He’s being an asshole—the guy you’re talking to or maybe casually dating. You spend time telling your best friend about it, and giving all the reasons you think he may be acting this way. Except for one: maybe he’s just an asshole.
You dissect his actions and past as a way to justify the way he’s treating you. We’ve all done it.
But why do we feel the need to protect men, rather than just call them out on their bullshit?
Is it society’s ways that have programmed us to react this way? As a woman, I’ve always felt the urge to protect—especially when it comes to guys. We feel like we can solve all the issues for a guy we like. (You know, “fix him.”) I believed in doing this until I spent a whole relationship trying to take care of and fix a man who, in reality, just needed a good mother in his life and that wasn’t me.
I’ve talked to my friends about the guys we’re seeing, and I feel like we’re always apologizing for and justifying their actions rather than taking our feelings into account.
I like to call it “mansplaining.” I know this term has a completely different meaning—men attempting to explain things to women in a simpler way because they think they won’t get it. But to me, the word also has another meaning: explaining a man’s actions down to a science to justify them, rather than let him do the explaining.
When I attempted to do some research on why women feel the need to protect men, the results were scarce. Most articles and posts talked about why women want to be protected by men, rather than women’s instinct to protect.
Have you ever talked to a girl about the guy she likes and heard her say “He’s kind of an asshole, but he’s nice to me?” With that phrase you’re basically saying “I know he’s a terrible person, but he’s not always terrible to me.” Is that really the guy you want in your life?
In the words of one of my favorite rom-coms, He’s Just Not That Into You, if a guy wants to talk, if he wants to be with you, if he wants to treat you well—he will. Simple as that. And I think it’s a determinant to ourselves to think we need to make excuses, apologize, and come up with reasons why they are that way rather than cut them out of our lives.
Do women feel the need to analyze a man’s demeanor toward them to completely avoid the thought that maybe he just doesn’t like you? I get it, rejection is hard to take. It took me a long time to understand that being rejected doesn’t jeopardize your worth as a person.
I recently read a tweet that basically said you shouldn’t be worried about everyone liking you, finding you attractive, etc., because the right people who need to be in your life will be drawn to you, and that’s the truth. So don’t be so afraid of rejection. It’ll help you find that “right” person.
2020 is the year of badass women. Boss women. And I'm taking strides to make myself feel like the most badass boss I can be. The first check on that list is changing the way I interact with men I’m seeing or am interested in.
I’m no longer taking strides for emotionally unavailable men who seem to make things way more complicated than they need to be, no matter how much they preach “simplicity.”
I’m not leaving my friends at the bar when he texts and wants to hang out at 1 AM. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that. Make the guy come to you. Make him make time in his schedule to see you. Don’t be so available to his every beg and call.
The point of this long-winded rant is that women need to stop apologizing for men and justifying their shitty actions. It’s a constant cycle of repeating the same behavior expecting a different outcome.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama once said that mothers need to raise their sons rather than just love them. I think about that quote a lot and how the issue she’s addressing comes to play in this vicious cycle. To me, it seems like a lot of men grow up just expecting to be loved and admired.
So stop saying sorry—figuratively and literally—for some guy that probably doesn’t deserve you. The right guy’s actions will never need to be followed with “Well, I think he did that because...”
Be a badass woman this decade, and don’t let a guy discount your feelings or standards.
Illustration by Moira Gilligan for Harper's Bazaar.