As a woman, I’ve developed a healthy dose of fear towards men; the men who whistle, and the men who hiss, and the men who call out hey baby, and hey chica mamma, and nice boobs, and nice bounce, and hey why so sad, you’d be prettier if you smiled.

I’ve developed a fear of men alone and of men in pairs and if I see more than three grouped together, I lower my head and cross my arms over my breasts, and sing a song in my head so I won’t hear the words they say or see the way they look at me, like I am something already belonging to them. I have a fear of men, because since I was a little girl, men have taught me to fear them.

And then I grew up to become an angry woman until I was told that I wasn’t allowed to be angry because I would be just another bitch, so then I tried to discuss my fear and my anger until I was told not to complain because I needed to be stronger and tougher and to rise above, and because it could be worse.

So, I stuffed up my anger and I sealed up my lips and I told myself that I shouldn’t be bothered and that men would be men and that the only way to win was to be better and stronger and to keep quiet and to not let them win.

But no one was winning. My grandmother, who went to college before women went to college wasn’t winning, and my mother who marched for equal pay, and who carried me on her hip during her graduate studies, and who raised two of us, without alimony because she was rising above, didn’t win and my daughter who hasn’t been born, and who I would be too afraid to raise in my country isn’t winning. And do you know who else didn’t win? The men. My grandfather who stood outside the house to watch for me while I ran circles around the block didn’t win and my father who picked me up from a college when I was fifteen and spent the night sitting on the floor in the hallway of a boy’s dorm because I was terrified of the boy who wanted to take me to his room, didn’t win, and my son who isn’t yet born and who I wouldn’t know how to raise in a world where boys will be boys translates into, we expect nothing better, isn’t winning.

But boys will be boys, right? Wrong. Boys will be the men we raise them to be. It turns out I’m not afraid of men. I’m afraid of the men in the culture that I live in because they’ve grown up in a world that tells them it’s okay to grab a woman by the pussy.

I’m afraid of men who have grown up in a society where intelligence makes a woman domineering and a demanding job makes her a bad mother and where she can’t give her baby formula but she can’t breastfeed in public because the female form has been so sexualized and repurposed for male consumption that a baby should cry in hunger before a woman frees her nipple. I’m afraid of men who grow up in a society where women-executives and lawyers and presidents are taught to hide their success because it will intimidate the men they are told they need to find before all the good ones are taken. By the way, I’ve never met a good man who was threatened by a strong woman. Strong woman, even typing it feelings like writing a dirty word.

Do I think men should stop approaching woman? No, I do not.

I think that men should treat women like people because that’s what we are and we don’t exist for consumption or for fantasies or to make a man feel like a man. I have a body that can carry another body inside of it and I have a body that can lift heavy things and climb mountains and dance on stage and swim in the ocean and protect my country and my family. I have a body that is mine and not yours.

Instead of hey baby, try, Hi. Maybe you can show me that I have a little less to fear. Maybe you can make the phrase, boys will be boys, a positive one, because it will mean that they will be kind and discerning and respectful. Maybe you can understand that feminism isn’t a bad word because feminism is a word that means women are equal. Feminism is a word that means women are people. Being a feminist means you will not deny my personhood. How could you deny women personhood in the same breath claim we live together in an evolved country? How can you say we live in a civilized country when 1 out of 5 women is raped? How can you say we live in a great country when I’m afraid to walk to the store at night? How can you say, boys will be boys?

This is my country, and yes is great country, but greatness does not excuse flaws. Great does not mean perfect. And if we ignore our problems, if we accept the status quo we are the antithesis of evolved. We are stagnant. We are abandoning the American dream, and we cannot get there by sleeping. We improve. We converse. We treat people, like people.