering’s sake, and you obviously shouldn’t do anything medically drastic for no good reason, we do think that it’s beyond time that men pulled some of the weight when it comes to not making a person by accident. And we don’t mean the expired wallet condom, bros; we mean stepping up for research into reversible male birth control methods, like the promising male contraceptive Vasalgel. Also, the next time I hear from some exhausted mom of two that her husband won’t get a vasectomy because he’s scared of the doctor, so she’s just going to continue taking the pill even though it’s making her nauseous and cranky every day, I’m going to cry. Just get the damn vasectomy, you guys. I hear March Madness is a popular time. MB
No one ever gets to comment on the way we look ever, ever again, honestly. I have news for you: Women do not dress for men. Whether we’re in sweats or a full-on vintage look, please refrain from sharing your unsolicited comments on our appearance. If we look like 2008 Britney, we already know—it’s Self-Care Saturday. If we look amazing, we know—we did that perfect cat-eye ourselves. We’re good! We don’t need your input! MB
End gender-based snack-shaming and drink-shaming. Women’s food choices are scrutinized All. The. Time. If I had a quarter for every time some well-meaning fellow adult human has commented on what I’m eating, I would be a very rich woman. Commenting on someone’s lunch might seem innocuous, but remember: Women are subjected to a constant barrage of “your body isn’t good enough” messages. We get them from the beauty industry, we get them from #aspirational Instagram accounts, we get them from a classist wellness industry that categorizes some foods as good (green juice) and others as bad (anything processed, fatty, or delicious). Add to this the prevalence of eating disorders, and commenting on someone’s meal choice becomes a potentially triggering minefield. Don’t do it. And don’t feel bad about your food choices, either. It’s okay to say no to Whole30, to order a pizza, to love pumpkin spice, to get a cider instead of a beer, to order white wine at the bar, to listen to your body and eat and drink accordingly. Eating and drinking with pleasure and without shame is something no one should be denied. And anyone who has a problem with that has a problem with women enjoying themselves. Fuck that. MB
Just freaking believe us. When a woman tells you she likes sports or music, or that she’s an expert in her chosen field, or that she’s not interested in you, or that she’s been assaulted—even by someone who you just cannot fathom hurting anyone—believe her. Part of respecting women includes trusting that what we say is true, and not treating our experiences and opinions like they’re up for debate. CD
Use women professionals for your projects. Not your wife. Not your daughter. Hire women professionals who are your peers or who, with the right opportunity, could be. Do not attempt to date these women. SUZETTE SMITH
WHAT NO ONE IS ASKING FOR
Skinny Diet Coke cans
Lady Colonel Sanders
Lean Cuisine (with the exception of their French bread pizza, which is actually pretty good)
Roofie-detecting nail polish
“Girlie sized” cheeseburgers
Everything about yogurt and tampon commercials
Lady razors that are actually just razors that don’t work because they’re clogged with built-in lotion and “moisturizing strips”
Deodorant and shaving gel that are identical to what’s sold in the men’s section but more expensive because they have flowers on the label
For that matter: Paying more for any product that says “for her” or comes in pink (e.g., lady ear plugs, lady hammers, lady pens, lady whiskey)
Obligatory pink branding for “women’s” issues
Ad campaigns that utilize the words “real women” or “real beauty”—we know a scam when we see one
Sex ed that ignores gender identity and the existence of the clitoris
Spanx, which is a trap
“Female” by Keith Urban