Sometimes, when people find out that I am not afraid to self identify as a raging-feminist (oh, the horror!), they make some odd comment or a joke that is not even close to being funny.
The other day, someone did something a little different than usual. They asked me a question, a real question and a good one.
They asked me if I thought it was more important that men respect women or that women respect themselves.
My immediate response was to emphatically answer, “Both, please!”
The person seemed satisfied with my answer and went on his way, but I couldn’t shake the fact that not only had someone asked me a thoughtful question about feminism, but I totally failed to answer in even a semi-intelligent way.
So, I figured I would use my last column of the year exploring this question.
I still stand by my answer that not only should women respect themselves but that men should also respect women.
But there is something more complex going on with this question.
The fact that it even needs to be asked signifies that women are still not seen as complete persons but as a socially constructed ideal that has to be evaluated by the people around them in order to be proper or good.
I cannot imagine someone asking me if I thought it were more important for men to approve of themselves or for women to approve of men.
That is because when men behave in a way that is considered inappropriate, they are often excused for their behavior simply because they are men.
I think we unjustly assume that men are more animalistic than human.
We excuse crude male appearances or behavior because, in the end, boys will be boys.
Women, however, are expected to uphold the standards of being a lady.
We must play the two-sided game of being both proper and appealing.
The phrase “lady in the streets, freak in the bed” doesn’t come from nowhere.
When I see memes that talk about acting like a princess to attract a prince, I get really upset.
Many women believe that these saying are working in their favor, protecting their virtue or some other ridiculous thing.
The truth is that society does not care if women have respect for themselves.
The important thing is for women to believe that they are choosing for themselves when they embody conservative, male ideologies and punishing anyone who dares to step outside of those constraints.
What makes a woman worthy of respect is not looking and acting like a princess, but looking and acting like herself, whatever that may mean.
It is completely wrong that a woman’s definition of self-respect is based on antiquated gender ideals and that if a woman does not adhere to these rules, she is not deserving of respect from society.
I’m not sure what it will take for women to be treated as people and not second-class human beings.
Newsflash, guys, when you say that women don’t deserve respect as human beings because they are different from what you deem to be proper women, you are being misogynistic.
It is about time that we trust women to make their own decisions about what is right and wrong for themselves personally.
If we can stop treating women like property which needs to be regulated and protected, we can stop asking questions about whose respect is more important.
For now, I encourage women to be literal embodiments of their own self-respect by doing whatever it is that makes them comfortable.
If you want to wear a bikini every day, do it. If you feel like walking around in a long skirt and a sweater all year, do it.
Hopefully, I have managed to begin answering a pretty complicated question.
The truth is, it is not a question that I can answer for everyone.
We all have to go forth and make up our own minds.
As we all go into summer vacation and recharge for the coming year, I hope that we can all attempt some radical self-love and appreciate our differences as much as our similarities, giving respect to people when we are beautifully human, not just when we are typical.