Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Open Letter: Re: 5 Things Men Need to Learn about Women

Dear James Michael Sarna:

I was recentely directed to your blog post through a share on my Facebook feed. I'm always thoroughly intrigued when the word "need" comes up in a sentence along with the words "Men," "learn," and "women," because it's generally interesting to see someone take a stance on what women are like. While I appreciated the comments that not all women need the five things that you mentioned, it did seem a bit sexist to me and a little under-educated.

You see, I have a problem when people continue the stereotype that "men think, women feel," and that is littered throughout the post in multiple places. I have a problem with this because as it is propogated, women feel more insecure about feeling as thinking is venerated by men as the highest level of evolution. Women, in that view, just seem to be one step away from attaining the highest evolutionary scale: being able to disengage from our feelings and to allow our heads to do some work. It also makes it difficult for men to feel as, in today's culture, it's still seen as a "bad" thing for a man to "get in touch with his feminine side." I've heard more than one joke about that in the past week.

"Oh, someone's getting soft on us, eh?" *man 1 punches man 2's arm jokingly* "Just let me know if you need me to pick up some tampons..."
(Man to woman who's had a bad day) "Oh, I'm sure you're just PMSing, right?"
(one man to another) "So when are those ovaries gonna drop and become testicles?"

So, unfortunately, when we propogate, "Man think. Woman feel." in today's world, it's a dig. I would love to be in a world where men and women can think and feel simultaneously - maybe even think about their feelings, accept them for what they are (for feelings just are. They are not right or wrong.), analyze where they come from, and move forward. Maybe, in the process, we could hear another person's feelings, say, "I accept you and the feelings you are carrying," and leave it at that. Yes, I feel a great deal. But I also think a great deal. I'm able to work in code, figure out logical next steps and analyze, organize and implement new processes for a large corporation. I can do both things.So can many other powerful, wonderful women.

As you said in your post, men can over-complicate women. It is just as easy to over-simplify women, and that's where I think I'm feeling the most dishonered as a woman. By tacking on generalizations to this lioness, I feel attacked, cornered, and like I shouldn't be able to do any of the things that I do.

Following your post:
1. "It doesn't matter what you say, it matters how she feels."
I'd like to challenge this point early on. While, yes, it matters how she feels, it also matters what you say. And to the women, it matters how you feel about yourself. I learned this lesson far too late in my marriage: It, in the end, did not matter if my husband thought me sexy, told me I was hot, or acted as if he could not get enough of me. If I did not feel those things about myself, none of that mattered.
Women (and men who are reading this), self-esteem does not come from outside sources; it comes from esteemable acts. It comes from yourself. While you may have days where you don't feel pretty, acceptable, or loved, it is especially in those days where you should take time for yourself to pamper yourself in some way, to make sure that YOU know that YOU love YOU. Take extra-good care of yourself. And in the process, do something nice for someone else. It truly does help. I promise. 
I grew up in a Christian environment where self-esteem was deemed selfish. "Your worth should lie in knowing that you are loved by God and that should be good enough." For most of us, that doesn't help. God doesn't come down and give us hugs and tell us we're pretty and let us know that a guy, some day, will love us. Yes, I know I'm a daughter of God and that I have value and worth. And sometimes, I'm insecure. And those days, I need to keep on knowing that I have value and worth; HOWEVER, I must live in such a way to proclaim my value and worth through my actions for it to sink in.
So men, while you may tell us we're pretty, beautiful, worthy, etc., it is ultimately not up to you to feed our self esteem. Let me say from experience, it's like approaching a hungry man on the side of a street with a cinnabon: it may taste good at the time, but sooner or later, if we don't do anything else to feed ourselves, we will end up continually hungry. Love us in spite of our flaws, through our insecurities, and know that our feelings are as much of your responsibility as yours are of ours: and that is to say, none.
(In that same breath, can I cut out the phrase, "Oh, don't feel that way" from our vocabularies? It's degrading. Let people feel, for goodness' sakes.)

2. "[Men] work on logic; [women] work on emotion."
Now while it is true that men tend to work on logic more than emotion and women tend to do the opposite, I tend to disagree with the way that's phrased. If you are to write a blog post on five things that we need to know about  puppies, then I would expect that 90% of the readers will read the main points and skip the rest of the stuff underneath. So please re-word this. It sounds like all men are Spock and all women are raging balls of emotions. Some women work more on logic than emotion. Some men work more on emotion than logic.
We're all people. We all have different emotion:logic quotients. And it's WONDERFUL.
Note to the men: if you would like to find out which one your wife/significant other works more off of, I would suggest spending more time with her than reading blog posts about women in general. She's the only one you absolutely need to know about.
Note to the women: if you want your man to know how you feel, do not passive-aggressively send him blog posts to read. Just tell him. It makes life so much easier.

3. "Women don't compartmentalize."
I'm sorry, but excuse me?
I'm a 24-year-old working professional in the corporate world. I'm going through a fairly painful divorce. Had I not been able to compartmentalize, my life would be in complete shambles right now. Speak to other women who have gone through trauma and how they were able to be fairly successful in other areas of their lives and know that I'm not alone in this. Yes. Women can multi-task. I fully believe that if men stopped telling themselves that they can't, they'd be able to, too. (Like I was able to teach myself how to drive a stick shift after no longer telling myself that I couldn't.)
Do we sometimes want to vent after work? Yes. But I have seen, on more than one occasion, a man in my life having a bad day and also needing to vent before being able to settle down. I've also seen marriages where men, on bad days, don't even talk to their wives, they just shut themselves up in their "man cave" and play video games until they feel better. I wouldn't call that compartmentalizing. I'd call that turning off emotions instead of dealing with them (thus again propogating that men think, women feel). If you don't deal with negative emotions, you're more likely to explode them on the people closest to you (which happens to both men and women, thank you). In some cases, this leads to emotional abuse; in other cases, it leads to mental/physical/substance abuse.
Again. We're all human. We all have the capabilities to compartmentalize and to deal with our emotions properly. We just need to give ourselves the grace to do so.

4. "What women want isn't that complicated."
I agree. Again, here I would argue that the only woman you really need to understand is your significant other; not women in general. Men: You want to know what she wants? Ask her. Women: do you want your significant other to know what you want? Tell him. 

5. "She is more afraid of rejection than you."
Can we accept that both sexes are equally afraid of rejection as it is one of the basic human needs to be accepted?

I apologize if this seems harsh to you. I ask you, in all graciousness, to consider what I've said and to know that I value your worth as a human being. I hope this opens up dialogue in which we can continue to break down walls of sexism and gender generalizations to pave a way for our children to grow up knowing that both thinking and feeling are wonderful human qualities and provide strength and insight into what being a human being truly means.

Very sincerely,

Edit: Original blog post here.


  1. thank you very much Lisa for posting this response as i too also feel what those other people were commenting on was falling on deaf ears because at the end of the day when you tell certain people they need to react this way or another way towards someone it only creates more of a divide between us as humans not just as sexes, and his article i do agree was meant to spread some good "COMMON" knowledge i guess but it does only more harm than good because some men or women who read it will take it to heart and not properly reflect on it and then live their lives by it which I'm sure we all see happen too often today the key thing we all need to take from these articles is to learn how to communicate with each other be it the opposite or same sex once we can accomplish that and only then do i feel we as a society will be able to move forward together and not so divided mentally. So I'd just like to say thanks for making this response just so you know someone heard you they're are people out here listening :)

  2. This is a fabulous response, thank you so much! You nailed absolutely everything. To add to the argument against men working on logic and women working on emotion, I also agree that a phrase that simple leaves out so much explanation. There is a chance that the majority of women have a higher level of sensitivity, but maybe gender constructs have brought us up that way. And if a man is brought up in a way where his feelings are limited, then sure, he will lead most of his life guided by thought! The sooner we dispel these constructs and allow both men and women to think and feel freely, the better!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful reply :)