Thursday, March 6, 2014

FYI, I Cannot "Demand" Respect From Men so Stop Telling Me That!

Many girls are told from a very young age that it is their job to demand respect from men. Although the logic behind this is hardly ever teased out (mostly because it becomes illogical once you really think about it) this is the message we get.

Most girls are relentlessly told that we will be treated how we demand to be treated. If we want respect, we must respect ourselves.

This does three things. Firstly, it gets men off the hook for being held accountable for how they treat women. And secondly, it makes women feel that the mistreatment and sometimes outright violence they face due to their gender is primarily their fault. And thirdly, it positions women to be unable to speak out against sexism because we are made to believe any sexism we experience would not have happened if we had done something differently. 

I cannot demand a man to respect me. No more than I can demand that anybody do anything. I can ask men to be nice to me. But chances are if I even have ask the man he does not care to be nice. I can express displeasure when I'm not being respected. But that doesn't solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place.

I can choose to not deal with a man once he proves to be disrespectful and/or sexist. But even that does not solve the initial problem of the fact that I had to experience being disrespected in the first place. 

As a young girl, I wish that instead of being told that I needed to demand respect from men that I had been told that when I am not respected by men that it's his fault and not mine. But that would require that we quit having numerous arbitrary standards for what it means to be a "respectable" woman. It would mean that I am not judged as deserving violence based on how I speak, what I wear, what I do, and who I am. 

We haven't been forward thinking enough to take this step. As long as a woman being treated human comes with a plethora of conditions we will be continually told to demand respect from men. 

Even though we know that we can't demand respect from anybody determined to disrespect us. 

So we are stuck wondering if it's our fault when we experience sexist microaggressions. Which of course distracts us from attributing blame where it actually belongs.

How has being told that you need to demand respect from men impacted you? Leave a comment!

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  1. But to elaborate...I adore this post to pieces! I even see this ish on Tumblr (I'm wombman) on a daily basis: "It is your job to show people how to treat you." When my self-esteem was lower and I didn't respect myself, that wasn't okay. It wasn't okay for me to disrespect *myself.* So someone disrespecting someone who doesn't respect themselves...what does that even accomplish? Shouldn't we approach everyone we meet with respect, right off the bat, just because they're a fellow human being? You hit it on the nail when you wrote, "women being treated human comes with a plethora of conditions." Boom. Right there.

  2. Ooh, me! Am I allowed to participate? I grew up thinking it was my job to make people respect my mind, and most of the time that was easy because I was always really good at my schoolwork. Then I got accepted into a PhD program where I was kind of not bad but average (because it's a really good PhD program!) and I had a nasty experience while I was going through the process of choosing an adviser where I got told that my adviser was going to need to provide partial funding for me and I "should really think about that".

    I felt so bad! I felt like I should be able to convince this person that I was smart enough and worthy enough, and like I was failing because I couldn't. I guess it's a sign of comparative privilege that I hadn't really met anyone I couldn't convince, before. Accepting that sometimes people are going to judge you unfairly, and that sometimes it will be because of prejudice and sometimes it will just be because they're wrong and you won't always know the difference and either way there's no choice but to accept that you can't change their opinion ... that was hard. That was really hard. And I honestly don't know how I'd have resolved it to myself if I hadn't read some amazing voices on the internet writing things like this, pointing out that asking me to always be the example that wins people over just isn't fair.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this! I really needed to hear it, and it makes sense why this messaging was so strong in my family; there are some bullies that rely on me taking the blame for our relationship to continue, and this was an effective message to use. I always took umbrage to this idea, but couldn't put my finger on why it was wrong and impractical. You've expressed it so eloquently; thanks for finally helping me understand!

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  5. I've always preferred to use the phrase "I beg your pardon" when I have been dissed. And then I wait for a reply. If necessary, I repeat it. This is not because it is my job to demand respect, but because I do not choose to let disrespect be the last word. It's an old fashioned technique, but might help in a spot.

    1. I addressed that in the article when I said: "I can express displeasure when I'm not being respected. But that doesn't solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place."

      The point of the article is not how to diminish a man's disrespect. It's to point out that women aren't at fault when disrespected by a man & that women shouldn't have to and actually can't monitor or change their behavior in the hopes that they will somehow become somebody who is "deserving" of male respect.

  6. I can only pray that my daughters always COMMAND RESPECT as opposed to demanding. By commanding respect, one gives each individual the choice of respecting or not. However, if no respect is given Walk on By...

    1. Command/ demand... all semantics which largely amount to the same thing.

      As a human being I deserve to be treated with natural decency. If I'm not disrespectful to another person there's no reason for somebody to be disrespectful to me. And if somebody is disrespectful then I am not going to somehow blame myself (for not fulfilling some arbitrary standards to demand or command respect). But I will put blame squarely where it belongs.

      That's what I hope for myself and any daughters I may have FAR in the future.

  7. Excellent post. I could not agree more.

  8. I know, men are far from being perfect, but there are a lot of realy good people without such problem, I think it depends on the relationsships and many other factors