Listen up, men, because there’s a condescending habit you need to cut out right now. When you automatically assume a position of superiority over women, it belittles our intelligence and invalidates our point of view. That’s why you need to stop telling women to calm down and swim perpendicular to the riptide when you see us being pulled out to the open ocean.

Women are entitled to their emotions, be it sadness, anger, or panic as the current pulls us further and further toward the horizon. We have every right to scream in the brief moments we get our head above water without having a man shout over us to give directions on how to swim parallel to the shore to escape the undertow. It’s 2018, and we will not be silent about this anymore unless the ocean pulls us to a watery grave.

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I’m not “crazy” because I’m thrashing my arms against the current, and I’m not “hysterical” because I’m swallowing saltwater while crying out in distress. I’ve nearly drowned in dozens of riptides, so chances are I know way more about getting pulled beneath the waves than you do. Maybe you think you’re doing the right thing when you tell me to conserve energy by floating on my back, but all I hear is you saying your idea for surviving the riptide is much better than mine, and that’s not okay.

The next time you see a woman getting ripped out to sea, remember that she doesn’t need you to tell her to chill out and make her way to the sandbar.

And don’t assume that my yelps are an invitation for you to explain that I should take a deep breath and tread water in place until the Coast Guard arrives. If I wanted your opinion on whether or not I should try to swim faster than the rip current, I would’ve asked for it.

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Women from all walks of life have been stopped mid-shriek by a man telling them to swim out of the current along the shoreline, and if we’re going to put an end to it, men will have to ask themselves the difficult questions: If you saw a male friend trying to karate-chop the waves, would you explain to him that he should take it easy so he doesn’t put himself at a greater risk for drowning, or would you figure that he knew what was best for himself and let him flail away uninterrupted?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The next time you see a woman getting ripped out to sea, remember that she doesn’t need you to tell her to chill out and make her way to the sandbar. If you really want to help, the best thing you can do is take a back seat, be quiet, and listen to her scream for her life.

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